Backstory and Context
The first Exchange Hotel, at one time also known as Low's Hotel, was built on this site in 1807 to serve travelers on the 1806 Essex Turnpike (Broadway). The major Broadway/Hampshire intersection was originally called Exchange Square, demonstrating the importance of this building. Fire destroyed the original building in 1857 along with the hotel stables, two other livery stables, five houses and most of the Currier building across the street (300 Broadway) which was burned to the first floor. The 1860 Directory lists Alvah Kimball as the landlord of the Methuen Hotel. This hotel was acquired by Silas Q. Hersey in 1873, who operated it until his death in 1891. The building, which had for many years been the home of the Methuen Club, was acquired by Edward F. Searles in 1897, and remodeled in 1906 for use by the Y.M.C.A and again in 1915 as the Masonic Temple. A plaque on the building describes the dedication to Edward's father Jesse G. Searles. According to Barbin, remodeling of the Exchange Hotel was done according to plans by Searles' architect Henry Vaughan. Vaughan altered the roof line making it flat, (probably changing the old gable to the present hip). He added the tower at the north end and made a gymnasium on the second floor. The exterior was stuccoed and embellished with classical details. Changes in 1915 were mostly internal.
Significant repairs were made to the front wall of the building in 1882, and in 1883 fifteen gas chandeliers were installed, greatly improving the lighting in the hall. Significant alterations were made in 1930 when the meeting hall was cutup into office space and Colonial Revival exterior detail was added. The architect for these alterations was John H. Feugill; Louis C. Cyr was the contractor. - Description courtesy of Dan Gagnon, historian.