OTISFIELD — The Otisfield Historical Society has been awarded a historical facilities grant to help plan their move to their new home at the old Otisfield Town House, 53 Bell Hill Road. The grant was given as part of the Maine New Century Community Program.
“We’re very much in the planning stage right now,” said Henry Hamilton, president of the historical society. “It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Do we move the archives and other artifacts now, or do we wait until we’ve finished necessary renovations on the building?”
The matching grant will pay for the services of an archival consultant to consider not just the condition of the town house but also the society’s present storage situation at 191 Scribner Hill Road.
Edward (Ned) Allen of Bridgton has agreed to serve as consultant. Allen has held executive positions at the Bridgton Historical Society, the Berkshire Historical Society, the Portland Harbor Museum and the Freeport Historical Society, where he is now collections manager.
The town house was built by the town of Otisfield in 1905 to replace an older building on the same site. It was used for town meetings and other official town functions. Older residents remember voting in the handcrafted wooden voting booths until about 1993, when the former East Otisfield Central School was renovated and became the new town office building.
Partly because the old town house lacks running water and toilet facilities, recent town meetings have been held either in the Community Hall or the Otisfield Community School. In June 2009, with the town house standing unused and vacant, the town transferred ownership to the historical society.
The town house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Historian Randall Bennett describes the building as “a late but representative example of the functional and unadorned halls built throughout rural Oxford County” in the early 20th century. He remarks especially on the interior wall covering of vertical and horizontal matched boards, a style he says was used in several churches and meeting halls in this period.
The historical society plans to retain the original voting booths, platform and window details.