RANGELEY – Five Rangeley museums will be open to the public free of charge from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 26, and all are invited to learn about the rich heritage of the western mountain area.

Participating museums include the Rangeley Lakes Region Historical Society, the Wilhelm Reich Museum, Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum, the Coplin School House and the Dead River Area Historical Society in Stratton.

The Rangeley Lakes Region Historical Society, located on Main Street, was originally a bank, then the town office. The 1905 building now contains artifacts and records pertaining to the era of sporting camps and big hotels, fishing, hunting, logging and railroads.

Also on display is a bird egg collection, a bicentennial quilt, tools for cutting 30-inch blocks of ice, artifacts from a one-room schoolhouse and the old jail cell that was used in the town office. The building is entered in the National Register of Historic Places.

Also on the National Register is the Wilhelm Reich Museum, located on Dodge Pond Road between Rangeley and Oquossoc. Comprising 175 acres of field and woodland with a system of trails, a conference building, and the Orgone Energy Observatory, the museum represents and interprets the life and work of physician-scientist Dr. Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957). Reich is renowned for his discovery and investigation of energy he called “orgone.”

Massive in its structure of native field stone and located on a hill overlooking the Rangeley area, the observatory provides a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

The building features a biographical video presentation and exhibits inventions and equipment used in Reich’s pioneering experiments. His library, personal memorabilia, sculpture and paintings are also on view and there is a discovery room for children. Reich’s tomb, with its bronze portrait bust, stands in a forest clearing nearby.

The logging museum, located on Route 16 one mile east of Rangeley, is dedicated to the preservation, research and celebration of the lumbering heritage of the western mountains.

It has several permanent exhibits: the memory paintings of Alden Grant, wood carvings of local woodsmen, 1912 to 1940 photographs of Alan Fraser, Dr. Donald Bowenn’s journal of doctoring, knitting in the lumber camps and an increasing collection of woods equipment, such as Elijah “Tiger” White’s forerunner of the skidder, John C. Tyler’s half-size model sled, donkey engines, snubbing machines, pulp conveyors and more than 70 early chainsaws.

The Coplin School House is on Route 16, 14 miles east of Rangeley. It was a one-room schoolhouse until 1949 when it closed its doors and the children went to school in Stratton.

Anyone who attended the school in 1949 still has an achievement test in the teacher’s desk drawer. The desks are all sizes for children who ranged from ages 5 to 18 and would sometimes bring a potato to school for the teacher to cook on the same stove she used to heat the building.

The Dead River Area Historical Society in Stratton will also participate with a display of artifacts, manuscripts, and photographs that have been donated or loaned by interested townspeople and descendants of original families of the Dead River Region. Collections from 1850 on include old carpentry and logging tools, china, glass, church organ, furniture from native families, a complete schoolroom, a memorial room to the “lost” towns of Flagstaff and Dead River, the lineage of several native families and a host of memorabilia from native homesteads.

All museums in northern Franklin County are invited to participate in the annual open house.

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