OTISFIELD — Historical Society members are making no grandiose
promises, but if town meeting voters release the former Town Hall to
them, they are promising to maintain the building.
“We’re only promising that we will maintain it as it is,” society
President Henry Hamilton said of the 1905 building on Bell Hill Road.
The building still has the original oak woodwork, chairs, voting booths
and what Hamilton called a “glorious” unusable ornate safe.
Voters at Saturday’s annual town meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. in the
Otisfield Community School, are being asked to convey ownership of the
building and land to the Otisfield Historical Society, but lack of
money prohibits any major renovation at this time, Hamilton said.
The Board of Selectmen will recommend favorable action on the article,
said Selectman Chairman Hal Ferguson, who is seeking re-election at
Saturday’s town meeting.
Ferguson said if the society does not maintain the property it will
revert back to the town’s ownership. “It’s unfortunate it’s
deteriorating the way it is,” he said.
By taking ownership of the building, which is on the National Register
of Historic Places, Hamilton said it will be easier to seek out money,
which he admits is hard to come by and often requires a 50 percent
match.
“We would like to do a sensitive rehabilitation and keep it as much
original as possible. But when we take it over we have to raise funds,”
he said.
If the society is able to raise any money, the first move will be to
put a basement under the building. “Then it becomes stable enough to do
something about the porch,” he said of the wooden stairs and portal
wood that is soft from water damage.
Hamilton said a study several years ago showed there are major problems
with the pilings. “They do a different dance to the frost,” he said of
the damage that has started to separate the beautiful portal from the
main building.
Eventually, the society would like to put an addition that blends
historically, onto the back of the building. The addition would not
only provide a second egress to the building, but a place for a bathroom
and staircase to the basement.
The project would require electrical work, digging a well and other major changes. “It’s a very long-term plan,” he said.
The end result is to make it a functional building. “Right now it can’t be used,” he said.
Once renovated, the building would provide a place for the town’s
archives and be usable by organizations for meetings and other
functions.
“This is our dream,” Hamilton said.
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