BETHEL — After receiving permission from the Planning Board, the Bethel Historical Society is moving forward with plans to add a storage facility on the east end of the O’Neil Robinson House.

Executive Director Randall Bennett said money for the project was donated by Charles R. Huntoon, a Portland resident who grew up in Rumford.

“Charles said that after he saw the money that Mary E. Valentine bequeathed to the society upon passing away, he was inspired to do something,” Bennett said. “He’s been a staunch supporter of the Bethel Historical Society for years.”

In February 2013, the society received a $200,000 bequest from Valentine. It was the largest gift ever from an individual. Valentine passed away in 2012.

In June 2014, the society completed work on the new Mary E. Valentine Collections Wing, modeled after the former Robinson Wing, which was torn down years ago.

The Valentine wing gave the society more storage space and cleared up room in other sections of the Robinson House and the Moses Mason House.


Bennett said Huntoon “specifically directed that his donation be used to build a barn-like structure at the east end of the Robinson House to serve as a secure storage facility for the society’s largest museum objects, plus many of its rare books and manuscripts.”

The structure at 10 Broad St. will be modeled after a 2½-story barn that stood on the Robinson property from 1821 to November 1931, when it was torn down while under the Bethel Inn’s new ownership, Bennett said.

“That’s one of the reasons the Planning Board was excited about this project,” Bennett said. “We’re not necessarily replicating the barn, but we’re rebuilding it in almost the same exact location as the old one. The barn will be in scale with the house and will give us some much-needed storage space.”

It will be known as the Huntoon Building and house artifacts ranging from antique furniture to Gothic revival chairs from a local church, Bennett said.

“It’s also going to feature a climate control vault in the basement and the first floor where we can store and archive books and research materials,” he said.

The building will be constructed using a design proposal from 2000 by Smith Reuter Lull Architects in Lewiston.


“We’ve had the design work for this for a while,” Bennett said. “It’s nice to be able to move forward with it finally.”

Tineke Ouwinga, president of the society Board of Trustees, said, “Mr. Huntoon’s generous support will allow us to complete the expansion and restoration of the Robinson House. To receive this gift so soon after the construction of the Mary E. Valentine Collections Wing is truly exciting and tremendously appreciated.”

Bennett seconded Ouwinga’s statement.

“Good things tend to happen when you’re patient,” Bennett said. “People genuinely seem to appreciate what we do here. We try to do a good job of displaying and sharing things, and with these donations, we finally have a way to do that. We must be doing something right.”

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