OTISFIELD — The Otisfield Historical Society invites the public to enjoy strawberries, music and a tour of the Old Town House preservation project on Sunday, July 5.

“Thanks to generous donations in kind, cash and various funding sources, this vision has been completed,” said Henry Hamilton, former president of the Otisfield Historical Society. “The Old Town House is now a functional building, and we invite the public to view the result of many years work by many people and organizations.”

The fourth annual Strawberry Festival on Bell Hill Road begins at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, July 5. The public is invited to pay $5 to enjoy strawberry shortcake until 6:30 p.m. and tour the Old Town House. Folks can go up to the top of Bell Hill to enjoy a free concert of bluegrass music by Tricky Britches at 7 p.m. in the Bell Hill Meetinghouse.

The 1905 Town House was deeded to the historical society by voters in 2009 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. It was once a hub of town activity, including the site of annual town meetings and voting. Official use of the building declined as the population grew and, in 1992, the Town Office opened in the former Otisfield Elementary School on Route 121.

The 32- by 38-foot wood-frame building replaced one at the same location.

In 2013, the society began an expansive renovation project to make the building a functioning home for the Otisfield Historical Society.


“This multiphase project has accomplished three vital phases to make it a viable useful public venue,” Hamilton said. “Phase one (included) raising the building and surrounding land to permit a basement, with extended area. This was required to protect it from further deterioration. The extended area was capped.

“Phase two provided access to the basement through an addition and stairway with room for a toilet on the first floor and a state-of-the-art archival room in the basement,” Hamilton said. The archives were moved to the new location, named the Sybil Lamb Archival Room. During that phase of construction, there was an unexpected leak in the roof which required it to be replaced.

Society archivist Jean Hankins said the new climate-controlled space provides an ideal location for the society to work on its archives.

“You don’t know what’s going to be important,” Hankins said of the myriad of items, ranging from World War II airplane charts to a scrapbook of early 20th-century twigs, local diaries and day books that have been donated to the society over the years.

Hamilton said phase three completed the full original vision: retrieving the usefulness of the original building. That work required a well, septic system, accessible toilet, landscaping and site work, including a parking area.

The historical society is hoping to make some refinements, including replacing fluorescent bulbs with appropriate lamps, refurbishing the original windows, putting a skirt on the building, building a faux chimney and adding a stovepipe for the non-functioning stove, Hamilton added.

The society’s archives are open to the public Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. Volunteers have put 60 percent of the archives online and eventually all will be online. The society’s website has already had 1,500 hits from 66 different countries.

More information is available at www.otisfield.org.

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