OTISFIELD — A 4.0 earthquake could take down the former Frederick Robie Grange Hall on Gore Road or cause the wooden roof to “sail like a kite” out into the street, Code Enforcement Officer Richard St. John has told selectmen.

Otisfield officials are hoping before that happens, the owner of the now vacant cement block former Grange building on the corner of Gore and Bonney Hill roads will stabilize or raze the building they believe may become a danger in the neighborhood.

“Vibration is the big issue,” St. John told selectmen at its October 21 board meeting.

St. John said he will need permission of the owner – Melinda Ware, according to town records – to go on the property to take measurements of the protruding wall before the danger can be fully accessed. A letter from selectmen to the owner requesting she contact them was not previously acknowledged. St. John said this week he has heard from a  man who claims to be the owner – Derek Cash – but as of Tuesday no permission has been granted for access.

If the owner is not willing or unable to cooperate, the town may have to take legal steps to ensure the building is stabilized or taken down by declaring it a dangerous building. The building is valued by the town at $11,706.

St. John was expected to meet with selectmen Wednesday night (Nov. 4) to update them on the situation.


Records indicate the Frederick Robie Grange disbanded in the 1990s and the building was sold to a private party. In recent years, it has been vacated and now either vandals or pigeons have broken windows and debris is laying in the overgrown yard.

The entire westerly side of the building is cracked about seven feet high above the granite foundation. The crack runs up to the roof line through the eight-inch cinder blocks on either end. The side protrudes out and at least one block is jutting out at an angle.

Surprisingly, St. John said that the roof is stable but until he is able to measure the protrusions, he can not say what type of threat the building poses.

He does, however, believe the building could collapse or the roof could fly off the top of the building from a vibration of a 4.0 or greater earthquake, such as the May 17, 2013, earthquake in Canada. That earthquake registered 5.2 on the Richter scale, followed by a 4.2 magnitude 10 minutes later in Quebec. Folks in Otisfield and down into New York City felt the vibrations.

Earthquakes are not unusual in Maine. According to the Bedrock Geological Map of Maine the western Maine mountains are sandwiched between two parallel strike slip faults. The Maine Geological Survey has tracked 19 earthquakes – 15 since 1992 including a 3.0 quake on the Richter Scale in the Norway-Paris area that shook houses and sent dishes flying.

This is not the first time, an earthquake was used as an indicator of the potential collapse of a building. Officials in neighboring Norway were concerned about the same situation at the Norway Opera House before the town took it by eminent domain and stabilized the building following a partial roof collapse.



The Frederick Robie Grange was organized February 15, 1890, at the Old Brick School in Otisfield on Gore Road with 27 charter members who pledged time and money to build a Grange Hall.

The Grange was constructed at the corner of Gore and Bonney Hill roads in 1891. It was named after former Maine Gov. Frederick Robie of Gorham, who served as state grange master from 1883 to 1887. For years, the building was the scene of meetings and other Grange affairs such as box suppers and entertainment.

But on July 2, 1940, the original two-and-one-half story Grange Hall and equipment burned to the ground. The loss was estimated at $3,500, according to the July 2, 1940, Lewiston Evening Journal.

The rebuilding of the Grange occurred slowly using cinder blocks.

Crystal Thomas McKay, daughter of the late Shirley and Lester Thomas, leading members of the Grange, said she recalled her parents saying cinder blocks were used because it was far less costly than a traditional wood building.


Hardwood flooring was purchase from the C.A. Stephens laboratory in Norway that was being torn down at the time. As soon as the floor was laid, dances were held every Saturday night to help pay for the new building.

Charles A. Stephens, a noted author of young adult and children’s books and a medical doctor and scientist, built his large, 40-plus-room rambling “laboratory,” complete with an indoor swimming pool,  at Pennesseewassee Lake in Norway. He used it as his home and laboratory, where he studied ways to extend human life.

Stephens lived in this mansion he called “this old shack by the lakeside” from 1888 until his death on Sept. 22, 1931.  Almost all his books were written there.

The building was supposed to be given to Stephens Memorial Hospital for its use but when that didn’t happen, it was auctioned off in 1953.

Parts of it turned up across the region. One of the towers was put on a filling station in Norway, then went to  the house now occupied by Pawsibilities Thrift Shop before it was moved again to the Old Squire’s Green next to C & C Farm and the Old Squire’s Farm Market on Main Street across from the Gingerbread House.

Other pieces, such as the piano from the Stephens’ estate, also stayed locally. It was acquired by Norway Center Church.

Some of the lumber was used to build local homes and apparently part of the flooring was purchased by the Otisfield Grange to use as its dance floor.

The Grange continued to operate on Gore Road for many years until the 1990s. The building and land was sold to a private party who rented it to a family member for housing before it was vacated entirely.

There were also Granges established in Bolsters Mill and at Spurrs Corner.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: