A decorated home, one of several in the Paris Hill Holiday House Tour on Dec. 6 and 7. Submitted photo

PARIS — After an eight-year hiatus, the Paris Hill Community Club is bringing back its holiday house tour tradition.

Proceeds will go toward much-needed repair to the historic Paris Hill Academy that has functioned as the neighborhood’s Community Club since the school closed in 1901.

Paris Hill Academy opened in 1857, serving the Paris Hill neighborhood and surrounding community. It welcomed 28 boys and 21 girls in its first term. Tuition rates ranged from $1 to $6, and the curriculum included classic languages, bookkeeping, physiology, philosophy, chemistry and geology.

The Academy quickly became the centerpiece of the community for social events such as dances, dinners, theater, with performing arts and church groups utilizing it regularly.

Enrollment declined toward the end of the 19th century after the state passed laws providing free education and 1901 saw the last graduating class before the school closed for good.

In the private hands of local neighborhood associations, Paris Hill Academy has continued as a social center for gatherings and events, rechristened as Community Hall and eventually coming to be known as the Paris Hill Community Club.

Neighborhood homes, some of them standing decades longer than Paris Hill Academy, will participate in the Holiday House Tour, according to Holly Bancroft Brown.

One of the historic Paris Hill House Tour homes. Submitted photo

“The Paris Hill Community Club has not held a holiday tour since 2011,” Bancroft Brown said. “This year we will have nine houses participating. Each home will be decorated for the holidays, and owners will discuss the unique history of each house.”

Bancroft Brown lives in what is known as The Hitching Post house.

“The Hitching Post was built about 1824 on a different lot and moved sometime before 1880, replacing the original house on this lot,” Bancroft Brown said. “The first house had a granite hitching post in the front yard. Emerson Colburn was the owner then. In the 1930s sisters Jean and Irene McKinney bought the home and added porches, closets, opened up rooms, and added the bay window and french doors in the dining room.

“Behind the house lies The Pioneer Cemetery, where many of Paris Hill’s first settlers are buried,” she said.

By the time Bancroft Brown’s family purchased the house in 1998 it had fallen into serious disrepair; she says that renovations continue today.

Timbers in the crawl space of the Paris Hill Academy had to be replaced. The damage caused the building to sag more than 3 inches. Advertiser Democrat photo by Nicole Carter

Included in stories the of the Holiday House Tours are history lessons about Paris Hill’s early residents, many of whom were businessmen, politicians and even owners of what would become the Advertiser Democrat.

Mike and Janet Brogan live at the Marble Farmstead, a Greek Revival built in 1840 by Jarvis Marble. Marble was a successful gunpowder mill owner/operator who reportedly provided powder to the Union Army during the Civil War and then later for the building of railroads. He also established lumber and mining businesses. Marble was integral in raising money to build Paris Hill Academy and was active in local and state politics. He also built two other homes in the neighborhood for his children.

This year’s tour supports recent and pending restoration projects to Paris Hill Academy, according to Community Club President Chuck Frost.

Structural supports have been added to the posts and timbers of the Paris Hill Academy. Advertiser Democrat photo by Nicole Carter

“The crawl space under the building has seen significant moisture issues,” Frost said. “The floor beyond the main entry began to sag, dropping more than 3 inches. We’ve spent about $18,000 replacing posts and timbers, and adding plate supports to shore them up. And we’re looking at another $16,000 or more for moisture abatement.”

Other improvements done in recent years include stabilizing the bell tower and roof repair. The building’s 25 windows have been restored, at a cost of $800 each, Frost said.

The houses featured in the Holiday House Tour were built mostly during the first half of the nineteenth century. The Paris Hill Baptist Church, built in 1805, and the Hannibal Hamlin Library, built about 1822 as Oxford’s original jail, will also be open. Advance tickets are available through Nov. 22 for $25; after that, $30. A lunch with soup, rolls, beverages and dessert will be served at the Paris Hill Academy Building for $10.

Advance tickets may be ordered online at https://207tix.com/organizations/paris-hill-community-center and are being sold at the Tribune on Main Street in Norway.

Th tour is held in sun, rain or snow. Tickets are also available at the tour’s starting point, the Paris Hill Community Club at 1 Academy Street, across from the Paris Hill Country Club. For more information, call 274-7611.

Paris Hill Academy has undergone extensive renovations to replace rotted timbers and sagging floors. Advertiser Democrat photo by Nicole Carter

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