At first glance, the Farmington Historical Society looks like a normal, quaint home in a neighborhood off Main Street. The white building, adorned with dark green shutters, is anything but a normal house, however. Once you step inside you are transported back in time thanks to hundreds of artifacts that illustrate how life was once lived in Franklin County.

The Titcomb House

The society was born in 1961 and now owns multiple properties: the 1846 Titcomb House, which is the main building and houses artifacts, archives and hosts tours; and, down the street, the town’s 1873 North Church and the 1858 Octagon House, both of which serve as event and function space.

Not surprisingly, one of the first things on display in the Titcomb House is the desk of Chester Greenwood, the American engineer and inventor best known for creating the earmuff. A Farmington native who lived during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he patented the muffs in 1877.

He came up with his ear warmers after a long day of ice skating, according to Jane Woodman, president of the society. “As a young boy he went ice skating, and he grew up right here in Farmington,” she said. “He (went) to his grandmother and said, ‘I want something to go on my ears,’ and they put together some sort of concoction, and it worked.”

Greenwood had a contract with the United States government during World War I to make earmuffs for the Army. The earmuff manufacturing was an example of a cottage industry, Woodman said. The muffs would begin as unassembled parts in boxes shipped to workers.

“People would come and take the boxes home and assemble them,” she said. “They’d come back assembled and then (the company) would send more to them.”

Farmington Historical Society President Jane Woodman opens up a case of dolls at the Farmington Historical Society’s Titcomb House, home of the society. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

A framed piece of stained glass that has recently been restored at the North Church in Farmington. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

The museum houses both the desk and some sample earmuffs made by Greenwood. The large desk is dark, comes with a matching chair and houses two typewriters, an old-fashioned lamp, and multiple papers on Greenwood’s life.

Next to it sits a display case of various earmuffs, advertising for the muffs, and diagrams on how to wear and assemble them. For the most part, earmuffs have not changed too much, but it is still fascinating to the see the original versions.

Greenwood would go on to become one of Farmington’s most famous and celebrated natives, with Chester Greenwood Day being declared by the state of Maine in 1977 and an annual parade held in his honor every Dec. 21.

Another eye-catching feature at the society is a wall of dolls in a glass case. The display is filled with all kinds of dolls, from play to porcelain. The society had them appraised recently, and found they were “very valuable,” according to Woodman, particularly three dolls and what were known as model dolls.

This case at the historical society displays early models of earmuffs designed by Chester Greenwood. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

“They would send these from Europe to the United States with the design of the outfit, and people would order from that and they would have something like that (outfit) delivered in their size,” Woodman said.

Chester Greenwood’s desk is on display at the Titcomb House in Farmington featuring typewriters and other objects owned by the famous inventor. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

In that same room is the original map of Farmington drawn by the town’s first settlers. It is so fragile that Woodman and other volunteers have chosen to keep it under a cover.

“It doesn’t look like much,” she said. “But it’s the original map when they laid out Farmington and this is what the settlers planned.”

The upstairs of the house has multiple interesting exhibits; one especially fun element includes two tiny arched doorways meant for children to walk through.

“The grandnieces of the woman that owned the house that gave it to us used to come and run through the doors,” Woodman said.

The volunteers are currently sorting through artifacts and fixing up a research room to be created on the side porch of the property. The room should, according to Woodman, have lots of helpful information and be a good place to work for those doing research at

A patent illustration for Chester Greenwood’s earmuffs and how to wear them is on display at the Titcomb House in Farmington. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

the society.

The Historical Society also owns the Octagon House, which, Woodman said, members bought at half price, though it was still a “hefty amount.” Volunteers are currently working on it and hope it soon can “hold its own weight,” Woodman said. Unsure what the future holds for the building, nonetheless Woodman said the building’s immense “historical value” was too great for the society’s members to pass up.

“We’re hoping maybe to do a bed and breakfast or, having the university so close, you know, if they have a professor that needs a place to stay for a month,” she said. “Sometimes that comes with having to modernize.”

Modernizing the space may be difficult, given it still has many old features, including a bathtub instead of a shower. The society has been relying on grants and other financial support from local businesses to renovate the structure. For instance, one room has been named in honor of Franklin Savings Bank thanks to its$25,000 gift toward renovations. “This room had 1970s paneling, so when they took it off, all the plaster would break,” Woodman said.

An original plan of Farmington dating to 1780. This document was presented by S. Clifford Belcher in 1905. Today it is displayed at the Farmington Historical Society’s home at its Titcomb House. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Another repair still needed is in the sunroom, which Woodman believes is “one of the masterpieces of this building.” The society is

The sunroom is seen here at the Octagon House in Farmington. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

hoping to receive a grant to support renovations to the room, including jacking up the floor.

The society has just been awarded a grant from the Belvedere Historic Energy Efficiency Fund of the Maine Community Foundation for $19,000 to fix a water and energy problem in the building.

A third building owned by the Historical Society is the the North Church, which, like the Octogon, is down High Street from the Titcomb House. Normally a church group rents out the North Church, however during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic the church was closed.

The church includes a meeting space downstairs, as well as a large gathering place in the main floor, adorned with eye-catching stained glass that is often backlit.

“I have not been in this room that it hasn’t been backlit,” Woodman said. “I don’t know how it happens, because that’s the east and the sun has already gone by and there’s no sun out. It’s just phenomenal.”

The historical society at 118 Academy St. is open Fridays from 10 to 2 p.m.

Stained glass at the North Church in Farmington owned by the Historical Society. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.