Rumford Center Village Improvement Society members are working to improve and maintain the town’s historic Rumford Center Meeting House located on Route 2. Members of the group, in front of the Meeting House stage in this recent photo, include, seated from left: Sarah Broughton, Linda MacGregor and Bonnie Ansbro; and standing, from left: John Ansbro, Merlene Richardson, Sally MacFawn, Jean Cushing, Ken MacFawn, Chery Gallant, Bob Hunsaker, Denise Hunsaker, Steve Hardy, Linda Russell and Gabrielle Johnson. Submitted photo

Ken MacFawn, a Rumford resident and president of the nonprofit Village Improvement Society, has been working with organization members to improve and maintain the town’s historic Rumford Center Meeting House located on Route 2 in Rumford. MacFawn says the building, constructed in 1828, holds a special place in the town’s history as its first town hall, and was also used as a public theater.

The Village Improvement Society’s most recent effort involves a town vote on Jan. 24 that, if approved, will allow the organization to lease the building and raise funds for its revitalization.

MacFawn talks more about the group’s work and the future of the Meeting House.

Rumford resident Ken MacFawn enjoys some time boiling sap in his sugar shack with his dog Gus recently. Submitted photo

Why is it important to you and other members of the Village Improvement Society organization to improve and maintain the Meeting House? The Rumford Center Meeting House has a special place in Rumford history. Built in 1828, the Meeting House was Rumford’s first Town Hall. For almost 70 years, all Rumford municipal business and town meetings took place at the Meeting House. But the building was much more than just the town meeting hall. The charming structure is set up as a public theater, complete with full stage and performance area and even has a small choir loft. Over the years, generations of Rumford citizens flocked to the Meeting House to attend various social events, stage drama and musical performances, church receptions, social dances, Christmas parties, and fundraising events.

The Rumford Center Village Improvement Society (VIS) was formed in 1924 and was very active over the years organizing events at the Meeting House. Over time, however, the Meeting House fell into disrepair, although the structure still has excellent “bones” and is a great candidate for restoration and future community use. In 2022, a group of Rumford citizens came together to revitalize the VIS and set about to restore the Meeting House.

If all goes well, the VIS plans to renovate the Meeting House and re-open it to the local community for various purposes, including weddings, social events, community group meetings, and local performances.


The VIS is seeking to obtain voter approval at a special town meeting in Rumford on Jan. 24 to lease the Rumford Center Meeting House. Why is the organization seeking to lease the building? The VIS was granted nonprofit, tax-exempt status in September 2022. The VIS needs control over the Meeting House and land in order to qualify for the type of financial grants it will seek and other fund raising. A long-term lease over the property will provide VIS with the control it needs to proceed on a sound footing. And a lease is really a win for both the Meeting House and the town of Rumford. The town will see one of its historical assets restored and maintained, without cost to the taxpayers.

What kind of work needs to be done to maintain the building and how will your group get the funding to do the work that needs to be done? Overall, the building does not conform to modern fire, safety and electric building codes. The main areas of repair are the foundation, certain structure reinforcements, roof repairs, electric upgrades and fire safety requirements. The building’s exterior walls and interior floors will also need repairs and/or replacement, but that assessment will await the foundation work. The funding will be supplied by grants, donations from local contractors, and various fundraising events once the building is leased to the VIS.

What do you estimate the costs may be to fix the structural foundation issues with the building? 
The town of Rumford commissioned Dirigo Architectural Engineering Co. to perform a comprehensive assessment of the Meeting Hall with cost estimates to repair the building for future public use. Based on that report and VIS’s outreach to local builders who are willing to donate some time, equipment, and materials, we estimate the foundation and sills would cost approximately $175,000. This would be considered Phase 1 of the total project and would allow us to assess future repairs and spending necessary for completion,

The historic Rumford Center Meeting House on Route 2 in Rumford. Submitted photo

Where and what kinds of grants will your organization seek funding for the building? What other methods will you use to fund the building’s requirements for safety and maintenance? For all the construction costs of the Meeting House project, the Rumford Center VIS will seek grant dollars from government agencies and private foundations, from fraternal organizations, individuals, and local businesses and corporations.

Several local contractors, builders, and volunteers have offered their assistance, which would help to reduce costs. Others have already offered materials we will need. Overall my spirits are high based on the interest we have been shown.

What kinds of events are currently held there and what types of events are you hoping could happen there in the future? Currently, nothing is happening due to unsafe conditions identified by Dirigo Engineering. Our hopes for the future Meeting House, however, are bright. We envision social events, public and private parties (rentals), local performances, dances, and holiday get-togethers. Other opportunities might include: senior exercise classes, bridge tournaments, yoga, arts and crafts to name a few. The Meeting House could also serve as an adjunct facility for Rumford town business functions.

As in the past, we would like the Meeting House to return to a “community” organization open to all.

Aside from seeking to raise funds for the repair and maintenance of the Meeting House building, does the VIS group have other plans for revitalizing Rumford Center Village? In the future, yes. But for now, the Meeting House is our starting point and top priority.

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