Liberty Hall, Machiasport, ME. ©Michelle Hauser, courtesy of the artist.
Jonesport Lodge no. 188. A.F. & A. M.(Home to the Jonesport Historical Society), Jonesport, ME. ©Michelle Hauser, courtesy of the artist.
Halcyon Grange, Blue Hill, ME. ©Michelle Hauser, courtesy of the artist.
Maine Civic Halls Initiative
The Maine Civic Halls Initiative, a shared project of Maine Preservation, Friends of Liberty Hall, and Greenhorns seeks to preserve, restore, and support the role of civic halls as critical rural community-building resources in Maine.
Drawing on the expertise of historians, government officials, community leaders, business owners, economists, and active grangers/Masons, and citing original research, Greenhorns produced a report on the current status of civic halls of Hancock and Washington counties. Read the report here.
Maine Civic Halls Initiative engages stakeholders to enact the report recommendations while also growing a network of support and ideas through a variety of events and roundtables. Recognizing that solutions must also come from the grassroots level, we simultaneously build the capacity of rural towns to oversee the revitalization of civic halls through education and outreach, support with grant-writing, insurance questions, and renovation best practices (see our Natural + Historic Plaster Resources below.)
The goal is much bigger than a classic concept of architectural preservation. The idea is to support community power-building and pride of place, fostering a sense of shared ownership and belonging, participation, stewardship and community engagement – all easier to achieve when surrounded by the gracious beauty and sturdy facilities of a civic hall and a healthy, functioning, community organization.
On July 29, 2023, at Liberty Hall in Machiasport, we held a community event to ruminate together on the future of civic halls in Washington and Hancock counties. The roundtable conversation of experts included Crystal Hitchings of the Sunrise County Economic Council, Tara Kelly from Maine Preservation, Mollie Cashwell from the Cultural Alliance of Maine, and Martha Piscuckas, of Maine Arts Commission and formerly of Waterfall Arts. Listen to the roundtable discussion below.
Throughout American history, fraternal organizations and voluntary associations have played a central role in community organizing, mutual aid, and rural development. Downeast Maine’s story is no different. Between this state’s larger regional centers, small harbors, and farming villages, a network of state and national groups such as the Ancient, Free & Accepted Masons, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange) grew and kept citizens engaged in community. Collective action under the auspices of fraternal organizations and voluntary associations was responsible for the growth and prosperity of neighborhoods across Washington and Hancock counties in the 19th and 20th centuries. Evidence of this community infrastructure still exists in Civic Halls—the lodges, granges, and posts, even as many are transformed into commercial or residential spaces, or suffer from disuse and disrepair.
Fifteen Maine Meeting Halls: Hancock and Washington Counties by Michelle Hauser
Top left, going across and down left to right:
Gov. Brooks Odd Fellows Hall no. 142, Brooksville. American Legion Cobscook Post no. 59, Pembroke. Pleiades Masonic Lodge no. 173, Milbridge. Perry Grange no. 324, Perry. Alexander Grange no. 304, Alexander. Odd Fellows Blue Hill Lodge no. 79 and Ira Berry Masonic Hall no. 128, Blue Hill. Former Odd Fellows Hall, Brooklin no. 133, Brooklin. Jonesport Masonic Lodge no. 188 and home to Jonesport Historical Society, Jonesport. Indian River Grange no. 330, Addison. Old Surry Village School, Surry. Castine Grange no. 250, Castine. Former West Bay Grange, Goldsboro. Joshua Davis Odd Fellows Hall no. 145, Stonington. Former Lubec Grange no. 434, Lubec. Jonesboro Grange no. 357, Jonesboro.
Civic Halls & Preservation in the Present Tense
Like many rural landscapes in the United States, Downeast Maine takes pride in self-sufficiency, abundant natural resources, and close-knit communities. This is a region that invested heavily in community infrastructure during the hayday of ship building, logging, quarrying-- a time whose rich material culture lives on in the many community halls that persist to this day. Washington and Hancock Counties, where we live, boast a tremendous density of surviving historic buildings and civic halls. These halls have hosted upwards of 100 years of bean suppers and community events. How do we preserve these precious spaces where we can meet and work together for a more resilient future? This episode of Earthlife is dedicated to the civic architecture of our region, cherishing, preserving, refurbishing, and welcoming in the next generation of hall users.
All Hall Call!Calling all Civic Hall stewards!
The Cultural Alliance of Maine, Greenhorns, the Maine Arts Commission, and Maine Preservation held a peer-to-peer conversation about the challenges, opportunities, and future of preserving and enlivening Maine's grange network of rural community cultural spaces.
This convening was a continuation and expansion of the Maine Civic Halls Initiative. Drawing on the expertise of historians, government officials, community leaders, business owners, economists, and active grangers, and citing original research, Greenhorns and Maine Preservation produced a report on the current status of civic halls of Hancock and Washington counties.
Want to be a part of civic halls revitalization? Email [email protected] to learn how you or your organization can get involved.
In 2023 we hosted a natural plaster restoration and repair workshop with Liz Johndrow of Earthen Endeavors, in collaboration with Mano en Mano and Maine Preservation. The resources shared through this community workshop were plentiful and excellent. Here's a list!
Thank you Jonathan Hall and Liz Johndrow for your generous resource sharing.
The Craftsman Blog by Scott Sidler
This Old Farmhouse video series by Mark Douglas (Willie) Wilcox
Essential Natural Plasters by Michael Henry and Tina Therrien
Building with Lime: A practical introduction by Stafford Holmes and M. Holmes, S. & Wingate
Plastering Skills by F. Van Der Branden and Thomas Hartsell
Walls & Molding: How to Care for Old and Historic Wood and Plaster by Natalie Shivers
Plaster and Plastering by Frederick Thomas Hodgson
Old House Handbook: How to Plaster, Book 1 by Noelle Lord Castle
Big Wally's Plaster Magic— "It is easy to use and effective if repairs are relatively minor."
Master of Plaster — "For larger repairs or restoration projects."