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. 

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 Plaster workshop this September!).

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.

Want to be a part of civic halls revitalization? Email [email protected] to learn how you or your organization can get involved.