Main Street Bucksport applies for grant to help repair Wilson Hall

BUCKSPORT — The historic, beleaguered Wilson Hall building may soon receive a burst of funding to help pay for repair costs.

Last month, the nonprofit economic development group Main Street Bucksport applied for a $25,000 grant from the Maine-based Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust.

“One of their focus areas is historic preservation,” said Brook Minner, the executive director of Main Street Bucksport.

Minner said she also plans on applying for a $60,000 grant from the Maine Steeples Fund, which is a collaborative effort of the Maine Community Foundation and Maine Preservation, a nonprofit historic preservation organization.

The goal of the grants, Minner said, is to get closer to the $250,000 total floated by the Town Council as the cost of fully repairing the roof of the 177-year-old building.

At a meeting earlier this year, the Town Council voted to spend up to $30,000 to keep Wilson Hall’s roof intact through the winter.

The council was hesitant to spend the full $250,000 without a developer on hand to turn the dilapidated property into something viable as a business or a housing complex.

The Town Council was compelled to spend the $30,000 after an upsurge of public support for preserving the historic property.

“If we can raise a good chunk of money, maybe there will be more will from the Town Council to spend the rest,” Minner said.

Minner isn’t alone in her preservation efforts. Bucksport businessman Larry Wahl has been involved in preserving Wilson Hall for years, and is leading a fundraising effort for the building. Several individuals have also donated money to the town of Bucksport, which owns Wilson Hall.

“Larry Wahl is working with us to plan a public fundraising event in November,” Minner said. “I do think it’s important for a project like this to show that there is wide public support.”

The director said that Wilson Hall becomes even more fascinating to her as she finds out more about its history.

“I had no idea the school was always coeducational,” Minner said. “The founders’ mission was to educate boys and girls together, because that’s how society works. I don’t know how rare that was, but it strikes me as progressive.”

When it was operating as a secondary school, thousands of students from all over eastern and central Maine came through Wilson Hall and stayed in Bucksport, Minner said.

“It has an amazing long history that’s been all but forgotten now,” she said. “It’s important to try to keep that alive.”

Minner said she expects to hear back about the $25,000 grant in November or December.

David Roza

David Roza

David grew up in Washington County, Maryland, has reported in Washington County, Oregon, and now covers news in Hancock County and Washington County, Maine for The American and Out & About.