The East Franklin Schoolhouse building got new clapboard siding and a fresh coat of paint in November. Franklin Historical Society members hope the visible improvements will inspire support for the ongoing project. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANKLIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Renovation project moving ahead slowly in Franklin

FRANKLIN — A recent coat of paint may be the most visible improvement to a historic building in Franklin, but it certainly hasn’t been the only one.

Last fall, the Franklin Historical Society replaced the siding and windows of the former East Franklin Schoolhouse on Route 200. They painted the building yellow with green trim, finishing the doors in November.

“We’re hoping that as people see how much progress there’s been that they might be inspired,” said historical society board member Bess Carter.

The society is always seeking grant funds, but members also rely on support from the community through membership dues and donations. Another big part of the pot comes from fundraisers, held from June through September.

“It’s not huge money but it’s a huge effort,” said Linda Dinsmore, the society’s vice president and secretary. “We can really do it only in the summertime.”

The recent improvements to the building represented the fifth phase of an ongoing project to restore and use the building, which currently serves as storage space.

“What we aim for is to have a building that will not only serve as a museum but perhaps would also serve as a meeting room and community center,” said Carter.

Since the society acquired the building in the 1970s, the group has put about $100,000 into it. This has included about $15,000 the town kicked in, plus another $35,000 from grants, said society Treasurer Emery DeBeck.

Most grants come with stipulations and don’t provide any kind of steady income because awards are limited.

“And you have to wait two years before you can apply again,” said Dinsmore.

DeBeck said the society believes the building was originally constructed in 1857 because, while working on the site a couple years ago, society members found an 1857 penny, which has since been preserved.

“We’re pretty sure that was put there by the people that were building the building originally,” he said.

The two-story building accommodated schoolchildren on the first floor while the second floor served as a meeting place for a woman’s club. In 1900, the number of students at the school grew to the point where, after some controversy, the school was split.

In 1904, the building was moved back from the road and the exterior was remodeled, he said. Since then, the building has changed owners numerous times, providing office space for a plumbing business and Head Start, among other things. The historical society renovations began with structural items.

“It got a brand new roof and a brand new foundation,” said society President Diane Green. “I don’t remember which came first.”

Next, the society had to replace all the sills, even though contractors had initially said that wouldn’t be necessary, said DeBeck. Later, a new floor and subfloor were installed.

Future projects include new electrical wiring, insulation and stairs. At one time, the building had an addition that was torn off. The society may be able to rebuild it at a later date, he said.

But for now, the work has paused.

“We’re out of money,” said DeBeck.

The society welcomes new members, who can add an extra donation when paying dues. Donations are always welcome and can be sent to the Franklin Historical Society, P.O. Box 317, Franklin, ME 04634.

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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