Liberty Hall celebrates 135 years

Posted Aug. 23, 2008, at 5:55 p.m.

MACHIASPORT, Maine — This coastal community held a celebration for one of its oldest members Saturday.

Dozens of residents gathered throughout the day to celebrate Liberty Hall’s 135th anniversary with cake and tours of the building.

“This building is an important part of the community,” said David Freedberg, a professor at Columbia University and Machiasport seasonal resident. “It truly is one of Maine’s treasures.”

The hall was decorated with ribbons, balloons and pictures of the building drawn by the students of Fort O’Brien School.

The building was erected in 1873 and served as a gathering hall for various town events, such as basketball games, bean suppers, festivals and town hall meetings. As recently as 2000 the building’s stage was the scene of musical theater productions.

When Judy Purington was married in January 1970, her wedding reception was held in the hall.

“There are so many memories here,” said the East Machias resident.

The building is in the National Register of Historic Places and also has landed a spot on Maine Preservation’s list of Most Endangered Historic Properties.

The hall, which overlooks Machias Bay, was shut down in 2000 because of a leaking belvedere roof, foundation damage and other conditions that created health and safety hazards.

Freedberg and 11 other Machiasport residents make up the Committee to Save Liberty Hall and are working to raise $1.1 million to restore the building.

“It’s wonderful that they are raising funds to redo it,” said Purington. “It will make it available to a whole new generation.”

The restoration will take place in three phases.

The committee finished the first phase of the project, which cost $200,000 and involved removing the ornately carved belvedere tower from the building’s top with a crane and placing it on ground level where it awaits restoration. The phase also included roofing repair and fixing the building’s damaged foundation.

“The building is structurally sound,” said Freedberg during the celebration, who added that the committee is still raising money to start the second phase of the construction, which will involve installing storm windows and restoring the building’s original doors. The work is expected to cost $355,000.

The third phase is expected to cost $545,000 and will include installation of indoor plumbing, an elevator and new electrical and heating systems.

“This building is an important cultural center for the area,” said Freedburg. “Reopening it will bring many different events to the area.”

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