ORLAND, Maine — The gift of land to the Orland Historical Society has opened new possibilities for housing its collection related to local history.
Last summer, residents John and Kim Wardwell donated the 1.3-acre parcel to the society. The property is located near the post office about a half-mile from the current site of the society building. While the details of the transfer are still being worked out, the society has begun reviewing options on how best to use that land.
“Originally, we thought we’d just slide the historical building up the road and set it on that site,” said society President Wayne Ames. “But we’ve learned that the building would lose its historical significance if we move it out of the village.”
Based on that information, Ames said, the society is considering whether it would be better to build a new society building.
“We’re going to explore the idea,” Ames said. “We want to look into a long-range plan to build a new building.”
He stressed that the project is still in the early stages and that they have just begun to talk about the idea. Ames said they have not even talked about what the society would need for a building and have no plans or cost estimates.
The building was constructed in the early 1800s and over the years saw duty as a ship’s chandlery, post office and selectmen’s office before being purchased by the Grange in 1907. It became the home of the historical society in 1966 when the organization was established. It now houses a collection of items related to the town’s history, including artifacts from the Red Paint people and from the Civil War, old tools and a section of the old post office.
The building has not been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it does qualify to be on the register.
Using donated funds raised during the past year, the society has made some necessary repairs, including to a rotting sill. The work will allow the building to be open to visitors this summer, Ames said, but the building still has some serious problems.
“We’ve made some temporary repairs so that we can keep it open safely,” he said, “but it still has no handicapped access; there’s no water going in or out, and there’s no parking.”
Ames said the society plans to rotate exhibits between the first and second floors so that both exhibits will be accessible to visitors. The building is usually open during July and August, and it may be open for some activities in June.
If a new building is constructed, Ames said, the society likely will keep the old building.
“If we move, we’ll keep it as a part of Orland’s history,” he said. “It’s part of the original community down there.”
Meanwhile, members will work on the idea of constructing a new building. Plans for a new building could be developed this year, Ames said.