May 23, 2018
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Lincolnville group wants to move 130-year-old schoolhouse, convert it to library

Lincolnville Historical Society | BDN
Lincolnville Historical Society | BDN
Students sat in Lincolnville's one-room Center School in 1939. The Lincolnville Historical Society is working to move the 1880s school across the street and turn it into a new library for the town.
By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — Several obstacles lie in the path of a group of residents who want to get a library in their town, but they have the land and they have a building, so this weekend they will bake pies and start their fundraising campaign to move a 130-year-old building across the street.

For one thing, the 1880s schoolhouse on Main Street doesn’t have a floor. It also doesn’t have a back wall. The front wall is now a garage door and needs to be redone, too. The building doesn’t have electricity or heat. And because it will be moved to a brownfield, it can’t have a real toilet. That’s OK, according to volunteers, two of whom have boat toilets in their garages that they are ready to donate to the project. Those toilets wouldn’t require much water or any digging.

“It has a roof,” said Diane O’Brien, president of the Lincolnville Historical Society. “It’s better than it sounds. It’s pretty sound, we had it looked over.”

The town leased to the historical society an old brownfield that has a slab on it and has been an eyesore in town for years. The local boat club — located across the street from the slab — offered up the old Center School building to the society, as long as it gets it off the already crowded boat club property.

Meanwhile, there have been many rumblings around town by people who want a library in Lincolnville. A group of about eight people decided that they needed to get books in people’s hands — building or not. So the Lincolnville Library Committee gathers at the local indoor farmers market twice a week. They have 800 books. The shelves are full. The volunteers take each book, assign it a number, put it on the shelf and catalog it in the computer. A person who wants to take out a book takes the old-fashioned card out of the book, signs it and puts that card in a box. Next month, when the book is returned, the borrower finds that book’s card and puts it back in the book and a volunteer reshelves it.

This weekend while people take out books at the farmers market, they can also purchase $12 pies to support moving the old schoolhouse across Main Street, where it can be renovated into a library.

“Camden has a good, big library and so does Belfast. Here in Lincolnville, little libraries have come and gone, but not stayed long. But everyone got fired up about this,” O’Brien said.

For one thing, the one-room schoolhouse is historic. Some people in town attended the school, which closed in 1947, according to O’Brien. There aren’t many records about the Center School, she said, but she does know that it taught as many as 40 kids at a time and was one of 17 schools in the town. The teachers were usually young women in their late teens who had graduated high school, and it wasn’t always an easy job, O’Brien said.

“A lot of the kids would be older — mostly the boys. They’d have to work on the farm and so they’d often only come to school in the winter. You’d be 14 or 16 and still be in the eighth grade because you never went to school,” she said.

The other reason people seem excited about a library is that the town needs a community meetinghouse.

“We want to see something done with this blighted piece of land. It hasn’t seen a plant on it in 10 years. Not even a potted plant. It looks awful. It looks like something died in town and it’s the entrance of the center of town,” O’Brien said. “This will give people a place to go during the day. There isn’t a whole lot to do here in Lincolnville in the day. Or night.”

Cindy Dunham, who heads the Lincolnville Community Alliance, agreed.

“Lincolnville needs a gathering place. There is Drake’s Corner [store] now where you can get together, but you can’t have a meeting or anything. It’s a convenience store,” Dunham said. “If you wanted to do a children’s story hour or have an author come and talk, you wouldn’t do it at the convenience store because it is too full.”

The Lincolnville Historical Society plans to move the 25-by-35-foot building by Christmas. The cost and timeline for renovations aren’t clear yet.

The Lincolnville Library Committee and their pies will be at the farmers market at Grandpa’s Hall 9 a.m.-noon Saturday.

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