A labor of love for volunteers building Lincolnville library

Posted Oct. 21, 2013, at 2:01 p.m.

LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — Three mornings a week beginning in June, people driving through Lincolnville can see an unusual, and unusually dedicated work crew fulfilling a long-held dream — to build their town a library.

The all-volunteer workers — many of whom are retired or semi-retired — said they skew a little older than other work crews laboring around the midcoast. A lot of them are women who had never before hoisted a hammer or used a table saw. And the closer the project gets to completion, the prouder they are of what they have done.

“Isn’t it going to be great?” Cindy Dunham enthused Tuesday as she gave an impromptu tour of the work in progress. “It’s been a long time since there’s been a big community project. We felt that it was time, and that people were ready for one. Our hunch was correct.”

That’s something of an understatement. The library project got rolling one year ago, when more than 100 people turned out on a bright autumn morning to pull the former one-room Center School across Main Street to a patch of town-owned ground that had been the longtime home of the former Dean and Eugley Garage. The Lincolnville Historical Society had purchased the 1849 wooden structure from the Lincolnville Boat Club, with the understanding that the society would move the library off the club’s crowded property.

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Since then, about 75 people have been volunteering their time and talents fundraising for the library, renovating it and building two structures on the same lot that will become the Jackie Young Watts Open-Air Museum. Some volunteered talents they didn’t know they had, including 72-year-old Lee Cronin of Lincolnville, who said she learned how to saw, chisel and “toenail,” or pound in nails at an angle, while working on the two museum buildings. One of those long, shed-like structures is decorated with a Rosie the Riveter poster, and another one that proudly proclaims “Women at Work,” with an added clause that says, “Men, too.”

“I’m afraid my husband will probably give me jobs now,” Cronin joked. “But it’s been wonderful. It’s a wonderful group of people, and there’s such a sense of accomplishment.”

The museum is set to be dedicated from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26. It’s named for the founder of the historical society who recently died of cancer. Watts was among the volunteers who participated in the moving of the school, pulling a rope from her wheelchair, according to project volunteer Diane O’Brien. She said that some people in Lincolnville thought that the schoolhouse would never be moved and the library would never be built. That has changed, she said. The library should be open for business by January, if not before.

“Now, people drive by. They toot, they wave. There was some real skepticism about this project. Now, I think people are excited by it. Interested and curious.”

John Krumrein of Lincolnville was busy priming window sashes in the old schoolhouse. He said that he’s been working most of the summer on the renovation.

“It’s amazing, how dedicated everyone is to the project. For a small library, there’s a tremendous outpouring of interest,” he said. “It’s a great project, with great people. And no one can call you ‘Pops’ here.”

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