By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
HAMPDEN, Maine — A 185-year-old building that has experienced history and neglect has gained a new lease on life through fundraising efforts conducted by the Hampden Garden Club.
Located at Kennebec Road, Harmony Hall opened as a Universalist church in December 1828. Suffragette Susan B. Anthony spoke there, and Hampden residents often used the building (especially after the church closed) as a community center.
In 1937 the Hampden Village Improvement Society granted permission for the Hampden Garden Club to use the building; the first club-related activity to take place was a flower show that drew more than 500 people.
Club members maintained Harmony Hall through the 1940s and ’50s, and in 1967 the club took ownership of the building. Ongoing maintenance has occurred since then (the granite-block foundation has received its share of attention over the years), but recent restoration efforts have resulted in the building being in its best shape in years, agreed Patricia Kerfoot and Ellen Pariser, Hampden Garden Club co-presidents.
Harmony Hall is a registered national historic landmark.
According to Kerfoot, the club‘s purpose is to spread information about gardening. The club’s 40 members maintain several Hampden flower gardens, including those at Dorothea Dix Park on Main Road South, the Edythe Dyer Memorial Library, Harmony Hall and Lura Hoit Pool.
Club members have spent the last 10 years raising funds to renovate Harmony Hall. Two spring plant sales are our fund-raisers, Kerfoot said. One sale involves perennials provided by club members; the other involves hybrid daylilies provided by Bill Warman, a noted horticulturist who owns The Maine Garden in Brooks.
Since renovations to Harmony Hall began three years ago, “We have spent $60,000 [to restore the building], Kerfoot said. That figure includes two Maine Historic Preservation Commission grants that totaled approximately $14,000.
• Resetting the original foundation’s shifted granite blocks and then building a concrete footing to keep the blocks in place;
• Building a handicap ramp;
• Replacing the porch and porch steps;
• Reglazing, repainting, and resetting six Gothic windows and three belfry windows;
• Creating a new landscape outside the front entrance;
• Restoring the front doors;
• Scraping and repainting the entire building, accomplished this past summer by Hampden contractor Josh Peppard and his son, Aaron. Harmony Hall now sports two colors rather than its longtime white shade. “We discovered these postcards from the turn of the [19th] century that showed where it had been in two colors,” Kerfoot said.
“It looks so great,” Pariser said.
Additional renovations are not currently planned for Harmony Hall. “We’re going to rest on our laurels [for a while],” Kerfoot said.
The restored Harmony Hall is available for use by the public from April to October, Pariser said. Past events held in the building include a wedding shower and yard sales.
For information about using Harmony Hall, contact Anne Bennett at 207-862-3467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.