Central Hall in Dover-Foxcroft has enjoyed a vibrant history since its grand opening in March 1882.
From rec center dances to theater performances, roller skating to basketball, the two-story building next to the United Methodist Church on East Main Street long was a hub for the town’s recreational pursuits as well as the former home of the town office and police department.
More recently the building has taken on new life as The Commons at Central Hall, a multi-generational community center that provides a blend of lifelong learning opportunities, meeting-room space and a large second-floor event center suitable for weddings and other galas.
Yet officials at the facility have longed for The Commons to enhance services for the clientele that was targeted when the Maine Highlands Senior Center was incorporated as a nonprofit entity based in the building in 2012 — the area’s senior population.
That effort received a boost this month as The Commons was one of five historic Maine buildings — two in Dover-Foxcroft — to receive a Northeast Heritage Economy Program grant to continue the restoration of the 138-year-old edifice.
Plans call for the $17,582 matching grant — a similar amount must be raised locally — to support the completion of work on the first floor of the building, including the installation of a full-service kitchen and the completion of a large multi-purpose room.
“Our goal is to really be able to make it more functional so we can do more,” said Lesley Fernow, chair of the organization’s board of directors. “It will allow us more flexibility.”
Fernow said such increased flexibility provided by the NHEP funding, as well as a $43,000 USDA grant the organization received last summer, should bring The Commons closer to being able to support some adult day care programming.
The USDA grant and matching funds helped fund the installation of bathrooms and flooring, wall construction and other renovations to the rear of the building’s first floor before the facility was closed last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we’ve decided to do as an organization is to try to have a social model of service for people with dementia where we would try to integrate the early Alzheimer’s and dementia clients with regular senior programming, the luncheon program,” Fernow said. “We want to add a little extra support for a four-hour block twice a week for people who have dementia and need some supervision but don’t need medical services.
“They just need supervision and engagement in social activities in a safe place with somebody there helping them, but they’re basically able to take care of their own needs. It will be a multi-functional space, though, it won’t be a designated adult day service center space.”
Another Dover-Foxcroft entity to land an NHEP grant through Maine Preservation is Center Theatre, Inc., which was awarded $30,538 to support the creation of a second theater screen at the Center Theatre for the Performing Arts that will increase its outreach substantially.
Other Maine projects receiving grants are in Belfast and Thorndike in Waldo County and Lille in northernmost Aroostook County.
The Belfast Maskers will receive $23,400 for heating, cooling and bathroom improvements at the former First Universalist Church that will expand the use of that theater facility throughout the year.
Timelines Community, Inc., will receive $80,000 for rehabilitation efforts to include foundation, drainage, sills, joists, subflooring and chimney work in order to re-open the Thorndike Village General Store as a multi-use facility.
L’Association Culturelle et Historique du Mont-Carmel of Lille will receive $78,480 for the restoration of frescoed plaster and repairing the roof and sills of the Musee Culturel du Mont-Carmel. The Musee is on Maine Preservation’s Most Endangered Historic Places list as an especially important historic building, and this work will provide for expanded visitation and use of the facility.
The Northeast Heritage Economy Program is a collaboration among Maine Preservation, the Preservation League of New York State, New Hampshire Preservation Alliance and the Preservation Trust of Vermont.
The NHEP provides grants to community-driven preservation projects to address the negative economic shift produced by the decline of the forest products industry in the rural areas of the Northern Border Regional Commission region (Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont).
The grant program is funded through a $1,000,000 grant from the NBRC through its Regional Forest Economy Partnership program. These funds are available thanks to the support of the Congressional delegations of the NBRC states.
“Unlike our partner states, there is limited funding for historic preservation in Maine and this program shows the great demand and the great opportunities for positive economic impacts throughout Maine,” Maine Preservation executive director Greg Paxton said.