Save Keen Hall in Freedom

By Sallyann Hadyniak | Jul 23, 2014

 

Save Keen Hall

1 Main Street, Freedom Village

 

at the intersection of Belfast Road (Rt. 137) and Main Street

 

Known locally as “The Principal’s House” or the last resident, Mark Philbrick’s residence, or the former office of Farmstead Press, the yellow house now surrounded by bamboos at the corner of Rt 137 and Main Street, has been acquired by the town for unpaid back taxes and is up for public bid, with a deadline of Friday, July 28th at 6pm.

 

The Historical Society has recently filed application with the IRS to become a 501c3 non-profit, and by law, as of July 19, 2014, can accept tax-deductible contributions from people interested in preserving an important part of Freedom’s history as an investment in our town’s future.

 

With much dedicated help from volunteers, town financial support, and grants, restoration of the Old Town Meeting House on North Palermo Road is nearing completion. With great impetus from the Grassi’s restoration of the Mill at Freedom Falls as a second historic preservation, energy and attention can now be focused on future development of the next project:

Restoration of Keen Hall, the former residence of Carter B. Keen.

 

Historical Significance: a Candidate for the National Register

Built in the mid-Nineteenth Century, as Freedom Village was growing around the early stream-based industries and businesses, the unique Dutch Gambrel was built along the main thorofare of village business by the Keen family, who are all buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Carter B. Keen graduated from Freedom Academy and went on to become a lawyer, practicing in Washington, D.C. Around 1919, he was appointed the first Director of the U.S. Postal Service by President Cleveland.

He was a major benefactor of his alma mater, Freedom Academy, and later made it possible for the Academy to acquire his family home as a residence for the Principal’s family. Later, it housed the business offices of Farmstead Press and then was used as a private residence. Recently it has fallen into disrepair and needs major restoration work, including demolition of the garage and second ell addition, jacking, a new foundation and sewage system.

A Vision for the future

Keen Hall is located at a strategic location for visibility for travelers on Rt. 137 in both directions. To have a building in that triangle of land, beautifully restored, greeting traffic coming through the village will offer an attractive welcome and an invitation to visit. The property does not seem appropriate for family life, but could suit a variety of public uses. The lot is actually a double lot, including what years ago was the “Weed or O’Leary” lot. Grading could provide minimal parking. Some initial suggestions for use include: an expanded community library; Historical Society office, archive storage and exhibit and sales space; small group meeting and program space; a Freedom Academy archive room; a wind and water energy collection; local arts and crafts exhibit and sales; a studio apartment for rental income; office rental space.

 

Contributions are needed from as many people as possible to establish a fund to acquire and begin the restoration process. Donors during this initial phase of the project might be listed on a plaque displayed in the building and known as “Friends of Freedom.” As progress is made, and non-profit status is granted by the IRS, application for grants can be submitted to foundations and organizations for continued development. The town has a $10,000. Grant from the Gibson Foundation received last year for use toward a community library center.

 

A vision for this historic preservation at one end of Main Street will inspire other growth for the benefit and improvement of our community.

 

Checks should be made to: Freedom Historical Society

Memo: Keen Hall Fund

71 Pleasant Street

Freedom, Maine 04941

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