A little over a 100 years ago, Verona Island launched the S.S. Roosevelt, an ice-breaking ship commissioned by Adm. Robert Peary for his successful bid in 1909 to be the first to reach the North Pole. Today, the island is a sleepy retirement hideaway for people who want to "live in the puckerbrush and do their own thing."

That's the way Verna Cox, a 27-year resident and member of the Verona Island Historical Society, describes it. When she and her husband Kenneth arrived, she recalled, they found a monument to Peary's expedition overgrown and neglected.

"I couldn't understand how they could have so much and they needed to crow about it because the area needs the income," Cox said. "They need to be popular. They need people to stop and stay."

Today, the Coxes are hoping to shine a light on the area's impressive history in a museum named for Peary's ship. If all goes according to plan, S.S. Roosevelt Discovery Museum, like a well-placed elver net, will capture some of the torrents of visitors passing through each summer on their way to better-known coastal destinations.

"The major route to Bar Harbor and Down East goes across a mile of Verona Island, and they're trapped," Ken Cox said.

Getting people to stop at the museum isn't the endgame for the benefit of the historical society. Rather, it's an attempt to let visitors know about local attractions that have tended to go unnoticed.

The eye-catching cable-stay design of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, for instance, might attract some appreciative looks in the 30 seconds it takes to cross by car, but it brings little benefit to the community. However, the observatory at the top of the western tower — the only one of its kind — might be worth stopping for, at which point Fort Knox is right next door.

Beyond these marquee attractions, the Coxes hope the museum will encourage visitors to venture off the stampede-beaten path into downtown Bucksport. Coastal Route 1 hits Main Street at a T intersection with downtown to the left. As Cox was quick to point out, most traffic turns right, toward Ellsworth, Bar Harbor and Acadia.

"Bucksport is the one that needs help the most," she said. "Verona Island is in the choice spot, but they're not the ones who need it."

Along with the glory of Adm. Peary's expedition, there are some museum-worthy blemishes on the local historical record — the Penobscot Expedition, a Revolutionary War-era naval campaign to reclaim the area from the British ended when colonial soldiers, delayed by an argument among officers, were overtaken by a British fleet and chased up the Penobscot River, ultimately abandoning their ships.

"They walked back to Massachusetts, bankrupt," Ken Cox said. "Now, that's not positive, but it's one of the things you don't hear about."

Ships built in Bucksport were bought, sold and sailed around the globe by the hundreds, often leaving never to return. Among them was the 200-foot N.T. Hill, which disappeared on the return from its maiden voyage, en route to London from Rangoon, Burma — now Yangon, Myanmar — with a hold full of rice. The ship was the largest of 34 vessels built at a shipyard near where Hannaford supermarket stands today.

The S.S. Roosevelt Museum has been a work in progress for 10 years, but after a few false starts, it appears closer than ever to becoming a reality. Karl Ward of Nickerson & O'Day took an interest in the project and his firm made architectural drawings for the museum. The building features a wedge at one end, suggesting the prow of a ship. Inside, the space would feature an open floor plan and movable partitions to allow the space to be used by community groups.

The Coxes envision informational kiosks and living history from local residents "sitting in the rocking chair, reminiscing about the area," who remember, or at least are closer to the history presented in the museum.

"It's gotta be user-friendly," Verna Cox said. "Other than that, it's not going to work."

The location still remains to be determined, but the historical society has its sights set on a commercial property on the bend in the road just east of the bridge. They made a point of looking only on the east side of the road to make it as easy as possible for drivers to stop.

The group recently started a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise $75,000 to buy the land. Early in June, they were putting together mailers to send to every resident of the island and looking to get the word out any other way they can.

"Once we have the land, we'll have something you can look at and touch, and we don't have that now," Ken Cox said. "Once we have the land, we can go after grants."

The Coxes are hoping the project takes off soon. Ken Cox, in conversation, attributed a slip of memory to his age, 90. The history of Bucksport and Verona Island isn't going anywhere, of course, but Verna Cox thinks the area is missing an opportunity to share it.

"They have so much to tell, and they're not telling it," she said. "And they better do it before Ken and I are 100."

For more information about the S.S. Roosevelt Discovery Museum, visit: gofundme.com/ss-roosevelt-discovery-museum