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Freedom Community Historical Society receives grant for Keen Hall

Dec 16, 2016
Courtesy of: Freedom Community Historical Society Keen Hall in Freedom (historic photo).

Freedom — Freedom Community Historical Society announced Dec. 16 it has received a $25,000 grant from the Butler Conservation Fund toward the cost of preserving Keen Hall in Freedom Village.

The historical society purchased the Keen property two years ago from the town, after the property had been reclaimed for unpaid taxes. “We are grateful and excited to receive this vote of confidence in our challenging task of restoration and contribution to the future vitality of the Town,” said Myrick Cross, FCHS president.

The long process of restoration began this fall with volunteers holding a bamboo-cutting party to remove some of the stubborn invasive Japanese knot weed that had overtaken the property at 1 Main St.

The society’s interest in Keen Hall stems from its former existence during the first part of the 20th century as the Freedom Academy principal’s residence. A year ago, the building was designated as one of 10 Most Endangered Historically Significant Properties in the state by the Maine Commission on Historic Preservation.

Recently, Keen Hall has been approved by the commission for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for its significance as the only remaining building of Freedom Academy, one of the earliest (1837) and most important institutions of secondary education in this part of Maine.

Local volunteers, including a team from the Reentry Center in Belfast, have cleaned out the building. Pro bono architectural plans and drawings have been done by Christopher Glass of Camden, landscape drawings were made by Mohr & Seredin of Portland, and a septic design was done by Albert Frick of Gorham.

Plans for use of the property include Historical Society office and work space, storage of local archives, a Freedom Academy room, a small village library, exhibit space, small group meeting space, and a one-bedroom apartment on the second level.

The 501(c)3 historical society meets monthly and holds fundraisers during the year such as the recent Freedom Fall Follies. Vice President Dave Adamson said, “This is the second grant FCHS has received, and we are hopeful for more individual donations, while we continue to seek more foundation support. Now we can begin phase one of construction in the spring.”

Selectman Brian Jones said, “Freedom Village is beginning to blossom, with the Mill at Freedom Falls, a new town salt and sand shed, a restored dam on Sandy Pond, and a renovated post office. Keen Hall will become a great asset to the life of the community.”

Butler Conservation Fund, a New York-based philanthropy, supports conservation, preservation, outdoor education and advocacy. Maine organizations that have received recent support from BCF include The Nature Conservancy in Maine, Friends of Acadia, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation, Penobscot River Restoration Trust, New England Forestry Foundation, and Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance.

 

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