In North Yarmouth, Old Town House becoming new again

Poppy Slater

North Yarmouth Historical’s Katie Murphy, left, and Dixie Hayes are pleased with the progress of the Old Town House renovation. They’re hoping for a fall reopening of what will be a facility for the whole community. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

For the first time in its 169-year history, North Yarmouth’s Old Town House has indoor plumbing.

An indoor bathroom will soon be built, but as a historical item itself, the building’s old outhouse has been safely stored away.

The plumbing installation was part of North Yarmouth Historical’s restoration of the Old Town House, which was built in 1853. Since moving the building from Memorial Highway to the Village Green in December, the organization has made some significant progress on the project.

“Things are really percolating here in North Yarmouth, faster than we ever expected,” North Yarmouth Historical President Katie Murphy said this week. “There’s such great energy.”

The main room on the first floor of the Old Town House. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

The Old Town House had been used over the years for town meetings, holiday parties, Scout gatherings, historical programming and even at one time as a schoolhouse. Structural problems forced its closure in 2012. The goal of North Yarmouth Historical, North Yarmouth Historical – which has dropped “Society” from its name to be more inclusive – is to renovate it to meet the needs of the modern community.

The first-floor entryway is being kept true to the way it was designed back in 1853. To the left of the entryway will be a conference room and to the right a kitchen with a pass-through window into the main meeting room.

The main room is where historical programming and other events will be held. North Yarmouth Historical hopes to host collaborative programming with other groups, such as the cemetery commission, garden club and Maine Archives and Museums. It also looks forward to bringing back its annual holiday party for the first time in over a decade.

Town artifacts and old documents, now stored at the Fire-Rescue Station and in private homes,  will be moved to the basement, where there will also be workspace for volunteers.

A deck will be built in the future, and Murphy hopes cyclists and walkers will feel welcome to rest there and enjoy the views of Village Green.

“We have to be here. We have to be in the middle of town, reminding people of who we are, where we came from and that we have this identity as North Yarmouth,” she said.

Executive Board member Dixie Hayes said the restoration project has united residents because it is a positive change and a good example of  “civic responsibility.”

So far, about $640,000 from over 300 donors has been raised toward the $850,000 fundraising goal, which was increased from $750,000 in response to the increased cost of labor and materials. Donations or discounts from a number of businesses, including Hancock Lumber, Royal River Heat Pumps and Anderson Landscaping, have also been received.

Members of North Yarmouth Historical have their fingers crossed for a fall reopening, but hope to have the doors open by the end of the year at the latest.

More information on North Yarmouth Historical, updates on progress at the Town House and how to donate can be found at northyarmouthistorical.org.

“The Town House is changing in the same way the world and Maine is changing,” Hayes said. “We hope to be here as stewards of that change and create a happy community. The historical society is just as much about the future as it is the past.”

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