Historical Maysville Grange turned museum set to open this summer

7 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After suffering two catastrophic fires and eventually being abandoned to the elements, what once long ago was a magnet for social activity has been brought back to life thanks to the Presque Isle Historical Society.

With around $110,000 in donations with several years of volunteer work, the Presque Isle Historical Society transformed the crumbling Maysville Grange into the soon to be open Maysville Museum.

“Our grand opening will be Saturday, July 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” said Kim Smith, secretary treasurer of the society.

The museum, located on the corner of the Caribou Road and Brewer Road in Presque Isle, will be another historical society time machine transporting children and adults back to Maysville’s early days, when the small town was nestled between Presque Isle and Caribou. The facility will feature numerous historical artifacts assembled into four exhibits highlighting key points in history, including a section on the Aroostook War and another on the Civil War. Then two interactive displays tell the tale about local agriculture and about early education and one room schoolhouses.

The historical society acquired the property in 2011 and began refurbishing the former building that served as a town hall, grange and one room schoolhouse for the town of Maysville.

“In fact, Maysville and Presque Isle each were incorporated as towns on the very same piece of paper in 1859,” said Smith. “And then Presque Isle annexed Maysville in 1883 and at that point they no longer needed the town hall. It was just the school and the grange.”

The grange burned down in 1916 and again in 1939 for reasons unknown, but grange members kept rebuilding the structure and took care of it until the ‘80s, Smith said.

“It stopped being used around the mid 1980s,” she said. “The Maysville Grange no longer really had enough members to keep it going and the one room school houses all closed across the area in 1949, so it was just kind of abandoned. It reverted to city ownership, then sold to a private individual and it was just sitting there.”

After years at the mercy of Mother Nature, grass and wildlife had taken over the property by 2004, when it’s believed that a tossed cigarette caused another fire that further damaged the grange.

“When we acquired it there were animals living in here and it smelled horrendous,” Smith said.

An engineer estimated the renovation costs to the grange might reach close to $200,000, “Which was a little daunting, but I think doing it a little bit at a time made it easier to swallow and right now the running total of the donations are about $110,000,” Smith said.

Kim Smith, Presque Isle Historical Society secretary and treasurer, is excited to unveil her group’s latest project, the Maysville Museum set to open July 1. The former Maysville Grange has been restored and is now filled with interactive exhibits ready to give folks of all ages a taste of Presque Isle’s past. (Joshua Archer)

Volunteers and local sponsors made it possible over the last few years to pour a new foundation underneath the museum; put on a new roof; add insulation, sheet rock, and a new propane furnace in the basement; and make repairs to the chimney.

“Right now we can only be open seasonally, which will be April through October because we do not have a restroom,” said Smith. The museum will have a portable toilet available this summer.

There are plans for an addition to the museum to include an ADA compliant bathroom and a kitchenette, “Once that’s done, we’ll be open year round,” Smith said.

Just after the historical society purchased the property, members submitted an application to the National Park Service with the hope of having the property designated a national historic site.

“I don’t know if we’ll get any action out of that application or not, it takes about five years to go through and it’s been close to that so I don’t know,” Smith said.

On top of working a full time job as the public information officer and grant writer for the city of Presque Isle, Smith puts in an additional 40 hours of volunteer time for the historical society each week, she said.

“When I’m telling people about local history, I feel like I’m giving back to the community, I’m leaving a legacy. They look at the community with new eyes. And studies have shown us, especially with children, if they become engaged in local history, they have a greater sense of community pride and that’s really important right now because we have such an out migration of our youth. So if we can show them that there is something here and there is something to be proud of, maybe they’ll stay or come back and raise their families here and that’s really important,” Smith said.

For more information about the museum or to donate, visit pihistory.org.