PI Library purchases historical State Street home, begins plans for cultural center

2 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Presque Isle will soon be home to another arts and cultural space thanks to the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library’s purchase of a nearby historical home.

In December, the library’s board of trustees became the owners of what they are now calling “The Griffiths House” on 228 State St., located behind the library. 

Lois and Steve Griffiths lived in the home throughout their 51-year marriage. The couple raised four children — Ann, Matthew, Adam and Sarah — and were actively involved in their community. 

Steve Griffiths, who died in 2015, taught math at Skyway Middle School, now known as Presque Isle Middle School. He volunteered as a ski instructor and equipment operator for Quoggy Jo Ski Center and was a member of the Presque Isle Country Club. Lois Griffiths was a member of the local garden club and volunteered with Boys and Girl Scout troops.

After helping their mother move to southern Maine to be closer to family, the Griffiths children reached out to the library, hoping to start a new chapter for their childhood home. 

“We’re excited to see what type of space the library will create,” said Sarah Griffiths, Lois and Steve Griffiths’ youngest daughter, who lives in Falmouth. 

Built in 1890, The Griffiths House began as the parsonage for Presque Isle’s Unitarian Church. After the church was torn down in the 1930s, Trinity Lodge 130 took its place. In 1941, Eugene “Ben” Griffiths, Steve’s father, purchased the home and his mother Mary lived there while operating a boarding house.

Initially, Steve and Lois Griffiths moved into the State Street home to care for Steve’s grandmother Mary, but they remained there to raise their own family. Sarah Griffiths recalled that her parents took pride in keeping their home beautiful and up to date.

“Dad renovated the entire house through the years. There’s not a square inch in that house that he did not painstakingly refinish or paint,” Sarah Griffiths said. “My mom had beautiful gardens in the backyard.”

While growing up on State Street, Sarah and her siblings spent much time at the library, which became a “second home” to them. Their childhood memories inspired them to reach out to the library, in hopes that the board of trustees would also want to create a vibrant arts-driven space for the community.

Though exact plans for the new cultural center are still in development, the library hopes to create public spaces for writing conferences and workshops, outdoor concerts and other events. They also would like to expand the library’s garden and the space needed for their most popular children’s events.

Library director Sonja Eyler said that owning The Griffith House will allow the library to honor the Griffiths’ legacy while creating a “dynamic” space for writers, artists, musicians, gardeners and other community members looking for great cultural arts experiences.

“It’s a place where the community can appreciate the history [of the home] but also participate while they’re there,” Eyler said.

For Sarah Griffiths, hearing the library’s plans gives reassurance that her parents’ legacy will remain part of the community.

“How many people get to see their childhood home live on in such a beautiful way?” she said. “We know that the library will take wonderful care [of the home] and that it will be enjoyed by many.”

Correction: A previous version of the article stated that Eugene “Ben” Griffiths raised his children in the 228 State St. home. Griffiths purchased the home but only his mother lived there.