A new historical museum across from a beloved beach has opened on Maine’s midcoast.
The Lincolnville Historical Society has spent the last two years renovating a former schoolhouse, turning it into a space for town archives and an inter-generational, multi-purpose learning center, a first for the tiny midcoast town.
“It was a lovely, rickety, old building,” Lincolnville Historical Society Board of Directors Vice Chair Cyrene Slegona said. “Now it’s a lovely, sound gathering space that holds our story — the past, the present and the future.”
The Beach Schoolhouse was built across the street from the Lincolnville Beach in 1851. It lacked running water and electricity – heated by a wood stove – until it closed in 1947, according to the Maine Memory Network, a website created by the Maine Historical Society.
The schoolhouse began to be used by the historical society as an office and storage for its collections by the mid-1980s. And in 2020, the Lincolnville Historical Society purchased the building for $1 from the town.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do because here was a group of volunteers that were willing to rehab the building and add something to the town,” Selectman Michael Ray said. “And the town has a great story to tell.”
Members of the Lincolnville Historical Society, alongside a band of volunteers, raised more than $325,000 for renovations to bring the schoolhouse into the 21st century including a new roof, structural supports, technology and commercial kitchen.
“And we’re making every penny count,” Slegona said.
The new museum features exhibits that explore the region’s geology, the Penobscot peoples who first inhabited the land, colonial settlers and local industries like farming and fishing.
The historical society felt it was especially important to include the stories of local Indigenous people — a history that has often gone untold. The museum highlights the story of the Shay family. Penobscot nation members Leo and Florence Shay together with their son Charles had a tent on Lincolnville Beach from the 1930s through the 1960s where they lived and sold handmade baskets.
The Shay family’s baskets, which were donated from Shay descendent and Penobscot elder Bob Anderson’s collection, are featured in an exhibit. Anderson passed away in Lincolnville in 2020.
The educational center will also offer programs, courses, events and workshops.
Slegona said there are currently plans for courses on the Indigenous peoples’ history in Lincolnville and the regional archaeology, along with crafting workshops and community suppers.
Though it’s been a lengthy process, O’Brien said it’s been amazing to see the historical society’s membership grow so much thanks to the project.
“We have grown from about 90 members to over 200 in the past two years, dedicated volunteers and supporters working to tell the stories of this place we love and call home,” Slegona said.
The Lincolnville Historical Society is hosting an open house on Saturday at the Beach Schoolhouse, 33 Beach Road from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to show off that hard work and soft-launch some of what the schoolhouse is offering, including snacks and cider, access to the exhibits and a presentation from Bob Anderson’s daughter, Karen on basket making and the Shay family’s history.
“I smile all day long,” O’Brien said. “I couldn’t have imagined a better thing to happen.”