Ron Blum and Marcia Pond of the Patten Historical Society Preservation Committee to save the 1845 church look at the interior stained-glass windows. This is the first time the town allowed them into the building. Credit: Courtesy of Marcia Pond

PATTEN, Maine – The Patten Select Board has washed its hands of the 1845 Regular Baptist Church, relegating its fate to an annual town meeting vote in April.

This week selectmen reluctantly approved a request to let the town decide if the church’s ownership will transfer from the town to the Patten Historical Society for restoration and community use.

Earlier this year, the Select Board voted to demolish the historic building, but a public outcry to save the church drew hundreds of supporters from around the country.

“So many people have said, ‘We do not want this building torn down,’” said Marcia Pond, head of the Patten Historical Society’s Preservation Committee to Save the Church.

At least five 19th-century downtown properties have been lost in recent years and tearing down the 1845 Regular Baptist Church, built four years after the town’s founding, takes away another critical piece of the town’s history, Pond said. 

The historical society wants to own the building to restore it and use it for community needs, perhaps an art, meeting or creative space, she said.

The Select Board wants to level it, plant a few flowers and add a picnic table, Select Board Chairman Cody Brackett said. He has been talking to demolition companies to see if he can barter the church’s stained glass windows and other historic details like oak trim and doors for the cost of demolition, he said.

Drawing support from around the country as well as the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and local residents, the preservation committee is garnering resources to return the building to its former brilliance. 

Nearly 180 years ago, the town founders sold shares — 42 shares at $45 each — for a total of $1,890 to build the church, said Debbie Coolong, author of “The History of Patten and Mt. Chase.” And now, to save the church, town residents are again pulling together to make sure it remains in Patten.

“A lot of people are very supportive and they have offered money, labor, time and products,” said Pond.

These ceilings were hidden inside dropped ceiling tiles at an endangered Patten church. Credit: Courtesy of Marcia Pond

To counter the Select Board’s opinion that the building should be destroyed, the preservation committee gathered more than 100 town resident signatures supporting the church’s transfer to the historical society. They also documented the committee’s  increasing financial support and noted a growing number of experts in construction, grant writing and historic preservation who have joined the preservation committee.  

Armed with this information, they initially asked the town to transfer ownership of the building to the historical society.  

But town leaders are not in favor of the move, citing poor management of the historical society, according to town meeting minutes.

“The Select Board expressed a desire to see the historical society’s finance records, a comprehensive plan for the old church, and some sort of progress report of the preservation committee,” said Patten Planning Board Chairman Ron Blum, who is also on the Preservation Committee, adding that the efforts to save the church have renewed interest in the town’s historical society and several townspeople have become members.

At the March 7 Select Board meeting, the preservation committee asked selectmen to approve two articles for a town vote at the April 27 annual town meeting. The first article asks for the transfer of town ownership of the building to the Patten Historical Society for restoration and preservation.

“There was some discontent with the language that referred to the building as the Veteran’s Memorial Library,” Blum said, adding that they tabled the request until the name was changed in the article.

The second article asked the town to fund up to $5,000 to heat the building over the next year while repairs and restoration were underway. The board rejected the heating request.

During this week’s Select Board meeting, more than 40 residents attended and several spoke during the public comment period.

Don Adams, a member of the historical society, suggested that the town was derelict in its duty to maintain the historic building by denying to heat it.

The members of the preservation committee presented the rewritten article for the vote and also gave the board a plan for the church’s restoration, Blum said.

The Select Board voted to approve the article for public vote at the annual town meeting on April 27.

Anyone interested in saving the Patten church can contact Marcia Pond at or the Patten Historical Society.


Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Houlton area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the LA...