PATTEN, Maine — An effort that started with one person garnered enough local and national support to convince Patten residents to save the town’s oldest building.

In an overwhelming display of approval, Patten residents voted 82 to 5 in favor of conveying the 1845 Regular Baptist Church from the town to the  Patten Historical Society during the annual town meeting Thursday.

Marcia Pond, who has led the effort to save the historic church from destruction, said residents applauded after the vote was declared.

“I found it so amazing to see all these people gathering to support us in our efforts to save this important historical building and give it the respect it deserves,” she said.

Since last year, Pond has been trying to save the church, built by the town founders, after she learned that the select board had voted to demolish the building. Her efforts were largely ignored at first. But as news spread about the grassroots effort to save the church from demolition, calls, emails and offers of support flooded her phone and inbox.

Offers of money, hands-on help and even calls from people whose ancestors founded the town came in. Just last week Pond had a call from a couple in Delaware offering grant ideas and funding support, she said.

As she garnered more and more attention, her initiative took root and supporters formed the Preservation Committee to Save the Church.

The Regular Baptist Church was created after the founding residents bought shares to pay for the building materials. In the mid-1800s, young men reported to muster into the Patten Rifle Company D, a voluntary militia, at the church. They later served in the Union Army’s 20th Maine, according to town historians.

The town bought the church building in 1928, and it served as the Veteran’s Memorial Library for more than 92 years. The library left the building in 2020 and is temporarily housed in the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum, awaiting the construction of a nearly $8 million building. The new library received $3.9 million in federal funds from the 2023 agriculture appropriations bill.

Earlier this year, the preservation committee asked the select board to convey ownership of the church to the historical society. The board resisted the request even after the committee submitted a petition with more than 100 signatures in support of the property transfer.

Last month the board approved the committee’s request for a town vote on the matter.

Now a working group of more than 30 members, including restoration craftspeople and grant writers, the preservation committee is poised to take the next steps to secure the historic building for the community.

“This would not have been achieved without the amazing group of talented people who came on board and opened their hearts and offered support,” Pond said. “I thank them all from my heart. Now we look forward to the work ahead of us. This is truly a good thing.”

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Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli

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...