A new historic museum across from a beloved beach has opened on Maine’s mid-coast.
The Lincolnville Historical Society has spent the past two years renovating an old schoolhouse, transforming it into a space for the city’s archives and a multi-purpose, intergenerational learning center, a first for the small town of Midcoast.
“It was a lovely, rickety old building,” said Lincolnville Historical Society board vice president Cyrene Slegona. “Now it’s a beautiful sonic gathering space that contains our history – past, present and future.”
The Beach Schoolhouse was built across the beach from Lincolnville 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 site Web created by the Maine Historical Society.
The school began being used by the historical society as an office and warehouse for its collections in the mid-1980s. And in 2020, the Lincolnville Historical Society purchased the building for $1 from the city.
“It seemed like the right thing to do because there was a group of volunteers who were ready to rehabilitate the building and add something to the city,” coach Michael Ray said. “And the city has a great story to tell.”
Members of the Lincolnville Historical Society, alongside a group of volunteers, raised more than $325,000 for renovations to bring the school into the 21st century, including a new roof, structural supports, technology and a commercial kitchen.
“And we make every penny count,” Slegona said.
The new museum features exhibits that explore the geology of the area, the Penobscot peoples who first inhabited the land, the settlers, and local industries like farming and fishing.
The historical society felt it was particularly important to include the stories of local indigenous people – a story that often went untold. The museum highlights the history of the Shay family. Penobscot Nation members Leo and Florence Shay with their son Charles had a tent on the beach in Lincolnville from the 1930s to the 1960s where they lived and sold handmade baskets.
The Shay family baskets, which were donated by Shay’s descendant and the collection of Penobscot elder Bob Anderson, are featured in an exhibit. Anderson died in Lincolnville in 2020.
The education center will also offer programs, classes, events and workshops.
Slegona said there are currently plans for classes on the history of Indigenous peoples in Lincolnville and regional archeology, as well as craft workshops and community dinners.
Although the process was long, O’Brien said it was amazing to see the membership of the historical society grow so much through the project.
“We’ve grown from around 90 members to over 200 over 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 this hard work and gently kick off some of what the school offers, including snacks and cider, access to exhibits and a presentation by Bob Anderson’s daughter, Karen, on basket weaving and the history of the Shay family.
“I smile all day,” O’Brien said. “I couldn’t have imagined a better thing happening.”
More articles from the BDN