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NORTH YARMOUTH — The Route 115 lot where Wescustogo Hall stood has been vacant since the grange was destroyed by fire in 2013.
But members of the North Yarmouth Historical Society’s Old Town House subcommittee hope that by year’s end, the weathered Town House, built in 1853, will be moved to the parcel from its place about 2 miles northeast on Route 9.
The society owns the 1,550-square-foot building, as well as the half-acre lot on which it sits, and the part of the Old Town House driveway nearest the road. It agreed in 1998 to give the town public road access to the park.
The organization hopes to have the Select Board place an item on the April Town Meeting warrant that would authorize a land exchange with the town. The society would give up its land where the Old Town House sits, in exchange for being granted the vacant Wescustogo lot.
An estimate of the cost of the move by Clayton Copp Movers and Resurgence Engineering totals$108,000. It includes shoring up and stabilizing the building prior to the move, construction of temporary walls and piers, removing the front porch and chimney, and repairing rotted framing.
The estimate also includes cutting the structure into three pieces for the move, and then stabilization work once it is in place on the Wescustogo lot, where it would sit on a new foundation. The temporary walls would be removed, the three pieces reconnected, the porch re-installed, and the roof and chimney rebuilt, according to information provided by historical society President Katie Murphy.
The costs do not include the new foundation and building materials, expenses which have yet to be determined. The building now sits on granite posts.
The society intends for the project to be fully paid for through fundraising and grants.
“We want to bring it there, completely paid for, in beautiful shape,” Murphy said. “… We’re committed to, and challenged by, the idea that we’re going to have to raise the money for it.”
Once the building is in place, an extension could be built. Murphy also foresees solar panels someday being installed.
“We’d like to keep this as rustic space,” she said. “We don’t want to start modernizing it; it’s got a beautiful appeal as it is. It’s the back part of it that would provide us with a workspace, hopefully a modest amount of exhibition space that’s moveable.”
A relocated and expanded historical society would be a boon for the organization, which has outgrown a cramped room and vault at the fire-rescue station.
“We have no space at all in that vault,” Murphy said. “There is no room to grow. We can’t invite residents to give us any stuff, because we don’t have any room for it. That’s really not a good situation for this town.”
The society has desired since before Wescustogo burned to bring the Old Town House to the modern center of town.
“We offered it to the town as part of a developing town center,” Murphy said.
A tremendous amount of work has already gone into the project, society board member Linc Merrill said. “It isn’t like a ‘pie in the sky’ (idea),” he said. “There have been meetings upon meetings upon meetings held, and presentations to the selectmen.”
The move would “be a real win-win for the town,” Murphy added.
Removal of the structure would improve the visibility of the park from Route 9, and moving it to an area “where the town is really trying to develop a walkable, vibrant town center, that would attract businesses and residents to come and enjoy (it), would be a real wonderful piece of that as well,” Murphy said.
North Yarmouth was incorporated in 1680. Various towns eventually broke off to form their own municipalities, and when Yarmouth seceded in 1849, it took with it the Town Hall (at Sligo Road and Main Street in present-day Yarmouth), prompting the downsized North Yarmouth to erect a new one.
At the time of its completion in 1853, the Old Town House on Route 9 marked a center point between the town’s two villages: Walnut Hill, at Routes 9 and 115, and East North Yarmouth, at North Road and Route 9.
“The folks from East North Yarmouth, it seems like they had it good, because (the Town Hall) was close to them,” Murphy said. But those residents had to be ferried across the Royal River when it was flooded to get to Town Meeting, she added.
Meanwhile, the Walnut Hill folks had “horrible” roads to trudge, meaning travel was no picnic for them, either, “so nobody was particularly happy about the location,” Murphy said.
So much so that Town Meeting voters around 1900 approved moving the building to East North Yarmouth, which angered some citizens enough to call another meeting and defeat the measure.
“It sat here ever since,” Murphy said.
The final Town Meeting was held there in 1957. Later gatherings were held in Wescustogo Hall, until 2013.
The Old Town House was used occasionally as a school and a meeting place for organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. While it has electricity, the building has no running water, although it does offer an outhouse.
Ceiling structural issues forced the building to be closed to the public several years ago. But Copp said the place otherwise has “good bones” and is sturdy, Murphy said.
Although some residents have expressed concerns about moving such an old structure, Murphy and other society members are confident the building will be safe.
She noted other towns have successfully moved historic structures: Falmouth’s Woods Road Heritage Museum was moved in 2005, the “Gingerbread House” in Norway in 2011, and Lincolnville moved an old school to create a new library in the town center in 2012.
Linc Merrill, left, Katie Murphy, Mark Heath, Jeanne Chadbourne and Martha Leggat are members of the North Yarmouth Historical Society’s Old Town House subcommittee. They hope to move the 1853 structure to the Village Center.