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History of the Georgetown Historical Society

The Georgetown Historical Society (GHS) was founded in 1975 “to explore, preserve and celebrate the history and cultural landscape of the town of Georgetown.” The Society operates a museum, library, and community meeting space in the GHS Building at 20 Bay Point Road; publishes historical research; presents exhibits and community programs; publishes a bi-monthly journal, The Tide; and operates a website:

GHS is incorporated in Maine as a non-profit, 501 c 3, tax-exempt organization, operating under bylaws adopted by its membership.

How It Began: Early years of the Georgetown Historical Society

In 1975, as the Town prepared to celebrate the national Bicentennial, the Town’s Bicentennial Committee received a grant from the Maine American Bicentennial Commission to support activities marking the 200 th birthday of the United States of America. Among many Town events that bicentennial year, the Georgetown Historical Society met for the first time.

In its early years the Georgetown Historical Society met monthly at the Georgetown Central School. Membershipdues were $1.00 annually, and the Society began with about 50 charter members. Its first officers were Charlie Collins (President); Parker Crosby (Vice President); Bea Regan (Secretary); and Lindsey Crosby (Treasurer). Sandy Garson was The Tide editor from 1975 until 1980 when Billie Todd took on that important job for the next 22 years.

Early goals of the Society were to write the history of Georgetown’s old houses, to collect oral histories from Georgetown residents, and to restore the Old Stone Schoolhouse on the Bay Point Road as a museum and meeting place. Volunteers tape-recorded interviews with Georgetown old-timers; and, after the Town voted at a special town meeting to lease the Old Stone Schoolhouse to the Historical Society, volunteers began to restore the building. An
application was made to have the Old Stone Schoolhouse placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the first such application in Georgetown. The Old Stone Schoolhouse became the first of eight structures in Georgetown to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places by 2018.

In 1980 the Georgetown Historical Society opened the Old Stone Schoolhouse as a Town Museum. Two hundred and seventy-six visitors signed the Museum’s visitor log that first summer. Donations of historic papers, photos, and memorabilia from Georgetown’s families began to flow in.

The Society Expands and Finds a New Temporary Home

By the mid-1980s, the Society was holding regular summer meetings and programs in the vestry of the First Baptist Church in Georgetown Center. The first and last meetings of each year (spring and fall) were carry-in suppers. Excursions and walking tours at local historic sites were popular events.

In 1996, the Society published a memoir of growing up in West Georgetown: A Nice Life Back Then: Georgetown Island – 1900-1920 (by Babe Gunnell, edited by Margaret Mates). A second edition, with a preface by Babe’s son, Jack Gunnell, was published in 2011. Also in 1996, at the request of the Town’s Selectmen, the Society’s Historic Resources Survey Committee began an inventory of the historic structures of Georgetown. The Historic Resources Survey Committee issued a report, Historic Resources Survey: Georgetown Center, Maine, in May 1998, documenting historic buildings in Georgetown Center. As a result of that report, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission determined a National Register-eligible linear district in Georgetown Center consisting of thirteen buildings along Route 127 on the east and west branches of Robinhood Cove. Further publications by the Georgetown Historical Society have been Joyce Lyons’ Marrtown: Deserted Village to Revival, Georgetown Island, Maine (2000), and Gene Reynolds’ Georgetown, (2014) in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. All are available for purchase from GHS.

Membership grew. By the late 1990s there were more than 700 subscribers to The Tide, and the Society started to think about finding a permanent year-round home. A small group of board members began to canvass community opinion and to explore possibilities for a permanent location in Georgetown. A number of existing historic buildings around Georgetown Center were considered and rejected. It became clear that constructing a new building to meet the specific space needs of the Society was the best way to go.

By 2002, a possible building site had been identified on Town woodland along the Bay Point Road near the Town Office and Center School, with an adjacent privately-owned lot that might be available. That spring, the Town voted to transfer part of that Lillian Reid town lot to the Historical Society. With the generous donation by the Hagan family of the privately-owned lot next door, the site for the new building was secure. Architect Carol Wilson was chosen to design the new building, and a Development Committee, chaired by Jack Swift, began to outline a plan to raise funds for the project.

With the building site set, the Society began a review of its purpose and role in the community. In the late summer of 2002, the Board participated in a series of facilitated workshops. From these came new GHS vision and mission statements that were adopted by the Board in September 2002:

VISION: "actively connecting generations through Georgetown history."

MISSION: "to explore, preserve, and celebrate the history and cultural landscape of theTown of Georgetown, by presenting community and educational programs, encouraging architectural preservation, operating a museum and library, and producing publications."

In early 2003, the GHS was given temporary use of the former Post Office building in Georgetown Center, through an agreement with Ray and Mary Swain who owned the building. It became a headquarters for its growing library and provided space for public research. Fragile historical materials were moved from the Old Stone Schoolhouse to the new temporary location. The Old Stone Schoolhouse remained open on summer weekends as a museum staffed by Society volunteers.

Building A Permanent Home

Fundraising for the new building began officially in the spring of 2004 with the GHS Board approving a Capital Campaign to raise $705,000 for construction and a $250,000 endowment. Both of Maine’s U.S. State senators endorsed an Innovation Readiness Project (IRT) grant application for $225,000 to bring a team of U.S. Navy Seabees to Georgetown to work on the construction phase.

Two years later, in the spring of 2006, the foundation was poured and construction began. More than $469,000 in donations had been raised in addition to goods and services donated, and many, many hours volunteered as members of the community pounded nails, wielded paintbrushes, wrote grant applications, and talked with potential donors. Local businesses donated expertise to build parking areas, lay the septic system, drill the well, survey, and landscape. Local kitchens baked snacks for work parties and fed Navy Seabees – many of whom were experiencing Maine coast hospitality for the first time.

During the building project, the Society continued regular summer programs and year-round activities. In 2003, Rich Start set up a GHS webpage. In September of 2004, the Celebration of the Arts became a committee of the Society, organizing a summer weekend activity for artists, residents, and tourists that celebrates Georgetown’s art and artists. In 2005, GHS participated in the first Town History Series of winter talks at the Patten Free Library in Bath. The Society has continued to participate in the Patten Town History Series ever since.

The new building was dedicated on June 27, 2007. Since then, the Society’s presence in Georgetown has continued through activities such as boat building and archaeological explorations of Island settlement with students from the nearby Georgetown Central School; expanded programming in the summer that includes live concerts and community gatherings; an on-line genealogy database which contains many town family histories; growing library and
research capacity; and more. In 2011, the summer exhibit, “Georgetown Goes Modern: The Modern Art Movement Meets an Island Community” received widespread recognition and led to a GHS publication by the same title. In 2009 a T1 communications line and wireless router were installed for fast free public internet service, and in February 2012, the GHS building became a Town-designated shelter, included in the Town’s Emergency Management Plan. More recently, in 2016, the Georgetown Historical Society partnered with the Georgetown Tri-Centennial Committee and other Town groups in a year of Town events recognizing the 300 th anniversary of the incorporation of Georgetown in 1716. Georgetown’s community Birthday Party was held in June 2016 under a tent outside the GHS building, and an “official” Town Time Capsule has been squirreled away in the GHS archives for future generations to discover and enjoy. For these, and similar contributions to the Georgetown community and the mid-coast region, the Georgetown Historical Society received a Spirit of America Foundation Award in 2010.

Kathy Gravino, 2018

© Georgetown Historical Society
20 Bay Point Rd., P.O. Box 441, Georgetown, ME 04548 • 207-371-9200
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