We were recently advised that we should not use the Temperance Barn at Narramissic until we can stabilize the foundation. As a result, Maine Preservation recently added Narramissic to its list of Maine's Most Endangered Historic Resources. In its statement about Narramissic, the preservation organization stated, "Due to fiscal constraints and a lack of volunteers or paid staff, Narramissic Farm suffers from deferred maintenance. While Bridgton Historical Society, which took ownership in 1986, is a fine steward, the property urgently needs additional support." (See "Donate" button at the bottom of the page!). We are in the early stages of planning the restoration and fund-raising campaign that we will need to undertake to pay for it, and we are confident that we will emerge as a far stronger organization as a result.
Over the past year or so we have become increasingly aware that there were problems with the foundation. It all started when volunteers made some repairs and adjustments to the door, which was getting very hard to open and close. They noticed that the real culprit wasn’t the door itself, but the fact that the structure had shifted off its foundations. The Society consulted with several historic preservation consultants about the problems facing the 175-year-old foundation, and a recent report by Christopher Closs of Maine Preservation warned that the situation has reached the point where concern for public safety dictates the drastic action.
The barn, approximately 40 x 60 feet, was built in the 1830s by George Fitch, son-in-law of the house’s original owner, William Peabody. It is known locally as the “Temperance Barn,” since according to local tradition, it was raised, during a period of religious revival, without the barrel of rum that was usually part of such occasions. Mr. Fitch was an ambitious builder, constructing this large barn next to an existing one. A few years later, he decided that it needed a cellar; he built a large wooden screw, lifted the barn up and built the foundation of huge granite slabs that he quarried from the hill behind the house. The barn has stood, through wind, rain, and sun and through good times and bad, since then.
The barn is featured prominently in Don Perkins recent book, The Barns of Maine, as it is a noteworthy specimen of a mid-19th century barn with a very compelling story. The barn has been used over the years as a venue for numerous events and programs, from scholarly lectures and fine artisans shows to community suppers and dances. But no barn--or other historic structure--stands forever without repairs. It was re-sided in the late 1930s after Margaret Monroe purchased the property, and the society has worked over the years at preserving the structure, most recently by replacing the roof. Major work was also undertaken when the farm was donated to the Society in 1987. The floor was replaced at that time, and structural repairs straightened the barn and reinforced the supporting posts. Those repairs have lasted for a quarter of a century, but 25 years of water draining off the Fitch’s Hill has taken its toll, washing out the soil under the foundation.
To read more about Maine Preservation and their Most Endangered list, visit them at http://mainepreservation.org/.
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