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Gibbs Avenue Museum and Blynn Davis Memorial Archives

As of January 7: Tuesday & Thursday 1-4, and by appointment or chance (look for the "Open" flag). To better serve you, we strongly recommend that researchers contact us in advance.


Closed for the season, but will re-open this spring, with an expanded schedule in the summer. Please feel free to enjoy the grounds during daylight hours.

Paid Summer Internship available this summer at Narramissic. Contact us for details.read more ...

Narramissic Barn Stabilized -- For Now

Preliminary work has been done to stabilize the barn at Narramissic Eric Beane of The Barn Boys has re-set all of the posts underneath the structure, most of which were seriously compromised in one way or another. In one instance, the post was simply hanging in thin air: there was a gap between the bottom of the post and the granite footing that was big enough for a grown man to pass his hand through.


Although Eric’s work should make the barn safe to use again for public events, the long-term solution is much more involved. The foundation walls, which have shifted dramatically from the action of water draining down the hillside and off the roof, all need to be re-built. There is a similar problem with a portion of the foundation under the house, and last year, these conditions led Maine Preservation to designate Narramissic as an Endangered Historic Resource.  “While we are, obviously, distressed that the situation has reached this point, we are approaching this as an opportunity to raise awareness of the wonderful resource we have in Narramissic and the importance of preserving it as a place to come and learn about nineteenth-century farm life, and enjoy a dramatic and beautiful preserved landscape” commented Ned Allen, the society’s Executive Director. “We are gathering the information we need to initiate the process of rebuilding the foundations, designing the drainage systems, putting the work out to bid, and undertaking the major fund-raising campaign that this will require. We expect this to be a project that will be completed in phases, which will probably take several years to complete,” he added. Don Perkins, author of The Barns of Maine, has posted a video about the situation on YouTube, titled “1830s Temperance Barn, Bridgton.”



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Temperance Barn Closed: Narramissic on Endangered List

See the video, thanks to Don Perkins, author of The Barns of Maine: Our History, Our Stories  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rpp6Avy608&feature=youtu.be

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 below right!). 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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Bridgton & Saco River RR Page

RR 3 - Small.jpg

Your webmaster has completed transferring all photos and text concerning the Narrow Gauge Railroad from the old BHS website.  Please check out the new layout and visit some of the other links to other NGRR websites. The WW & FRY site is of particular interest as it includes a section on the B & SR RR in its discussion forum.

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Our Mission Statement (Current)

The Bridgton Histoirical Society exists for the purpose of collecting and preserving historically significant material that encourages an appreciation and understanding of the events, customs, and traditions of Bridgton and the surround area, as it pertains to Bridgton, and making that material available to the public through the operation and maintenance of museums, historical properties, and research facilities.

New Strategic Plan & Mission Statement (Proposed)
This plan has been adopted by the Board of Trustees for discussion and approval by the membership at our Annual Meeting, to be held at the Museum on Gibbs Avenue at 2:00 pm Sunday, October 21, 2007.   Members are encouraged to read it in advance of the meeting. Our approach was guided greatly by ideas in the keynote address delivered by Laura Roberts at the 2006 annual meeting of Maine Archives and Museums (“MAM”).   Ms. Roberts, a well-respected museum professional and planning consultant, argues forcefully for an approach that is more audience- or market-driven than has previously been the norm in most historical societies. The full text of her lively and thought-provoking speech is available on the MAM website, www.mainemuseums.org.

You may also download the Strategic Plan as an Adobe PDF file.


Bridgton Historical Society Strategic Plan
Accepted by Board of Trustees for Membership Consideration
September 19, 2007
This is a two-year operational plan, designed to insure that the Society moves forward as efficiently as possible and maximizes its available and potential resources. The activities envisioned will provide the basis for a detailed, long-term plan that will be instituted by 2010. It is expected that this will lead to a capital campaign that will be in the range of at least $200,000 - $500,000, involving substantial investments in facilities and infrastructure at both the museum and Narramissic. The campaign could culminate in a celebration of Bridgton’s 250th anniversary, in 2018. Extensive, professionally-guided planning, with maximum input from the community, will be required for such a project to succeed.  
1. Vision
The Bridgton Historical Society will become a well-recognized, forward-looking part of the community, serving as a resource for the town, schools, and individuals. It will be recognized throughout the region and beyond for excellence in programming and exhibitions, and exercise responsible stewardship of its collections to the highest possible standards.
In addition to providing a center for research and preserving significant historical materials, the museum will be a center for dynamic, interactive exhibits that engage a broad audience. The Society will preserve the special historic nature of Narramissic, including the grounds and buildings, and maintain the property as a center for active learning and an attraction for both Bridgton residents and visitors to the area.
2. Mission Statement
Rationale:  It is widely accepted that historical societies will need to alter the way they do business in light of dramatic social and technological change in the 21st century. To that end, the Society should alter its mission statement to emphasize why it exists, rather than what it does to fulfill its mission. It is hoped that such a change, while subtle, will alter the way the organization approaches its tasks by making it more responsive to the community and its needs.
Current: Organized as a nonprofit organization, the Society exists for the purpose of collecting and preserving historically significant material that encourages an appreciation and understanding of the events, customs, and traditions of Bridgton and the surrounding area, as it pertains to Bridgton, and making that material available to the public through the operation and maintenance of museums, historical properties, and research facilities.
Proposed: Organized as a nonprofit organization, the Society exists to encourage an appreciation and understanding of the events, customs, and traditions of Bridgton and the surrounding area, as it pertains to Bridgton, by collecting and preserving historically significant material and making that material available to the public through programs and publications, as well as the operation and maintenance of museums, historical properties, and research facilities.
3. Analysis of Current Situation
            A. Strengths  
                        Well established organization with long track record
                        Diverse income sources
                        Strong Collections
            B. Weaknesses
                        Lack of Community Awareness
                        Insufficient income for maintenance of 2 facilities
                        Lack of broad volunteer participation
                        Lack of paid staff
            C. Opportunities
                        Facilities at Narramissic, currently under-utilized
                        Specific audiences that could be cultivated: rail buffs, re-enactors, etc.
                        Revitalization of Bridgton’s Main Street and its cultural community
                        Collaboration with other organizations
            D. Threats
                       Competition with other organizations for audience and resources
                       Changing population with fewer roots in town (also an opportunity)
4. Goals
            A. Increase community participation
            B. Expand use of the facilities, especially Narramissic
            C. Create a stable, sustainable organizational structure
            D. Improve fund-raising
5. Actions
            A. Community Participation
                        1) Improve customer service and public image
                                    Responsibility: Board and volunteers
                                    Time Frame/means: Immediate, through improved communication, training, and consistency          
                        2) Produce a series of hands-on free events aimed particularly at families
                                    Responsibility: Program Committee
                                    Time Frame/means: Three events before end of 2008
                        3) Town-wide mailing
                                    Responsibility: Newsletter and Publicity Chairs
                                    Time Frame/means: June, 2008. Find sponsors, advertisers, professional designer.
                        4) Actively promote use of Narramissic grounds
                                    Time Frame/means: Immediate/by June, 2008. Create signage  (need funding/sponsors), publicize through press releases and  other vehicles.
                        5) Create Bridgton Historical/Tourist Map
                                    Responsibility: Board to recruit special project team
                                    Time Frame/means: By 2009 or 2010. Survey historic buildings          
                                    and sites, create map that includes advertising for local businesses.
            B. Expand Use of Facilities
                        1) Apply for designation as Official Repository for Town Records
                                    Responsibility: Collections Manager
                                    Time Frame/means:       Early 2008.
                        2) Develop Relationship with Blacksmith for Narramissic
                                    Responsibility:  Board to recruit special project team
                                    Time Frame/means: By June, 2008. Solicit Proposals and  negotiate terms.                       
                        3)  Develop long-term plan for use of Narramissic facilities
                                    Responsibility: Board
                                    Time Frame/means: By Fall, 2008. Convene focus group                                                         composed of preservation and museum professionals, along with local interested parties (business and non-profits) to analyze current usage and recommend changes.
                        4) Create new major events
                                    Responsibility: Board, Program Committee
                                    Time Frame/means: By summer 2009, if not earlier. Add one every year or two for several years, depending in part on recommendations in #3 above.
            C. Organizational Structure
                        1)  Expand and focus Board
                                    Responsibility: Board, Nominating Committee, Members at large
                                    Time Frame/means: Annual Meeting, 2008 through actions by Board, Nominating Committee, and by-laws amendment.
                        2) Establish Program Committee and 2 co-chairs for each event
                                    Responsibility: Board
                                    Time Frame/means: 2008
                        3) Invigorate volunteer program
                                    Responsibility: Board, relevant committees and chairs
                                    Time Frame/means: In time for summer, 2008. Hold Volunteer Appreciation Day, create specific volunteer job descriptions, an interview process for new volunteers, and a more formal training program.
                        4) Recruit Interns from local colleges
                                    Responsibility: Board, Collections Manager
                                    Time Frame/means: For summer, 2008.
                        5) Establish Building and Grounds Committee to oversee maintenance  
                                    Responsibility: Board   
                                    Time Frame/means: Immediate, by recruiting chair and members, establish maintenance plans for both facilities
                        6) Expand paid staff to include executive director, possibly part-time for first few years
                                    Responsibility: Board
                                    Time Frame/means: 2009, through fundraising and development.
            D. Fund-raising
                        1) Re-institute Annual Giving Campaign.
                                    Responsibility: Board
                                    Time Frame/means: Fall, 2008. First year goal: $5,000, to be increased annually.
                        2) Replace barn roof ($30,000-40,000)
                                    Responsibility: Board
                                    Time Frame/means: Summer, 2008. Initiate fund-raising drive and  seek grants
                        3) Increase other Support
                                    Responsibility: Board, relevant committee chairs
                                    Time Frame/means: Immediate. Seek new means of income   through strategies such as soliciting sponsors for events, in-kind  donations from businesses, advertising for newsletter, and possibly                                    on-line sales through the web site.  (See also B2-4, above.)
                        4) Position the Society to be able to undertake a major capital campaign to  upgrade facilities for collections care and display, as well as programs, and fund-raisers.  Specifics to be determined through on-going planning, but expected to be in the range of at least  $200,000-$500,000.
                                    Responsibility: Board
                                    Time Frame/means: 2010, through implementation of this plan.

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