Bridgton Historical Society has some exciting developments that should keep members busy this winter. The society has received a grant to purchase items and rehab some of the space at its museum at 5 Gibbs Ave. And next year, the historic farmstead in South Bridgton, Narramissic, might just have crops growing in the fields.

“It’s really going to kick it up a notch,” said society member Ned Allen of the recently acquired grant money. “The Kendal and Anna Ham Foundation is a group who funds many projects in Bridgton in North Conway areas. They’re a great source for local nonprofits.”

The foundation has helped the society before, most recently at the Narramissic Farmstead. The circa-1830 barn got a new roof, and the farmhouse’s windows were restored. Allen said the society now wants to bring attention back to the downtown museum.

“Our gallery space has gotten chaotic over the last few years,” said Allen. “And Bill Shelley has a great collection of railroad artifacts we’d like to exhibit.”

The railroad items were a sort of tipping point for addressing organization at the museum. The museum is in the old fire station, acquired by the society in 1976 and added to in 1994. There are still areas with a cement floor, and possessions, including a 1911 Sears and Roebuck horseless carriage, are kind of randomly arranged.

“We’re going to be able to buy exhibit cases and museum quality mannequins to exhibit costumes,” said Allen. “A good printer is also in the works so we can do graphics and a photo mural project, which will just really enhance the space.”

In the southern end of town on 25 acres is Narramissic, meaning “hard to find.” The fields have sat fallow since the 1920s. Not long ago a part-time Bridgton resident, Jeffrey Borneman, suggested that should change.

“He visited the farm the summer,” said Allen. “He saw all the open land that’s not being farmed.”

Everything from a community garden to leasing the fields, to cattle farmers to growing a commercial grain crop grew out of their discussion. The idea is quite exciting for the membership, but it’s still very much in the early stages. Allen stresses a plan has yet to be developed.

“We have an incredible amount of information about what was grown there,” Allen said. “The Peabody and Fitch families left writings and agricultural census records also give us information.”

There are about 15 acres available to cultivate or for grazing. Allen said that at one time, oats were a large crop.

It will be a balancing act between making a modern go of the farm while staying true to history. For example, the barn will remain more of a museum and activity space rather than for housing any animals.

Just keeping the fields open will be a benefit of any farming operation, Allen says. “We can typically spend $1,200 a year just on mowing,” he said.

To find out more about the museum and future farming operations, contact the society at [email protected] or 647-3699.

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at:

[email protected]