Freeport Historical Society is replacing the foundation and flooring of their 190-year-old barn. Courtesy / Jim Cram

FREEPORT — The Historical Society is undergoing major renovations, including the addition of a fireproof vault, a new entrance and a new foundation under the barn. 

Originally a carriage house, the property at 45 Main St. was built in 1830. It was given to the Freeport Historical Society in 1977 and is now known as the Harrington House.  

The vault, meant to protect the organization’s most valuable documents, paintings and artifacts, will feature museum-grade shelving and atmospheric controls. 

“These are things that are very valuable to us because they’re original journals from a lot of the merchants that were in town,” said Executive Director Jim Cram. “We have a lot of town records going back to 1789. We like to say we’re the keepers of the stories of this community. And you learn the stories by having multiple sources, many of which we have the original documents of.”

The vault will be built as an addition off the ell porch, which is the wing off the back of the main brick building.  

The new entrance will be on the ell porch, which will be renovated into a library and research space with an accessible bathroom. The gardens and the new entrance will be made wheelchair accessible.  

The barn, currently sitting next to its old foundation, will be moved approximately six feet to the south to allow a wheelchair ramp to be built for access from handicapped-accessible parking spots to the new entrance. The barn will also be raised two feet higher to avoid drainage issues.

That the facility has remained in the same historic location for almost 50 years has significant value, said Sarah Hansen, executive director of Greater Portland Landmarks.

“Preservationists always like to see buildings stay in their original context so we can better understand both how the property developed as well as how the community developed around it,” Hansen said.

These extensive renovations were made possible because of a donation of $1 million from George and Joyce Denney in 2016. George Denney died in August, but at the time he made the donation, said, “Make this the anchor of Main Street,” according to the Historical Society’s brochure on the renovations. Denney was also known for starting the Village Improvement Society in Freeport.  

“He was always a big supporter of the Historical Society, but also wanted to keep downtown looking as good as it could,” Cram said.  

Cram estimates the project will be completed in June 2021 if the necessary funding is procured. 

The construction being done to the almost-200-year-old building is costly, and even with the money from the Denneys, the Historical Society needed an additional $500,000 to complete the renovations. To date, $150,000 has been raised. To donate or learn more, visit freeporthistoricalsociety.org 

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