After making significant headway in May, Freeport Historical Society is one step closer to completing its renovations, which include a two-story, fireproof vault to house the organization’s valuable collection of historical artifacts.

The project began in December and includes other building renovations and improved accessibility for visitors with disabilities. In total, the project is estimated to cost $1 million to $1.5 million dollars.

Freeport Historical Society, which started in 1969, is located at 45 Main St.. The organization was gifted the 190-year-old set of buildings in 1977.

According to Freeport Historical Society’s Executive Director Jim Cram, each floor of the roughly $600,000 vault is around 900 square feet and will include museum-grade shelving and atmospheric controls to help preserve the artifacts.

“Our No. 1 concern is we’ve got some very valuable, to us, materials,” said Cram. “It’s the stories that you’re trying to save.”

The basement floor of the vault is concrete and the upper level are constructed using steel beams as well as a special fireproof wall paneling.

In addition to documents, such as logbooks from sailing voyages and shopkeepers’ journals, the vault will also hold items like old clothing, paintings, tools and other historical objects. The vault will also be directly adjacent to a research room.

“By having a collection of all these primary sources, one is able to research and uncover the stories of how people lived,” Cram said. “Handmade tools of wood and iron manufactured in Freeport tell us what trades people were involved with.”

Cram added that notable artifacts include a document from 1789 that includes John Hancock’s signature, ship owner’s trunks, old portraits of sea captains and old glass plate negatives.

Once the project is complete, Cram said that Freeport Historical Society will offer tours and other events that will allow the public to interact with the collection, such as the yearly exhibit each summer that focuses on a specific family, industry or other historical element of Freeport.

“What’ll be impressive is it for the first time you’ll see our collection in one place,” Cram said.

While the organization is hoping to begin moving materials into the vault in August, an initial exhibit for this summer has yet to be scheduled, partly due to uncertainty stemming from a high demand in the construction business, Cram said.

The renovations were funded, in part, due to a $1 million donation from George and Joyce Denney in 2016, who wanted to make Freeport Historical Society “the anchor of Main Street.” To complete the project, however, the society is looking to raise another $500,000.

According to Cram, the organization has raised about $260,000 to date. For more information, visit freeporthistoricalsociety.org

The first roof module being installed on the new vault at Freeport Historical Society. Courtesy of Freeport Historical Society


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