Raymond resident Abel Bates has been involved in the Hawthorne House Association since the early 1970s and hopes he can transform the historic home into a much-needed community center, he said. Kristen McNerney / Lakes Region Weekly

The Raymond house that acclaimed writer Nathaniel Hawthorne lived in from about 1812 to 1825 is getting a makeover and may become a new venue for the Lakes Region.

Raymond resident Abel Bates, who has been involved in the Hawthorne House Association since the early 1970s, said he looks forward to making the most out of the home.

“We would like to use it more as a community center,” Bates said.

The organization has raised about $60,000 of a $75,000 goal since 2019 to restore the house. Reconstruction efforts this summer have included lifting the house to restore its foundation, excavating stone to be cut and made into veneer, and installing new heat pumps. Bates said the next phase will include restoring siding and roofing.

The repairs will mean the house can benefit a number of organizations in the area, Bates said. In addition to the two to three events that the Hawthorne House Association hosts every year, Bates said it’s his hope that the community can be brought together there.

One organization with its eye on the Hawthorne House is the Raymond Arts Alliance, which has sponsored writing workshops, poetry readings, comedy and magic shows, community sings and concerts.

Built around 1812, this house at 40 Hawthorn Road in Raymond was occupied by Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family until the time of his graduation from Bowdoin College in 1825. After the Hawthornes relocated to Salem, Massachusetts, the house was briefly used as a stagecoach stop and tavern. A major remodeling occurred around 1880 when the house was converted to a meeting house. The congregation disbanded around 1920, leaving the house neglected until the Hawthorne Community Association formed to preserve and the famous novelist’s home and to provide a meeting place for local events with an emphasis on historical talks. Courtesy of Hawthorne Community Association

“The community is really stuck for a place to hold events,” said Mary-Therese Duffy of the Raymond Arts Alliance. “My hope is that as their renovations complete we’ll be able to use it more fully.”

Duffy said it’s been difficult for local organizations to gather because many “historic houses used for venues have been co-opted or have transitioned into private ownership.” 

While Bates said the pandemic made it difficult for the association to hold many in-person fundraisers, many people have stepped up and responded to mailings requesting donations.

“There are so many people who still care so much about the history on that small strip there,” said Mike Davis, assistant director at the Bridgton Historical Society.

Although the pandemic has been “very hard” on small museums, Davis emphasized the role that people staying put in their home communities during the past year and a half has had on their increased interest in local history.

“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword,” he said.

Davis said he was glad the association founded in 1922 was finally taking drastic measures to permanently conserve the house.

“It seems every 40 or 50 years you’ll find a news article describing the house as in a ‘state of disrepair,'” Davis said. “Even in the 1800s people were saying ‘I wish someone would step up and do something to save it.’ There has never been enough money up until the present. It’s kind of incredible that it’s still standing today.”

“It’s really noble what they’re doing,” he said.

Bates said the Hawthorne House Association is planning a Halloween party, followed by its annual Christmas party. He would like to host a craft show this fall, but said that might be difficult if local artists already have booked schedules for the season. A calendar of events will soon be available, he said.

Hawthorne, who left Raymond to attend Bowdoin College in Brunswick, penned “The Scarlett Letter,” “The House of Seven Gables,” “Twice-Told Tales” and numerous other novels and short stories in the 19th century.

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