October 23, 2017: Freedom Community Historical Society recently has received two significant accolades, one from the National Park Service and one from the Maine Community Foundation. After completing the restoration of the Old 1857 Town Meting House, the small group of local historic preservation activists turned their attention to an endangered architectural gem in the center of the Village. Keen Hall, which sets on a high promontory of land at the intersection of Rt. 137 and Main Street, through unpaid back taxes, had reverted to Town ownership three years ago and was in danger of demolition.
Originally in the mid 1800s the Keen family homestead had been given to Freedom Academy as the Principal’s residence which it served for many years. Carter B. Keen, an attorney and alumnus was a benefactor of his alma mater, moved to Washington, D.C. and became the first Postmaster Inspector General of the new U.S. Postal Service.
The Academy, founded in 1837 was the first secondary school in this part of the State and had an illustrious history , both as a boarding and commuter school for generations of students from Waldo County and beyond.
The local Historical Society applied for status as a 401(c)(3) non-profit, raised money from individual contributions and purchased Keen Hall from the Town. Shortly thereafter it was listed as one of ten most endangered historically significant properties in the State by the Historic Preservation Commission.
After a long application process, and support from the Commission, Keen Hall has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Park Service. The only other National Register property in Town is the Mill at Freedom Falls, home of the Mill School and the Lost Kitchen eatery.
The Society was recently awarded a grant of $ 13,400. from Maine Community Fund’s Belvedere Fund for historic preservation. Along with several other grants including the Gibson Foundation and the Butler Conservation Fund, the initial stage of jacking the building and pouring a new foundation can be started.
Long-range plans for the building include a Freedom Academy Archives Room, a small town library, Historical Society work, archival and exhibit space, local arts and crafts exhibit areas, small group meeting space and a one-bedroom apartment.
The Society meets monthly the second Wednesday at 6:30pm at the Town Office and sponsors several community events such as the “Freedom Follies,” a Winter Festival, and this December 9th is planning the First Annual Community Christmas Tree Lighting at Keen Hall, followed by a Potluck and Contra Dance at Dirigo Grange Hall.
Individual donations can be made to support the Society’s work at FCHS, P.O. Box 52, Freedom, Maine 04941 or through the web site at freedomhistory.org
Freedom Community Historical Society
Honoring the Past Envisioning the Future