OAKLAND — The Oakland Historical Society hopes to use an upcoming walking tour of the town center to raise money — and interest — in its mission.

The historical society is facing financial challenges and has a membership that is aging and doesn’t quite have the energy for fundraising, said Alberta Porter, the society president.

“We are struggling to stay open,” Porter said.

The society maintains a museum in an 1815 Main Street Cape Cod-style home originally built by a mill owner, then bought by the Macartney family. The museum includes items from the town’s past, including artifacts that highlight its role as a tool manufacturing hub as well as documents and photographs.

The museum is only open on Wednesday afternoons and closed during the winter, because the society doesn’t heat it, Porter said. Likewise, the society, which has 10 members who regularly meet at the museum, goes on hiatus during the colder months. Most members are in their 80s and older, Porter said. Their oldest member, Ruth Wheeler Wood, died earlier this year at age 100.

In order to survive, the society needs to attract new faces and energy, reaching out to people who have the time and interest to commit to the group, Porter said.

One of the common misconceptions about the society is that it gets funding from the town.

“People just automatically think the town funds you,” she said. “We are on our own” to find the money to pay for basics like heat, electricity and insurance, Porter said.

The walking tour, which is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 25, will guide people around the town core to visit standing buildings and point out, with the aid of a brochure full of old paintings and photographs, where old town landmarks once stood.

The downtown tour will run in a circuit around Main, Church and Water streets, including Haymarket Square at the intersection of Water and Church streets, the town’s historical center. The tour will cost $10 for individuals and $25 for families. People should meet at the museum at 2 p.m.

The society is planning a second tour this spring focused on Oakland’s mills. The town once had a thriving tool and woolen industry powered by water from Messalonskee Stream running through the town. Oakland mills specialized in manufacturing axes, but by the early 1970s the last remaining ax mill had shut down. The Cascade Woolen Mill was finally closed in the late 1990s.

While the walking tours are a new project, the society tries to remain connected to the community through outreach to area schools and two public ice cream socials every summer. Porter, who has been president for the past 23 years, said she works with elementary school kids every year to teach them more about the town’s past.

“It’s fun to make sure kids understand their history,” she said.

But it can be difficult to get that interest to translate into active membership, especially for young families with competing interests.

“People are interested and really find it interesting, but they don’t have the time to devote to it,” Porter said.

That can spell trouble for a historical society. There have been a number of groups in the state, including in nearby Winslow, that have had to close their doors because they’ve run out of members and funding.

“That’s a possibility with any society,” Porter said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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