WHITEFIELD — In a bid to preserve a piece of town history — and expand its services — the Whitefield Public Library is working to buy the Arlington Grange.

The library’s Board of Directors began a crowdfunding campaign for the effort about two weeks ago, with plans to expand fundraising activities beyond that. Cheryl Joslyn, vice president of the Board of Directors, said the group is seeking private donations and grants and will plan smaller fundraising events to boost the cause.

Built in 1884, the Arlington Grange served as the meeting hall for the Whitefield chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans. In 2017, local grange officials invited the library to use the space, hoping to spark more visitors to the hall. The grange group dissolved in 2018.

“It was a win-win for us because it was centrally located,” Joslyn said. “Unfortunately, the grange wasn’t able to sustain itself.”

The library’s $155,000 fundraising goal is split into three phases: Phase 1 is to raise $25,000 to purchase the building from the Maine State Grange. Phase 2, estimated at $17,000, would pay for improvements to run a library, such as installing Wi-Fi and buying supplies. The biggest amount — $113,000 — is for Phase 3, which would pay for renovating the second floor of the building to make it an events venue and community center.

Joslyn said the overall amount they hope to raise is large, but not as large as some funding requests for other organizations.

“The figure is kind of daunting,” she said, “but put in the scheme of things, it really is not a very huge number compared to what so many different organizations are asking for money.”

Cheryl Joslyn, left, Sue McKeen and Debbie Rogers confer Tuesday in Whitefield’s library located in the former Arlington Grange. The library hopes to acquire the structure to provide the library a permanent location. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Joslyn said it was important to save the 135-year-old grange for its historical value, as well as its benefit to the library. She said the library could expand its schedule — open two days a week, for two hours each day — with a larger space.

The library opened in July 2017, the Lincoln County News reported, after a letter from then-second grader Quinn Conroy requested a public library, “because on summer vacation there is nothing to do.”

Voters previously rejected a town-funded library proposal due to cost. The library is solely run by volunteers, and local grange officials allowed them to occupy the space for free.

Whitefield Selectboard Chair Tony Marple said selectman have not considered allocating money to the library because volunteers have never asked. He said the selectboard was “supportive” of the library but didn’t know the board’s position on giving money to the project.

Maine State Grange President Sherry Harriman confirmed the organization’s intent to sell Arlington Grange in a brief interview Monday. The purchase agreement expires in August, according to Joslyn.

Joslyn said the library has no plans to ask the town for any funding to support the library.

“We’re not funded by the town, and we did not ask for funding at all this year,” she said. “We would like to be self-sustaining, using the upstairs space (in the future).”

The next fundraising event will be a dodgeball tournament hosted by the National Junior Honor Society at 7 p.m. Friday at the Whitefield Elementary School. The group will also provide concessions for the annual Town Meeting on March 16.

 

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666
[email protected]
Twitter: @SamShepME


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