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The Lincolnville Blog

Move It!

Diane O'Brien - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In the fall of 2012,  much of the town of Lincolnville was taken up, either as skeptical by-standers or as wildly enthusiastic participants, in a drama taking place in the Center, the inland village of Lincolnville which many visitors never see. Following is the story as I presented it in a slideshow at a venue in Portland that winter:

Probably you’ve driven through Lincolnville Beach, eaten at the Lobster Pound or had a beer at the Whale’s Tooth.

But I bet you’ve never driven five miles inland to Lincolnville Center, where standing in the middle of Main Street, you can see seven abandoned properties.

The village that at one time held two general stores, a blacksmith, several shoe makers, and a milliner now has a single convenience store. 

One of these empty properties is the former fire station.

It includes the shell of a 19th century one-room school, which closed 60 years ago, was turned into a garage, then an auto paint shop, then a carpentry shop and finally a storage building.

Its floor is gone, its back wall torn out to accommodate a large shed, and its front has been replaced with an overhead door.

Just across Main Street is the site of a once.thriving business, Dean & Eugley’s Garage.

It fell on hard times, was taken by the town for taxes and promptly torn down.

The petroleum waste found on the site got D.E.P.’s attention, which agreed to stay out of it as long as the ground was never excavated.

Weeds sprouted through the gravel. Ten years passed.

      The former fire station complex sold last winter, and the new owners had no              interest in what remained of the Center School.

Enter the Lincolnville  Historical Society, which is run by a couple of, well, older, women.

Threatening a historic building gets up the ire of historical society ladies like nothing else.

What if we moved the school across main street onto the town-owned lot? Many meetings later ...

Here we are, Connie, my historical society partner, and I,  at the Pub, buying the Center Schoolhouse for a dollar, on condition that we move it within the year.

Next stop: town meeting to see if the voters would lease the Dean & Eugley land to us.

They did, but not before offering to give it to us outright, petroleum waste and all.

We declined.

 Now we owned a building we had no use for and a blighted piece of land we couldn’t dig up.

We also had no money. But dreams are free.

Before long a whole cadre of community activists materialized, eager to see life come back to Lincolnville Center.

Let’s make it the library, somebody said. Since one thing we don’t have is a town library, this was a go.

 We began raising money.

A dozen people got together to make pies, baking them, 30 at a time, at Peter and Rose’s brick oven bakery.

We served pulled pork at a summer picnic, followed by an auction in the cavernous empty schoolhouse where people bid on:

             a sushi platter

            a load of gravel

            a rag rug

             a flat of blueberries

            a character named for you in a novel

      a plane ride over the town.

Rosey, the town’s own playwright & auctioneer, produced an old-fashioned radio play called “3 Weeks and 26 Flats” about the 1920 trip a Lincolnville family took to Florida in a Model T, complete with sound effects and keyboard accompaniment.

It was a sold-out hit.

And the money rolled in.

 By now we had a logo and a name: Move It! People in town were already taking sides.

You either thought it should be torn down or you went around in a high state of excitement and euphoria at the rebirth of Lincolnville Center.

Then in July, a model of the schoolhouse with four hairy-legged people inside walked in the Strawberry  Festival parade;

There was no turning back.

 Meanwhile, a crew of volunteers had come together, men of late middle age with a hankering to make something happen.

Paul quickly emerged as the engineer of the project.

Using a book and a couple of pencils, he demonstrated how a building could be rolled on pipes over a track built of timber cribbing and rough-sawn 2 x 8s, then pulled with a rope.

He was so persuasive, the crew was won over.

 Since it had no floor joists, front or back walls, the building had to be stablized.

The big door was open while the crew was working, giving rubber-neckers a clear view.

When the building was ready to be lifted off its foundation a call went out on the town’s email list for the loan of hydraulic jacks.

By the end of the day we had twice as many as were needed.

 Once the old building was lifted off its foundation, lengths of pipe were slipped under the sills. It barely creaked as it was lowered onto them.

But now our insurance troubles began. The former owners wanted a policy that covered their liability during the move.

Our agent refused, urging us to hire a professional mover.

But Paul and the crew were having too much fun. They weren’t about to give it up.

 Here we’re moving the tentative first few feet onto the prepared wooden track, the trial run for the actual move.

Negotiations with the owners and the insurance agent had reached a fever pitch. Moving day was fast approaching.

Then, with just two days left, a builder in town agreed to put the Historical Society on his policy just for the day.

We’d be moving it with people power after all.

Moving day dawned foggy and cool as townspeople began to gather.

We’d put out a call for pullers. We had no idea how many would come or even how many we needed.

The crowd soon overwhelmed our disorganized sign-up system; we lost count at about 150.

We closed Main Street at 7:30 so the crew could begin building the cribwork and track across the road.

Jim organized the pullers along the rope line that led up the road perpindicular to the track.

Paul’s elegant plan included a block and tackle anchored in the concrete pad we’d poured on top of the old garage foundation.

As the people pulled up the road, the building would make its way across the road.

Ross, our town bagpiper, led off the move with a march along the track.

 Paul gave the signal to pull and the crowd pulled so hard the building jumped 18” ahead.

Whoa! My night time anxieties, seeing the school house a pile of rubble in the middle of Main Street, seemed to be coming true.

But the crew took the pipes from behind the moving building and ran them up to the front, as Paul demonstrated how to pull gently, hand over hand.

 Chairs had been set up for the guests of honor, the former students of the Center School.

It was a joyous day with kids pulling alongside their parents, hot dogs for sale, and a real sense of community.

The sad feel of a town on the wrong side of its better days seemed to lift just a bit with every inch of the building’s progress across the road.

 But hold on. This is Lincolnville. Two of the little girls in this 1939 photo of the old school showed up on moving day in work gloves, ready to pull.

Nearly 80 years old now, they took their place on the rope and pulled right along with everyone else, all the while wondering aloud “why don’t they just tear it down?”

Thus expressing a sentiment shared by a fair number of townspeople.

 Still, this view of the old school poised, improbably, halfway across Main Street, and with the hazy Camden Hills in the background, shows that our town is surely moving forward.

There are no hairy little legs under it.

It didn’t get out there by itself. 

Catch the excitement of that October day when the people of Lincolnville pulled an old schoolhouse across the road; watch the video here.

Lincolnville Move It! Day from The New Scene on Vimeo.