History

Comins Hall

History - Heritage - New Horizons


History

On December 9, 1878 the Eddington Agrarian Club met to lay the foundation for what would become the East Eddington Public Hall.  For years, this group of local farmers had been meeting in each others homes on "the first Wednesday following the quarter phase of the moon" to talk about the economic returns of using horses rather than oxen and the best time to fertilize a field.

But soon they felt it was time for a more permanent meeting place.  They formed a company and sold five-dollar shares to fund the new hall's construction.  By 1879, they'd completed a three story building that included a cloakroom, ticket booth, large dining room and 300 seat auditorium.

At first, the East Eddington Public Hall served the community as a meeting place for the farmers who envisioned it, as well as for the Grange and many other civic groups.  It quickly became a popular site for road shows and vaudeville acts as well, and a favorite spot for wedding receptions, school plays, bean suppers, town meetings and public dances.  Many people saw their first silent movie or heard their first political speech in its auditorium.  For more than 100 years, the East Eddington Public Hall was truly the center of the town's social life.

But by 1982 - and despite the care given it by member of the Grange, local Boy Scout troops and others - the building's 100-plus years had taken their toll.  Competition from many other social activities meant fewer people used the hall and income dropped.  The in 1983 - and for the first time in its history - the town decided to assess property taxes.  The future of the historic hall looked bleak.

"We had $500 in the treasury, a $500 tax bill and a leaky roof," recalls long-time Eddington resident Dr. Malcolm Coulter.  "But a group of us vowed to modernize this historic building and once again make it useful to the community."

And they did - with a lot of hard work and dedication to the building's heritage.

Heritage

In 1983 - and despite many challenges - a group of volunteers pledged to make the East Eddington Public Hall a safe and useful community meeting place once again.  They set up a new corporation - The Eddington-Clifton Civic Center Corp. - obtained tax-exempt status, and formed committees to oversee various renovation projects and to seek donations for the upkeep of the historic building.

That same year, the East Eddington Public Hall was renamed Comins Hall to thank the members of the Comins family for their dedication to its preservation, and in honor of their work as civic leaders in Eddington, Penobscot County and the state of Maine for more than four generations.  Then, in 1986, the historical society named the auditorium in honor of Mason Shaw and his family, with thanks for their commitment to the building's heritage and years of service to the community.

Throughout the 1980's and 90s, many community members worked hard to keep both the building and its history alive by donating materials, labor and expertise to shingle the roof, upgrade the electrical system, insulate the kitchen and dining room, install new front steps and to complete many other projects.  Others faithfully ran Wednesday night Bingo games, a valuable source of income for the hall.  But Why?

According to Eddington resident Gloria Faulkner, who - along with her husband John - has supported efforts to preserve the building for many years, the answer is clear.

"I think many of us recognize the importance of keeping and preserving what is old and what makes up the root structure of a community, and this is a wonderful community."

"The public hall is really the only old thing we have left.  The old one-room schoolhouses are gone, there's only one old church, no other public buildings remain.  It's been the gathering place for this community for nearly 125 years.  So, if it's at all possible to restore it, preserve it, and use it, I think we owe it to the people who settled here to do so.  It's so important to keep history alive for future generations."

Many people agree with her, and so today faithful volunteers still give of their time and talents to help preserve the building, offering their services as members of the Comins Hall Board of Directors, overseeing rentals for wedding receptions, anniversary parties and family reunions, and looking after the building's general upkeep.

But they can't do it alone.

New Horizons

After 130+ years, Comins Hall still sits straight and square - truly a historic landmark and a symbol of community spirit.

After 130+, it's still available at no charge for public events, programs and projects by any group or organization in Eddington and Clifton, and for private functions held by residents for a small fee.

But Comins Hall needs your help if it is to survive for future generations.

It needs a new heating system, repairs to the shed and stage, outside painting or siding, and frost-proofing around the bathroom area.  The driveway needs to be refinished, and the entire building needs to be brought into compliance with the state fire code.

Throughout the years - and thanks to the interest and creativity of community members - the building that originally served as a farmers' meeting place became so much more.  Now it's time to preserve the history and heritage of Comins Hall - and to explore new horizons.

Won't you help?

Comins Hall
PO Box 306
Eddington, ME 04428-0306

 
The above text was taken from a trifold pamphlet produced for Comins Hall.  It is a bit out of date since some of the needs listed have been taken care of.  I do not know the date it was written, I do not have sources for the historical data and do not know who was the author of this pamphlet.

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