THORNDIKE— Way out in the heart of farm country, OJ Farwell & Sons general store and mill are relics, built in 1873. The general store, relatively untouched, still has canned goods on the shelf, such as Prince Albert. It is a ghost town of a building, but in 2015, a group of local artisans, writers, builders and historians purchased the general store, mill, barn and grange with the intent to repair, clean and renovate them into places that could be used as a storytelling museum, community workshops, exhibit and performance spaces and a unique museum store.
The general store sits dusty, unused with its creaking wooden floors, which bow deeply in the middle.
“That’s our biggest project,” said Diana Prizo, one of the board member of the Timelines Community, Inc., the not-for-profit organization tasked with the buildings’ restoration. “It needs to be raised two feet with a new foundation.”
The general store will eventually be open as a storytelling museum and Maine-made store. Above that, the organization envisions four artist studios, which can be rented out.
“We’re hoping that those who rent out the studio would be open to offering programs and workshops to the community and schools,” said Prizo. “We’re particularly looking for artists who can offer skills that were historically relevant to the local economy, such as stitchers, basket makers, potters, metal smithers, woodworkers, canoe makers and more.”
The center building was a grain mill for animal feed and contains a treasure trove of original items and tools, along with a vintage apothecary and artist-made items for sale. Above the mill will be a large exhibit room, along with two performance spaces. In the back of the mill, a vintage kitchen has already been installed, with appliances and utensils ranging from the 1920s to the 1960s. An antique General Electric Monitor Top refrigerator is still in working condition, containing staff lunches and drinks. Behind that room, a production kitchen is being planned with the intent to create an original product from it the Farwell Project can then sell. “We’d also love to be able to teach people how to make things in this kitchen as well,” said Prizo.
Much of this proposed work depends on grants and community fundraisers. On July 27 through July 29, the organizations is hosting a Barn Sale at 10 a.m. Among items to be sold will be antiques and original artworks from local artists.
The Farwell Project has already renewed part of the Mill for year-round use, and now has a small version of the general store open to the public.They host seasonal concerts and suppers in the Lumber Shed, and welcome artists, performers and storytellers to get in touch. The Museum Store is open 11 am. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, Sundays by chance. For more information visit: thorndikemill.org/the-farwell-project/
Photos by Kay Stephens
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org