BHS Receives Major Gift for Facilities Expansion

south-elevation-Robinson-House-with-barn0001Thanks to the financial generosity of Charles R. Huntoon of Portland, the Bethel Historical Society is moving ahead with a long-planned-for facilities expansion project at the O’Neil Robinson House. Mr. Huntoon has specifically directed that his donation be used to build a barn-like structure at the east end of the Robinson House to serve as a secure storage facility for the Society’s largest museum objects, plus many of its rare books and manuscripts.

According to BHS Executive Director Randall Bennett, Mr. Huntoon, a Rumford native, was inspired to make his “dedicated gift” following the successful completion of the Mary E. Valentine Collections Wing in 2014. That facility has provided the Society with temporary breathing room as it relocates and consolidates its museum study collection. Based on a two-and-a-half story barn that stood on the Robinson property from 1821 until 1931, the new “barn” will blend with the Robinson House, which was remodeled from the Federal to Italianate style in 1881.

In announcing this gift, Society Board of Trustees President Tineke Ouwinga stated, “’Mr. Huntoon’s generous support will allow us to complete the expansion and restoration of the Robinson House. To receive this gift so soon after the construction of the Mary E. Valentine Collections Wing is truly exciting and tremendously appreciated.” One of the Society’s staunchest supporters, Charles Huntoon earlier presented BHS with a collection of rare books, booklets and audio tapes focused on Maine and northern New England’s Native American heritage. He was also the first person to initiate a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) at the Society, providing a donation of cash in exchange for guaranteed lifetime income payments at a fixed rate.

In summarizing the significance of this gift, Director Bennett stated, “This second and final addition to the Robinson House will meet our collection storage needs for the foreseeable future and allow the Society to continue its mission of collecting, preserving and interpreting the history of Bethel and the surrounding region.”