April 09, 2020

Kings give $50,000 toward library project

WHITNEYVILLE – Trustees of the little library on the hill that belongs to the Whitneyville Library and Whatnot Association got a major boost last week when they received a $50,000 donation from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation of Bangor.

The money will go toward the purchase of adjacent land on which they plan to build a larger, more regional library.

The trustees applied for the grant in August.

They have been making plans for a bigger library since last December, after John Bodger, their long-serving librarian and a quiet benefactor, died in November. He had advocated for more space for the library that continues to operate out of the town’s storied 1868 schoolhouse.

Now, with the King money in hand, that vision is becoming clearer.

“It feels wonderful,” said trustee Janet O’Neal, who has been involved with the library for more than 30 years. “It’s like we have taken this big leap forward, finally jumped over the canyon and can see the other side.”

The trustees had given themselves a four- to five-year timeline to raise money and build the new library. The new money, however, seems encouraging in that other grants may follow, now that the John Bodger Regional Library Project is officially under way.

The King Foundation, named for the Bangor-based best-selling author and his wife, also an author, works to “strengthen and support communities,” according to its Web site. It takes a special interest in “organizations and people who have less recourse to the usual channels of resources, focusing on community-based initiatives, especially in the state of Maine.”

The money will be used immediately to acquire the property that runs the length of Cross Street and opens onto Main Street. The land belongs to Sandi Bryand of Machias, who previously lived in Whitneyville for 15 years and served in several town positions.

“The library approached me for help,” Bryand said. “While I couldn’t give the cash, one thing I could do was purchase the land that the library wanted, to protect the library’s interest in it before it went to a developer.”

On the land are two houses and two barns, both of which belonged to the late Blanche Palmer. For 52 years she operated the Whitneyville post office in the house that fronts Main Street. The historic post office boxes inside are still intact.

The houses and barns will be dismantled, ideally before snow falls. The public is welcome to any part of the mid-1800s structures – windows, doors, floorboards, moldings, etc. – all for a donation to the library fund.

The post office boxes also will be sold for donations.

Once the library receives the land, trustees will work with an architect to move the project along. By placing the library’s parking lot on the Main Street portion of the property, drivers will be able to use it for church or other events at the nearby community center.

The library’s building committee has been meeting weekly since last winter.

“You can’t get discouraged,” O’Neal said of the months of planning and waiting. “We just keep thinking that we will do the best we can. And this grant makes us feel so good now.”

To schedule a time to walk through the old houses and barns that will be dismantled for the sale of items to raise money for the new library, call Sandi Bryand at 255-5981.

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