A potluck supper with 170 attendees, fitness center equipment demonstrations, and Sunday brunch in the café marked the opening on February 6 and 7 of the long anticipated Islesboro Community Center. The project has been in the works for 10 years.

While the island school is being renovated, kindergarten through fourth grade have occupied a portion of the building since September.

The building incorporates an historic older building constructed from 1858 to 1860 under the leadership of the wife of the minister of the Second Baptist Church. It served for decades as the Community Hall. That building was home to the Annual Fireman’s Ball, held on the fire chief’s birthday, graduations, family celebrations as well as serving as the gymnasium for Islesboro Central School. The clock and scoreboard will be reinstalled for nostalgia’s sake in the old hall, which, with a stage and wooden floor, is an open space for performances and events like Saturday’s potluck.

When the Kinnicutt Center was added to the school in 1988, the town expected that building to serve all the needs that the old Community Hall had filled and the building was sold by vote of the annual Town Meeting to a local contractor who converted it into a carpentry shop.

By the end of a decade it was clear that school needs for the Kinniciutt Center precluded other uses. Yoga classes met at the library. Other organizations and individuals used the Islesboro Historical Society’s building and the Mason’s Hall seasonally for events like suppers, sales, and wedding receptions. Scheduling the Kinnicut Center for an exercise class or adult education program was difficult.

The concept of a community center received new impetus when Edie Konesni, the town’s longest-serving physician assistant, articulated a need for improved cardiovascular health among islanders. Island access to a workout room and physical therapy for seniors and others clearly created need for a dedicated space.

At present, the physical therapist shares a space with desks and a bank of filling cabinets in the Town Office general meeting room where the Islesboro Selectboard and other town committees gather. The physical therapist will have a more private space in the Islesboro Community Center (ICC).

An effort was begun in 1999 to organize and raise money towards creating a community center. The organization visited community centers on North Haven and Chebeague Island, and sponsored an annual Mardi Gras, a harvest festival, and other town-wide events. In 2005 ICC, frustrated at acquiring other property in town for a center, purchased the old hall and began raising funds to refurbish and add onto it. 

The new portion of the building created by raising the old building, and enlarging the ground level floor and adding an 8,000 foot-long, two-story extension to the back houses a café, meeting room, a room for a physical therapist, exercise room, a space called The Zone for young people’s activities, a messy crafts room and a fully equipped kitchen. The old building had a stage but the new building has a backstage as well.

The project has not been without challenges. ICC had to meet strict enforcement of several planning board requirements, which slowed progress and ended up delaying the completion enough that it was caught in the economic meltdown in fall of 2008, which exacerbated fundraising difficulties. A bridge loan from an area bank made possible finishing construction but that has burdened I.C.C. with further fundraising requirements.

Sandy Oliver is a freelance writer who lives on Islesboro.