ISLESFORD — A center of this small community for a century, the Islesford Neighborhood House inspires fond memories of gatherings past and continues to be a lively place for all kinds of activities.
Now in its centennial year, the building is scheduled to undergo improvements to ensure its use well into the future.
“We want a building that can be used more efficiently by our community throughout the year,” said Jasmine Samuel, president of the Islesford Neighborhood House (INH) Association. “It’s central to the community, always.”
Islesford is a small village on Little Cranberry Island—one of five islands collectively called the Cranberry Isles—three miles off Mount Desert Island. The INH is in the village center, on land purchased in 1912 for $282. A joint venture of year-round and summer islanders, the INH was built in 1913 and opened the following summer. “I think it’s been important from day one, from the community for the community,” said Samuel.
The INH hosts countless cultural presentations, including films, lectures, concerts the annual literary evening begun in 1979, as well as community suppers, socials, dances, weddings, baby showers and memorial services.
And there’s also the experimental Islesford Theater Project, established in 2007, and a community variety show, Wits & Nitwits, started around 1950 and still going.
The school uses INH for gym, eighth-grade graduation and other events. It is home for the library and historical society, and the food-buying club’s staging area. The lively Islesford Fair happens in and around it.
There’s yoga and winter basketball, exercise class and ping pong tournaments. Town meeting, with a community lunch, is held there on alternate years.
INH’s central place in the community’s life was recently highlighted when voters unanimously certified it as a locally controlled entity, a move that allowed trustees to pursue funding for renovation and an endowment.
Among improvements the association is looking into installing is a 10-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array. A capital campaign is underway to raise $375,000 for other winterization measures, including insulation and window and door replacement; and for upgraded electrical, heating, hot water and septic systems; repair of possible moisture damage; and other repairs.
The work will facilitate more winter activity for school, library and general community use, Samuel said. Summers already have a packed schedule.
Ann Fernald, 82, has loved INH activities since she moved to Islesford at age 19.
“One time, many years ago, we had little tables set up all over the hall,” she recalled. “Dinner was served by young girls and there was music playing up on the stage. We had copies of the songs that were going to be played after dinner, and we all sat around and had this wonderful sing-along. That was one of my favorite things.”
The new Cranberry Fest Music Show is a great event, she said. She loves eighth-grade graduations, church fairs, the masquerade ball—a tradition started in the 1940s by the volunteer fire department, and wedding receptions.
“We’ve had beautiful receptions up there,” she said. “Sometimes you’d go up there and you wouldn’t think it was the same place, it was so beautiful. It’s a lovely building anyway.”
Once the memories start, they keep coming. Fernald recalls the card games got up by Wilfred Bunker, who recently passed away. The INH hosts telemedicine visits, making it easier to see a doctor or dentist. The last few winters, she said, folks have taken to indoor badminton. Until 1979, the INH was home to Rockbound Grange No. 568’s weekly meetings, followed by entertainment.
“Gosh, there’s been more life in that Neighborhood House!” said Fernald.
INH’s centennial celebration will be held on July 31. For more information, visit islesfordneighborhoodhouse.org.