Making a Difference

Samuel Nesbitt, Carolynn Plowden, and James Wilfong

Each year in the tiny village of Stow, Maine, residents gather for a town meeting. They used to convene in the 19th-century town hall, a timber-frame building on the road to Gilead. But in 1995, residents approved the construction of a new hall, and the beloved historic building was abandoned. By 2009 it had deteriorated to such an extent that Stow's selectmen moved to tear it down, citing structural difficulties and limited finances. That's when a group of neighbors decided their past was worth protecting. "We formed the Stow Historical Society and asked to buy the building for $1," says attorney Samuel Nesbitt (above, right, with society members Carolynn Plowden and James Wilfong). And at this year's town meeting, his proposal received support from both selectmen and neighbors. With the old town hall saved, the historical society now needs to raise about $50,000 to stabilize and restore the structure before opening it for town events and exhibitions about local history. "We're going to use it to build community," says Wilfong. "And who knows? I think a lot of people would like to have our next town meeting in their old town hall."

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