20180526 Knox Farmhouse Museum

The Knox Farmhouse in Thomaston is the only surviving original building from the 18 General Henry Knox. After General Knox died suddenly in 1806, the estate deteriorated. The abandoned house and other out buildings were torn down to make way for the railroad shortly after 1870. Only the Knox Farmhouse, built circa 1795 to house workers on the estate, remained to be repurposed as the Thomaston Railroad Station. The Knox Farmhouse is one of the oldest buildings in the United States ever used as a train station and is possibly the oldest.

When a railroad station was no longer needed in Thomaston, the building and the footprint of land onwhich it stands was eventually turned over to the Thomaston Historical Society. The building sits in the middle of MDOT railroad land. It was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974.

“Today the building and the collection it houses face several important preservation challenges,” said Susan Devlin, Thomaston Historical Society President and curator. “The most immediate is an ongoing ground water and moisture problem.” She added that these problems were documented in 2014 during an evaluation of the building by conservation expert, John Leeke, through a grant funded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Heritage Preservation organization.

Once the engineering plan prepared by Gartley & Dorsky Engineering & Surveying Inc., was approved by MDOT, fund raising commenced. “With grants from the Davis Foundation and the Maine Community Foundation and other fundraising efforts, we are ready to start this important first stage of restoration”, said Bill Eberle, Restoration Chair. “Because we need to dig around the building to seal the foundation and put in drains to remove water to the Thatcher Street storm ditch, we will close the museum for safety reasons for about a month starting in late May.”

The moisture abatement project is just the first step. Other projects that will start after the moisture problem is addressed can take place while the museum is open. These include replacement of the furnace, new gutters, some repair of leaks around windows and brick mortar repair. Thanks to advice from Fire Chief Mikial Mazzeo, upgrades in the security system are being made and the poorly functioning temperature and humidity control unit in the archival room is being replaced with a unit that will allow the first floor ell to be open to the public for the first time. This will become an archival library and gallery. “By fall we hope the public will now be able to see the main framed pieces of art and documents that we have stored and have direct access to our many books, journals and periodicals”, said Susan Devlin. “Come visit us to check on our progress at 80 Knox Street, Thomaston!”

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