By Samuel Wheeler
The Bethel Historical Society has started construction of a replica of an office/library that belonged to Dr. Moses Mason for 36 years (1789-1866).
Dr. Mason was one of Bethel’s most renowned citizens, according to the society. He worked as a physician and businessman and served in many offices of public trust, including two terms as a United States Representative to Congress from Maine.
The replica is being built in the same location where it stood from 1830 to 1897, adjacent to Dr. Mason’s house on Broad St. in Bethel. Although the society was aware of a building being there, its exact location wasn’t confirmed until a few months ago, when an 1874 photograph revealed its exact whereabouts. From there the society figured out within feet of where the original building was.
“It’s an incredible project, you seldom see a building returning to where it was originally,” Bethel Historical Society Executive Director Randy Bennett said. “We know the dimensions are right and the height will be right and on the exterior it will look like a 19th century building.”
Much of the model is being built by Scott Campbell of Maine Mountain Post and Beam of Fryeburg. Campbell has nearly 20 years of experience and his business specializes in timber frame work. He’s provided all of the authentic timber frame going into the project. He and his crew finished framing the office on Saturday, using lifts, ratchet straps and their combined strength to help join the large beams into place.
“This is all very traditional joinery and what we’re trying to showcase is basically what’s inside these buildings,” Campbell said. He emphasized the importance of making the interior similar to interiors of other old homes in the area.
Bennett echoed Campbell’s ideas on the inside of the office.
“The interior will be left open so people can see all of the framing. We will use the timber frame as a teaching tool,” he said.
Campbell has strong connections to the historical society. His father-in-law, Marvin Ouwinga, and his mother-in-law, Tineke, both served as its presidents. Tineke is still involved and now serves as vice president.
On top of the donations by Campbell, members of the society and the Twitchell family have given money toward finishing the exterior of the building. The Twitchells have a long line of descendants in the area, and the family played a key role in settling Bethel. In 1774 they built the first sawmill and gristmill in the area.
Bennett said on completion they plan to dedicate the building as the Twitchell Education Center in late spring of next year.
When the society is not using the building for talks and demonstrations, it will be open to the public. Inside there will be a mini-exhibit of wall panels focusing on the Twitchell family of Bethel and ones explaining the framing techniques and construction of the replica.
Others will cover a brief background of the old office library as it was, and a plaque will be included, showing that the timber frame was donated in Tineke’s honor. Lastly, a chimney stone will be on display representing where the original one likely was.
Bennett said no attempt will be made to bring back a layout of an office or library because they have no information to base it on.
The exterior will be sided with clapboards and painted white, identical to the actual building. Wood shingles will be used for roofing and the entry way will consist of granite steps.
Longtime builder Dan Gibbs will tackle the remainder of the project once Campbell’s framework is complete.