A $450,000 addition is being constructed on the back of Great Cranberry Island Historical Society's Cranberry House that is expected to nearly double the size of the building. It includes a climate-controlled room to store archives, an HVAC system and more floor space for the second floor museum and third floor exhibit and performance space. ISLANDER PHOTOS BY SARAH HINCKLEY

Museum expansion aims to protect island treasures

The historic items pictured here are currently on display in the museum.

GREAT CRANBERRY ISLAND  Nautical maps from the 1800s and historic photographs are among some of the treasures that have come to the Cranberry House Museum over the last few years, given by families who have found them on properties around the island. 

Preserving such treasures is one of the reasons the Great Cranberry Island Historical Society decided it was time to add on to the Cranberry House, the first building on what has now become an activity center on Cranberry Road for island residents and visitors.  

“The building is being roughly doubled in size,” said historical society president Phil Whitney, whose family roots on the island go back to the 1700s. 

While COVID-19 slowed construction on the three-story addition through the spring, builders were able to work at least five days a week during the summer on the nearly half-million-dollar project. Although it was behind schedule because of the winter and the pandemic, the entire building addition is expected to be finished by next year’s tourist season. 

“We’re getting back on schedule,” said Whitney in a conversation with the Islander on Monday. “We should be on schedule to finish by next summer if nothing else dramatic happens and the money is able to come in.” 

Plans for the addition include an HVAC system, an environmentally-controlled basement where archives and other fragile historical finds will be stored and on display, a fire escape for the top floor and an addition off the second floor where the museum is now located.  

Currently, the museum operates out of a small space in the back of Hitty’s Cafe. With the expansion, the historical society will be able to have more island-themed antiques on display with the archives, such as photos and historic documents, stored downstairs.  

“It’s quite an assorted collection, probably not unlike other island historical societies’ collections,” said Whitney. “The great majority of it is from Great Cranberry [Island].” 

On the top floor, in a space used for art exhibits and showing movies, the expansion will create an additional room that could be used for a second exhibit or that could allow two events to be happening at the same time.  

Through a capital campaign that began two years ago, the historical society has nearly reached the original $450,000 goal. Members of the society agreed to raise the funds first before beginning to build.  

“We don’t owe any money at this point on the project,” said Whitney, adding that the climate-controlled portion of the addition is scheduled to be finished in the next two weeks.  

Instead of the traditional thermometer that logs how close an organization is to a fundraising goal, there is a sea-themed sculpture in front of the Cranberry House that was made by a couple of island residents. Assembled using salvaged seaside finds, the buoy hanging down showed that they were just below the goal of $450,000 at the beginning of August. 

“We managed to hold some events that were outdoors,” Whitney said about the summer, listing off such things as a lobster fishing demonstration and impromptu concerts on the Cranberry House porch. “It’s been pretty low-key this summer.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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