A restored bell purchased in 1866 from the Naylor Company in Boston sits in front of Manset Meetinghouse, home to Southwest Harbor Historical Society. PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIE FERNALD

Community comes together to restore Manset Meetinghouse

Clayton Strout cleans the bell at the Manset Meetinghouse.

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Southwest Harbor Historical Society purchased a nearly 200-year-old building in 2018 that was in need of repair. Those repairs are now mostly complete thanks to the work and support of local community members. 

Shortly after the purchase, a capital campaign was launched to raise money for restoration and repair of the Manset Meetinghouse. While still $20,000 short of its goal, the campaign raised enough money to cover the bulk of the restoration expenses. 

Historical Society member Julie Fernald said $20,000 was donated by a big donor to the steeple fund. “We also got a $60,000 grant from the Maine Steeple Foundation,” she said. 

Last April, Belden Morse, who owns and operates Steeple People in Machias, restored the historic property for a total cost of $135,000.  

Morse straightened and strengthened the caving steeple. In doing so, he removed the 1,200-plus-pound bell because the weight was causing structural damage. The 156-year-old bell now sits on the front lawn of the building on a granite stone that was donated by former Southwest Harbor residents Chet Lewis and Sharon Lawson, who now live in Trenton. The John Goodwin Company donated their services to help move the bell. The company then took the bell to be cleaned and coated by Clayton Strout of Manset. The bell was then mounted to the granite stone. 

Other improvements to the building included the reinforcement of stained-glass windows, replacement of the flooring and a new coating of paint. 

The Manset Meetinghouse, formerly known as the Manset Union Church, will be used by the Historical Society to host public events and for historic displays.  

Fernald said the Historical Society looks forward to hosting programs when it is safe for the community to gather. “We want to thank these individuals for doing such a great service to the community by donating their time, money and services.”  


Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers the town of Bar Harbor. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.

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