Jim Singerling, with his wife Molly, speaks to people who gathered at their home on Great Cranberry Island last Saturday afternoon for a reception to kick off a $450,000 campaign to enlarge Cranberry House and fund two part-time positions. PHOTO COURTESY OF KELLY DICKSON

Cranberry House seeks $450K for expansion

CRANBERRY ISLES — The Great Cranberry Island Historical Society has formally launched a campaign to raise $450,000 to enlarge the Preble-Marr Historical Museum’s archival and exhibit space in Cranberry House and to fund two part-time positions.

The plan is to build a 20-by-30-foot addition to the back of the building that will extend up all three floors for a total increase of 1,800 square feet.

“We’ll be basically doubling our archiving space on the first floor and making it environmentally controlled for storing the ships’ charts from the 1800s and some of the other valuable things we’ve got,” said Jim Singerling, vice president of the historical society and chairman of the capital campaign committee.

“On the middle level, we’ll double the size of the museum’s display area,” he continued. “We have so many wonderful things that people have given that we have in storage downstairs because we don’t have room to display them.”

The museum is open every day from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.

Expansion of the third floor of Cranberry House will increase the size of the combination arts center and event space.

In the 10 years since Cranberry House opened, it has become “the center of activity for this community,” Singerling said. “There are sometimes five and six functions a day in the [event space] during the busy season.”

Those events include shows by island artists, movies, lectures, play and poetry readings, yoga classes, karaoke nights and a variety of activities for children.

Cranberry House also houses Hitty’s Café, which is open every day from late May to mid-October.

A reception last Saturday afternoon at the home of Jim and Molly Singerling was the official kick-off of the $450,000 campaign. But Singerling said the quiet phase of the campaign had already brought in more than $160,000.

Phil Whitney, president of the historical society, estimated that between 100 and 150 people attended the kick-off reception.

“My sense is that people went away much better informed and very upbeat about what we are trying to do,” he said.

Whitney said the exterior shell of the entire three-story addition will be built first, and then, as money comes in, the interior spaces will be completed. That will start with the ground level, where the archives are stored.

“We will still use the existing spaces, but will use them for storing things that don’t have to be in climate controlled environment,” Whitney said. “We’ll also be able to accept larger items that people sometimes want to give us.”

Several years ago, the historical society hired archivist Anne Grulich of Bass Harbor to work with the museum’s collection.

“We’ve also hired a part-time general manager to take some of the load off me,” said Whitney who, along with his wife Karin and a few other people, has spent thousands of hours overseeing the operation of Cranberry House.

“We’re all getting older, and if we don’t do something now to try to ensure the future, I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to,” he said. “I would rest a lot easier if I knew that things were fairly financially secure, at least as far as the employment positions go, and also that we have the space to do what we need to do in the future.”

The part-time general manager, who was hired a year ago, is Ben Sumner, who also works part time as deputy town clerk for the Cranberry Isles.

Whitney said the fund-raising campaign is intended to cover the salaries of the two part-time positions “for a number of years.”

Getting more children and teenagers involved in Cranberry House is another goal of the historical society, Whitney said.

“We’re looking at the long term here, trying to make sure that as the young people come up they gradually take an interest and take over.”

The historical society has hired a fundraising consulting firm, Gary Friedmann & Associates of Bar Harbor, to help plan and conduct the campaign.

“It’s important to have professionals like Gary and his group to guide you through the process,” Singerling said.


Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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