Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Special place for weddings

 A look back at the history of Paris Hill will reveal a history of weddings:  some famous, some neighbors, some family and friends of residents, some local, some from afar.  In these early years of the 21st Century couples are still  looking for that magical place which is unique and affordable.  Paris Hill can offer all that in a "timeless" New England village.

The 1850 Academy is made to order for receptions, musical events and large family gatherings.  The building was constructed as a school, but after the school closed in 1906, it became the center of community activities.  Residents gather in the summer for monthly suppers, political meetings, and family reunions.  Several weddings have been held here recently, and the brides have done something different each time to decorate and make the large rooms sparkle.  With a capacity of 120, the Academy is spacious enough for a medium sized wedding party. Amenities include a full kitchen, an upstairs stage and dance area, antique lighting, tables and chairs.

Recent renovations include repairing the ceilings and walls, painting the interior and exterior, new landscaping, and out door lighting.  Old wavy glass windows are being restored gradually beginning with the three large upstairs front ones.  The "old girl" has never looked better and is ready to host events in style.

The First Baptist church has sanctuary seating for 225 with a small receptions hall below for 50-60.  The building  boasts an elevator for handicapped access.  Recent renovations include a new heating system, new fabrics and a complete interior paint freshening.  All interior improvements were done with an eye to the historic colors and patterns of the building.  Things look the same, but better!  The Revere Bell rings on the hour and for a small donation patrons can experience the joy of setting the bell to ring with an old pull rope.  

The village itself is full of surprising "photo ops".  The white mountains drift in the background, the sunsets are spectacular, and many residents are open to letting people take photos in their yards.  A romantic walk about the common can add something unique to the event as guests travel from the Church to the Academy.

Rental costs are minimal and all proceeds go to the upkeep of these historic buildings. 
 Contact Information:
            Academy:  Janet Brogan, 207 743-6862
            Church:   Rev Mary Beth Caffey, 207 754-7970

Saturday, January 18, 2014

First let's begin with a short history of Paris Hill.  A small village located in western Maine, it is part of the larger town of South Paris.  First settled in the 1770's, Paris Hill became the bustling county seat for Oxford County.  However,  the village was bypassed by the railroad in 1846 and the county offices relocated to South Paris in 1895.  The public buildings and large family homes fell quiet, left alone as the century ended.  This was actually a good thing.  Progress passed the village by, and time seemed to stop "up the hill".  A summer enclave of historic families coupled with year round residents kept the village undisturbed for decades.

Paris Hill was placed on the national Register of Historic Places in 1973 in recognition of the history and architecture of the community.  Today families with children, working couples and retirees enjoy the special sense of community and the responsibility for preserving  this historic village.

 An undated photo of South Paris

Paris Hill:  White building to the left is the 
Courthouse, brick building to the right is the Registry.  Both buildings are now private homes.

Today the village continues to adapt to changing times without losing the magic that has defined this place for over two hundred years.  Our public buildings are in good repair thanks to years of dedication, community donations, fundraising, and hands on work by skilled residents.  The iconic 1838 Baptist Church has recently been completely renovated with new heating and insulation; the Hamlin Library and Museum (in the old Jail 1822) continues to provide up to date reading, video and internet access as well as housing an eclectic collection of historic items. The 1850 Academy Building has undergone extensive improvement and serves as the Community Club; the 1899 Country Club offers affordable golf and a cafe; the Paris Hill Historical Society houses historic artifacts and offers archives for research.

But its the homes that attract people to this neighborhood.  The former business district, and surrounding streets have excellent examples of Federal, Greek Revival and Cape style houses.  Individual tastes abound, but most have remained true to the historic period of the village.  However, as anyone who owns an old house knows, maintaining an historic home is a constant challenge.  In these early years of the 21st century, it is harder to attract families to take on these challenges.  There are several homes for sale, and they often need lots of work.  It is encouraging, however,  that buyers, local and from away, are rediscovering Paris Hill.

A new energy is beginning to surface in this quiet place.  The Baptist Church and the Academy Community Club have recently begun advertising to host weddings, family and music events. Keeping rental costs affordable, villagers hope to see these beautiful buildings used by the entire Western Maine community and beyond.

The Academy/Community Building

The First Baptist Church