2014-05-22 / Front Page

Chamberlain Museum to re-open

Damage still being assessed; original Civil War medal on display
BY JOHN SWINCONECK Times Record Staff


JOSHUA LAWRENCE CHAMBERLAIN’S original Medal of Honor will be on display at the museum for the first time. Friday’s re-opening will be the first time the museum will be open to the public following water damage from a burst pipe in January. 
COURTESY PEJEPSCOT HISTORICAL SOCIETY JOSHUA LAWRENCE CHAMBERLAIN’S original Medal of Honor will be on display at the museum for the first time. Friday’s re-opening will be the first time the museum will be open to the public following water damage from a burst pipe in January. COURTESY PEJEPSCOT HISTORICAL SOCIETY

BRUNSWICK

Pejepscot Historical Society Director Jennifer Blanchard remembers clearly how the Joshua Chamberlain Museum looked after burst pipes damaged the historic house Jan. 3.

“I remember walking in and seeing water pouring out of the ceiling,” said Blanchard. “At that moment, it was just about stopping the water and saving the house and its treasures, knowing we could have lost something irreplaceable.”

The Chamberlain Museum reopens for another season on Friday, in time for Memorial Day weekend. It will be the first time the museum will be open to the general public since both heating- and watersupply pipes froze and ruptured, resulting in damage to the former soldier and statesman’s home and museum artifacts.


THE DINING ROOM of the Chamberlain Musuem, after repairs were made to damage caused by a burst pipe in January. 
JOHN SWINCONECK / THE TIMES RECORD THE DINING ROOM of the Chamberlain Musuem, after repairs were made to damage caused by a burst pipe in January. JOHN SWINCONECK / THE TIMES RECORD Months later, the cost to the museum is still being assessed and work on the interior continues. Blanchard on Tuesday said she still was unable to release insurance estimates on how much the burst pipes cost the society.

One wall has been replastered and ceilings in the dining room and parlor repaired.

The society has hired a historic painting specialist who will reproduce a decorative border and medallion in the center of the parlor’s ceiling, said Blanchard. That work will be performed in July during open hours, which Blanchard said will give the public a chance to see “restoration work in action.”

Damaged furniture in the parlor is still being restored, and likely won’t be returned this summer.

Blanchard said the museum looks “a million times better” than it did five months ago.

While it is maintained year-round, the museum closes to visitors every autumn and reopens each summer.

For the first time, museum patrons will be able to see Chamberlain’s original Medal of Honor, awarded for his service at Gettysburg, and donated anonymously to the Pejepscot Historical Society in 2013 after being discovered in the back of a book in Duxbury, Mass.

The medal was bestowed in 1893 in recognition for leading the 20th Maine Infantry on a bayonet charge down Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

After Chamberlain’s death in 1914, the medal found its way through generations to his last living descendant, granddaughter Rosamond Allen. Upon her death in 2000, the contents of her estate were donated to the First Parish Church of Duxbury. Later, the medal’s anonymous benefactor bought several books during a church fundraising sale and discovered the medal inside the pages.

The Medal of Honor’s design was updated and the medals redistributed to previous recipients in 1904. Congress later agreed recipients could keep both medals, so long as both were not worn at once. Bowdoin College is in possession of Chamberlain’s second medal.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain fought in several other Civil War battles and was wounded six times. He eventually rose to the rank of brigadier general. After leaving the Army, he was Maine’s governor from 1867- 77. Chamberlain was a graduate of Bowdoin College, for which he also served as a professor and as the college’s president. He is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Brunswick.

In addition to Chamberlain, who lived in the house for more than 50 years, poet and professor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also once was a tenant, renting three rooms during his tenure as an instructor at Bowdoin College.

The Chamberlain Museum, located on Maine and Potter streets, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 1-4 p.m. The museum will be open Memorial Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Call (207) 729-6606 or go to www.pejepscothistorical.org for admission or more information.

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