Rural Reboot: Francis Perkins Center to buy historic Brick House

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NEWCASTLE (WGME) — Francis Perkins was the first woman to ever serve in a president’s cabinet. She was FDR’s labor secretary for 12 years and played a key role in writing New Deal legislation. She was also a part-time Mainer.

Perkins visited her family’s home on the Damariscotta River in Newcastle every year of her life and loved it. The estate is affectionately known as the Brick House, after its owner.

Now, for the first time, the property will change hands.

Michael Chaney is the executive director of the Frances Perkins Center located down the road from the homestead. He says the center is in the process of buying the property.

“We would rather acquire the property and operate it as a historic site rather than see it sold and broken up,” Chaney said.

Chaney affirms that the center wants to preserve the site as a national landmark.

Under their ownership, much of the homestead would remain the same, but an additional building would be created on the property for learning and lectures.

Chris Cash is the program director at the center, and says acquiring the home will provide the opportunity for on-site education forums, school field trips, and a lot more.

Most importantly it will save a piece of history, and provide a space to talk about Perkins and her legacy.

The programs that she championed were social security, unemployment insurance, the 40-hour work week, the abolishment of child labor, and minimum wage.

Perkin’s grandson, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshal, says that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s just a wonderful recognition of my grandmother’s significance in our national history,” Coggeshal said proudly.

According to the center, they hope to acquire the homestead in another year with renovations starting in the year and a half following that. They are currently raising funds for an endowment to support operation of the property.


ALERT: Due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) The Frances Perkins Center and Homestead are Temporarily Closed