'At the Town of Monmouth Annual Town Meeting, March 13, 1899, Dr. Charles M. Cumston [a former headmaster of Boston English High Schoo] startled the townspeople in attendance by revealing a deeply held secret known to only a few trusted confidants of the retired educator. He was called upon to speak and announced that he was of a mind to give Monmouth a new town hall.
Charles Cumston had formed an alliance with Harry Hayman Cochrane by requesting that the young artist design the proposed building. Cochrane produced a plan, Dr. Cumston was delighted with it, the Cochrane plan was presented to the town, and it was immediately adopted.
Cumston Hall cost nearly $20,000, and the building was completed in a year. The dedication was held in the theater of the hall on June 27, 1900.
After over 100 years of constant use, Cumston Hall requires some tender, loving attention to prepare it for another century of service.
To this end, the Town of Monmouth and the Friends of Cumston Hall have engaged in a Centennial project to preserve, renovate, repair, expand and endow Cumston Hall to better carry on Dr. Cumston's dream. We invite you to join us in our effort to assure that present and future generations have access to this treasured landmark'.
Cumston Hall is one of the crown jewels of Maine. To the chance passerby it comes as a startling surprise, towering dramatically over Main Street. Its exquisite stained glass windows and asymmetrical design capture the imagination. Theater enthusiasts from all over New England know the hall as the home to the Theater At Monmouth, Maine's Shakespearean theater. But for Monmouth's residents, regular visitors and longtime friends, Cumston Hall is more than a remarkable building or intimate theater- it represents the heart and center of the Town of Monmouth.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings since 1976, Cumston Hall is a valued architectural gem. While Dr. Charles M. Cumston donated the funds for the building to the Town of Monmouth in 1899, it has always been a gift shared with the community at large.
Dr. Cumston commissioned Harry Cochrane, an accomplished painter, writer, composer and musician, to design the building. Cochrane's design transformed Cumston's vision for a town hall into a grand building, with an opera hall, library, caucus room and town office all in one. Cumston Hall was built in just one year at a cost of $20,000. Well ahead of its time in amenities, the building boasted indoor plumbing and, at Dr. Cumston's insistence, was lighted by electricity - the first building in Monmouth with this convenience.
The building's architecture is a mix of a Romanesque style of asymmetrical columns and towers and varying external textures of the Queen Anne period. The building is decorated throughout with plaster ornamentation, beautifully crafted exterior and interior wood trim, and hand stenciled ceilings. The 250-seat opera hall features elaborate plaster carvings, and a fresco mural ceiling. More than 100 stained glass windows adorn the Hall.
In addition to being the home of the Theater At Monmouth, Cumston Hall houses the Cumston Public Library and serves as the performance space for Monmouth Academy, the Monmouth school systems, and the Monmouth Community Players.
Location: 796 Main Street, Monmouth ME 04259
National Register of Historic Places
Name Cumston Hall
ID Number 73000130
NRHP Status Listed In The National Register
Certification Date 08/14/1973
Level of Significance Local
Designer Cochrane, Harry Hayman
Location Monmouth, Maine, USA
Building Type Recreation And Culture
Construction System Granite, Weatherboard, Asphalt, Brick, Shingle
Architectural Style Romanesque
Street Address Main St.
Monmouth. CUMSTON HALL, Main St. 1899-1900, Harry Hayman Cochrane architect.
Frame, shingling and clapboarding; 2 1/2 stories, modified rectangle, hipped roof, rectangular
projecting central gabled bay, square turreted corner tower, front porch sup- ported by double
columns; 1-story octagon connected to main structure by carriage shelter; original interior
woodwork, domed and vaulted theater. Wooden adaptation of Richardsonian Romanesque.
Early-20th C. multipurpose community building. Municipal: HABS.
Cumston Hall, the home of the Cumston Public Library and The Theater at Monmouth, has long been the been the center of the political and social life of the people of Monmouth. A strikingly handsome building, it dominates the main street of the town and has aroused the interest of passer-bye since its dedication in 1900. The building was named for Dr. Charles Cumston, for many years the Headmaster of Boston English High School. Retiring to Monmouth, Dr. Cumston decided to give his town a community hall which would house town offices, a town meeting hall, a public library, and an auditorium. The job of designing this building he entrusted to Harry Cochrane, a Maine man who had already garnered a regional reputation for his fine interior decorating work.
Cochrane decorated his first church in 1887, the same year in which he married Ida Lorena Gott of Monmouth. In an era of grand decoration, of stenciling and free-hand ornamentation of walls and ceilings, of marbleizing of plaster and wood, of gilding, and of painting murals and large in-situ oil paintings, Cochrane soon achieved regional acclaim for his work. Between 1887 and his death in 1946, he was commissioned to decorate upwards of 400 public buildings in Maine and New England, including churches, parish halls, convents, banks, and courthouses. In 1898, he won first prize in a competition to decorate the convention halls and rooms for the huge Knights Templar triennial conclave in Pittsburgh. Perhaps his most spectacular mural project would be the 1927 decoration of the Kora Temple in Lewiston.
Cochrane's talents extended far beyond murals, however. A true Renaissance man, he was a prolific poet, and an accomplished singer, composer, and conductor. Appointed in 1920 by Governor Milliken to be chairman of the Maine Centennial Committee, Cochrane wrote and produced a motion picture called The Romance of Maine. His Hymn, Prince of Peace, is still sung in Monmouth churches, and his best known painting, The Man on Horseback, now hangs in Monmouth's Methodist church. In addition, Cochrane established his own photographic studio in Gardiner.
This impressive list of achievements perhaps explains why Charles Cumston entrusted his project to Cochane, although Cochrane had never before designed a building. Given free rein over the project, Cochrane transformed the proposed town hall into a grand Romanesque Revival structure with opera hall, library, caucus room, and town office all in one. He designed and executed the plaster ornamentation, the stained glass windows, the stenciling and murals, the molding of the exterior and interior wood trim, and the color schemes. To cap his achievement, for dedication day in 1900, he composed the music and conducted the orchestra for the event.
Cumston Hall has served the town of Monmouth well over the years. Until 1952, all school affairs took place there. During the summers from 1952 until 1959 the American Savoyards delighted faithful audiences with their Gilbert and Sullivan productions in the intimate Victorian theater so well suited to those comic operas- and so well suited now to the magic of Shakespeare's plays. Much of the Cumston theater's charm is due to the cherubic frescoes Cochrane himself painted on the ceiling, and to his carving and hand-molded plaster work on the walls, boxes, and proscenium arch.
Named in 1973 to the National Register of Historic Places, Cumston Hall is sure to encourage for many years the affection for which it was built. The hall continues as the home of Cumston Public Library and the location of many community activities. Since 1970 Cumston Hall has been closely associated with the Theater at Monmouth, and during the summer months, the heart of the Hall is the theater, where artists make public and private praise to Harry Cochrane's masterpiece.
SELECTMEN of Monmouth
1881-82-O. W. Andrews, J. Cumston, S. B. Simpson
The Cochnewagan Agricultural Society was formed at a meeting at the Grange Hall, August 31, 1907, and held its first Monmouth Fair that year at the newly acquired Cumston Park, a bequest to the town by Dr. Charles M. Cumston. The eighty-fifth fair was held in 1995, there having been no fairs held during periods of World Wars One and Two.
The English High School began in 1821. Almost two centuries have passed since it was founded and the school has gone through many changes and has accomplished many goals.
Up until the early 1800's, the education system in Boston consisted of a scattering of grammar schools throughout the town. A child's education usually ended at the age of 10.
The Boston School Committee, which had been established in 1789, sought to provide a means of education for those students who were not going on to Harvard. They wanted a curriculum that provided subjects that would aid its graduates in achieving success in the world of commerce and industry.
The Committee passed a resolution in 1820 that authorized the creation of a public secondary school to educate boys with an emphasis on a strong course of study in the English language. In 1821, English Classical School was opened with an enrollment of 101 boys. The building used was an already existing school at the corner of Derne and Temple St, on Beacon Hill. A plaque to commemorate the nation's first public high school can be seen today at the site of the old building. The school required an examination for admission and it would remain an "exam" school until the late 1920's.
In 1844, The English High School was given a new home on Bedford Street, which it shared with the Boston Latin School. Perhaps this close proximity helped create the intense English-Latin athletic rivalry that exists even to this day.
In 1881, The English High School and the Boston Latin School moved again to the newly reclaimed land in the South End.