A multipurpose community building located in the center of Monmouth, Cumston Hall serves as space for the town library, summer theater productions, and public meetings. With a population of about 4,000 people, Monmouth sits halfway between Augusta and Lewiston-Auburn. The wooden, Romanesque building was designed and decorated by the versatile Harry Hayman Cochrane (1860–1946), who was, in addition to being an architect, an artist, painter, photographer, and composer. It is centrally located in the town on the east side of Main Street.
In 1899, after money had been donated by Dr. Charles M. Cumston for a community building, the Town of Monmouth hired Cochrane to design the edifice. Cochrane was born in Augusta, and attended Monmouth Academy, the New York Art Institute, and the Chicago Art Institute; he worked in both Boston and New York before returning to Monmouth in 1887. Absent formal training in the profession, his architectural experience derived from his renovation of many of the churches he had decorated.
While not a church, Cumston Hall shares many aspects of contemporary ecclesiastical architecture. It is a wood-frame structure, two-and-a-half stories high with a granite foundation and an asphalt-shingled hip roof. The main feature of the building is the fifteen-foot square stair tower that projects from the rectangular main building on the south. The tower is about seventy feet tall with a wooden shingle pyramidal roof. Just north of the main building is a one-and-a-half-story, hexagonal, asphalt-roofed structure about twenty feet in diameter, which is connected to the main building by a twenty-foot-long carriage shelter that once housed the Monmouth Town Office.
The hall’s exterior is flamboyant. The tower is decorated with applied wooden pattern stringcourses. Carved wooden fans adorn the gable of the center bay and above the windows on two faces of the tower. The building has clapboard siding with overlapping scallops and applied lattice work. Shingled turrets decorate the upper four ridges of the main hipped roof; the carriage shelter roof is crowned by wooden filigree.
The facade of the main building is the visual tour de force . The wide central bay of the five-bay facade projects forward, breaking the roof line with an elongated second story and piercing the hip roof with a gable roof repeated on the rear facade. The wall plane of the main facade’s first floor is recessed, providing a deep porch across the entire facade. Free-standing columns on shingled pedestals separate the bays. The paired columns are linked by applied wooden arches. The tall, arched windows of the second floor have stained and leaded glass. A wide, bracketed wooden cornice supports the wide, overhanging roof. The lower and middle level windows of the stair tower have stained glass windows as do the southern side and center rear windows of the main building.
Cochrane’s interior remains intact. It features molded wood trim, paneled wood wainscoting, molded plaster, and carved and molded wood cornices. Of note is the domed and vaulted theater. Its ceiling is elaborately stuccoed and frescoed with scenes of dancing, classically garbed women, and cherubim.
Cumston Hall remains a multipurpose town facility that, in addition to being the town’s public library and public meeting hall, functions as a popular venue for live theater productions in the summer months.
Wengren, Mary-Eliza, “Cumston Hall,” Kennebec County, Maine. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1973. National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.