I looked at that Sepia Saturday shot for a long time; I stored it on my desktop and sat down at my desk every now and then just to have a look at it.
I noticed things: Pin striped suits, chessboards, chess pieces, tablecloths, chairs with scrolled backs, library tables, horrible flowery wallpaper, music stands – even men with receding hairlines – but nothing came to me.
…until today, when I looked at the photo one more time.
And there they were, right before my eyes: double doors!
Double doors – or French doors – are two adjacent doors that share the same larger frame. Here in New England, old public buildings such as churches, meeting houses and businesses often had double doors; the doors had matching hardware, and both knobs were on the inside edges.
Sometimes, there was a knob only on one side – the other door released from the inside; I’ve seen one set of doors with a knob on one side and a lock on the other.
These white double doors are from the old Union Church in Harpswell Center, built in 1841 by local ship carpenters. It fell into disrepair in the mid-20th century; the Harpswell Garden Club restored the building in 1952 and continues to maintain it by charging reasonable fees for weddings and other events – it’s best to be married in the warmer months, for the old place has absolutely no heating (I can tell you this from experience). It does have the old maghogany pulpit and pine pews and floors; it has a working organ, too.
But it’s “wicked cold,” as we say in Maine.
It was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1989.
The green, single-paned set is from the Merriconeag Grange Hall, just down the road from the Union Church in Harpswell.
The National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry is a fraternal organization formed in the mid-1800s, right after the American Civil War.
It’s got secret rituals, like most fraternal groups; in the early years it was devoted to educational events (latest practices in farming, cooperative seed purchase, etc.) and, perhaps more importantly, social events for farming families – suppers and programs and dances that eased the isolation and tedium of farm life in the 19th century.
Merriconeag Grange still meets, twice monthly – one of the few Granges still thriving in the area.
Some say that the doors of a building frame the measure of its hospitality; if that’s true – and I tend to believe it is – then these old double doors, with their balance and symmetry, welcome you inside with warmth and a sense of grace.