On Sunday, August 13, the Frances Perkins Center’s board of trustees, staff, and supporters celebrated the grand opening of the Frances Perkins Homestead National Historic Landmark with the Homestead Celebration & Awards Ceremony. The Ceremony honored Jennifer Abruzzo, General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board with the Steadfast Award, Mufalo Chitam, Executive Director of the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition with the Open Door Award, and Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Maine State Historian with the Intelligence and Courage Award. These awards are presented each year to honorees whose work in the areas of social justice and economic security exemplifies the spirit of Frances Perkins and honors the continuation of her impactful body of policy work on American society today.
Outgoing executive director of the Frances Perkins Center, Michael Chaney, was also honored for his tireless work over the last nine years. The Center obtained National Historic Landmark status in 2014, and Chaney was instrumental in negotiating the purchase of the Homestead and its contents raising $7 million in capital and operating funds. He oversaw the historic preservation work, much of which was conducted during the global pandemic and challenging economic climate, to safely open its doors to the public this June. The Homestead property, occupied by the Perkins family since the 1750s, includes the 1837 Brick House, connected ell, and barn on a 57-acre site on the Damariscotta River. Chaney will remain the Homestead site manager as the Frances Perkins Center welcomes its new executive director, Giovanna Gray Lockhart.
Among the 150 guests in attendance were Maine senators Peggy Rotundo and Cameron Reny, Maine State Attorney General Aaron Frey, Mount Holyoke College President Danielle Holley was joined by many Holyoke alumni to honor their famous alumna, Frances Perkins. The Center’s Steadfast Award is named for the motto of Perkins’ 1902 graduating class, of which she was class president. Governor Janet Mills wrote of the occasion, “As we celebrate the restoration of this historic site, we pay tribute to [Frances Perkins’] leadership and honor her extraordinary legacy and contributions while highlighting the character and charm of Damariscotta and Newcastle.”
The ceremony also announced the Center’s future plans to build a new Visitor & Education Center on the Homestead property. A modern Visitor & Education Center is critical to protecting the integrity of the Landmark’s historic structures and will have exhibition space, archival storage, research facilities, restrooms, a bookstore, a catering kitchen, and a community meeting space.
The community is invited to a free Homestead Open House on Sunday, Sept. 17 from 12:30 to 3 p.m.
The Homestead is open for tours by advance reservation through October and offers a glimpse of the site’s history as a working farm, brickyard, and home to many generations of the Perkins family. Visit www.francesperkinscenter.org to view the tour schedule and reservation information.
About Frances Perkins: Frances Perkins (1880-1965), the first woman to serve in a U.S. presidential cabinet, was Secretary of Labor (1933-1945) for the entire tenure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. Perkins was the driving force behind the groundbreaking New Deal programs on which Americans still rely - Social Security, unemployment insurance, the 40-hour work week, and the minimum wage. She spent summers throughout her life at her ancestral family homestead in Newcastle, now a National Historic Landmark owned by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Frances Perkins Center.
The Frances Perkins Center is dedicated to honoring and preserving the legacy of the woman behind the New Deal by continuing Frances Perkins’ work for social justice and economic security and by preserving for future generations her nationally significant family homestead in Newcastle, Maine. The Homestead opened to the public in summer 2023 after undergoing a major preservation project. To learn more about the Frances Perkins Center, visit www.FrancesPerkinsCenter.org, call (207) 563-3374, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.