New classroom building dedicated at Green Acre Baha'i School
ELIOT, MAINE, United States — Green Acre Baha'i School, the oldest permanent Baha'i school in the world and the site of several major events in Baha'i history, dedicated a new $2 million classroom building and lecture hall here on 21 September 2002.
Designated as "The Harriet and Curtis Kelsey Center," with an attendant "Manny Reimer Hall," the 13,100-square-foot building features a 220-person auditorium and seven classrooms. It is the first new building to be erected on the 250-acre Green Acre campus since 1937.
"This is generally part of an effort to prepare to receive larger numbers of people who are interested in the Baha'i Faith," said James Sacco, director of Green Acre. "Another main purpose is to improve the quality of education for children and junior youth, which is a main element of the current national plan for Baha'is in the United States. And it also gives us a dignified and elegant meeting space where we can present the Baha'i perspective to gatherings of leaders of thought."
The dedication of the new buildings was commemorated in an hour-long ceremony attended by Continental Counsellor Rebequa Murphy, eight of the nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, local dignitaries, and several hundred people from around the northeastern United States.
Referred to as "the most important institution of its kind in the world" by Shoghi Effendi, Green Acre occupies a unique place in history. Its main building, a four-story inn, was built as the Eliot Hotel in 1890, but was soon after named Green Acre by the poet John Greenleaf Whittier because of its beautiful setting on the Piscataqua River.
Under the patronage of Sarah Jane Farmer, the daughter of prominent transcendentalist and inventor Moses Gerrish Farmer, Green Acre became an important meeting place for the study of comparative religions, attracting many prominent people. Among those attending its programs were Edward Everertt Hale, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Swami Vivekananda, and John Fiske.
In 1900, Ms. Farmer travelling to Egypt, went on to Akka where she met 'Abdu'l-Baha and embraced the Baha'i Faith. Upon her return to America, Green Acre increasingly became a focal point for the development of the early Baha'i community in the United States. In 1912, 'Abdu'l-Baha Himself visited Green Acre during a tour of North America, endowing the institution with unique significance for Baha'is. Over the years, its example encouraged the development of Baha'i schools in countries around the world.
In 1925, Green Acre was the site of the first election of National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada. Since that time, it has become a well-known school for training in the Baha'i teachings, operating at first as a summer retreat and currently as a year-round institution, offering short courses on the Faith and its teachings.
Funds for the new building, which is named after a prominent Baha'i couple who were active supporters of Green Acre, came entirely from donations by members of the Baha'i Faith. The lecture hall is named after a former director of the School.