Gray Town Hall is located at 6 Shaker Road, Gray, Maine 04039; phone: 207-657-3339.
Gray has a long and rich history as a community which is still evident in many of its remaining buildings, sites and landscapes. The town was originally part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay and was incorporated in 1778. Since that time the town has experienced a great many changes which have contributed to the historical fabric of the community, but which have also resulted in the loss of many unique structures and other artifacts.
In the typical fashion of a New England town, Gray's land use pattern evolved with various village, neighborhood, and industrial settlement areas that were surrounded by agricultural and other land based activities. These original settlement areas, include Gray Village, Dry Mills, West Gray, East Gray, North Gray, and South Gray.
Gray Village has been the center of commercial and civic activities since the town's inception. Due to its location at the intersection of six major roads the Village has attracted trade and been the conduit for goods shipped from other centers of commercial and industrial activity. This trade hub status was also supported by the existence of the Portland-Lewiston Interurban Line, which was an electric train system that operated with stops in Gray until 1933. The remnants of the right-of-way used by this rail line are still visible on the town's tax maps, south of the Village, paralleling the Portland Road. The Village contains the town's largest concentration of remaining historic structures, although many have reportedly been lost over time to fire and redevelopment activities.
The Dry Mills settlement area is located around Crystal Lake which was historically referred to as Dry Pond. Around the turn of the 19th Century this area was the location of saw mills and grist mills that were the main industry for the town at that time. During the 1880s commercial charcoal was also produced at kilns in the area. Beginning in the early 1900s the first summer cottages were built around the lake which eventually came to encompass its entire shorefront area. The two most significant structures in Dry Mills are the Dry Mills Store and the Dry Mills School. The school was moved to a new location on Weymouth Road in 1989, where it underwent renovations. The school building is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
East Gray, centered around the intersection of Mayall and Depot Roads, was a thriving area for farming and lumbering between 1880 and 1950. The Maine Central Railroad operated a depot in this area which was used to transport agricultural and lumber products to market. A large brick kiln also operated in this area which produced the bricks used to construct the Pennell Institute and the Hancock Building in Gray. This area began to decline in the 1950s when the railroad closed its depot. Remaining structures of note in East Gray are the Parson Perley House constructed in 1796 and the Reverend Nathan Merrill house, circa 1766, which was the first framed house built in Gray.
The South Gray settlement area was a section of town which was developed primarily as a result of its proximity along roadways that provided access between Gray and Portland. Along Portland, Dutton Hill, and Longhill Roads, several taverns were in operation during the 1800s. Four schools also operated in this section of town of which three still exist and have been converted into residences. A number of the other early homes along these roads are also still in existence today.
West Gray was another active manufacturing area during the 1800s consisting of several small businesses. Robert Allen operated a store there beginning in 1843 and also offered services that included tailoring, shoemaking, blacksmithing, milling and manufacturing of barrel parts. For a time, fine carriages and sleighs were also manufactured in West Gray.
The final original settlement area of North Gray was centered around the intersection of the Lewiston and Mayall Roads. This part of town also had a number of mills for lumber and grain beginning as early as 1760. There was also a pottery making operation, blacksmith shop and general store. Perhaps most significant to this area was the Mayall Woolen Mill which started operation in 1791.
This mill is reported to be the first machine-powered woolen mill in the country. It was operated until 1905 when it apparently became uneconomical to continue its use at this location due to transportation limitations.