Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings, Augusta part 8

Hartford Fire Station.

by Mary Grow

Just south of the historic buildings at the north end of the west side of Augusta’s Water Street (described in last week’s article) is a much newer building that gained a place on the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1986. The D.V. Adams Co .- Bussell and Weston Building, at 190 Water Street, was built in 1909. Wikipedia calls it “one of the state’s best early examples of a department store building.”

D. V. Adams – Bussell and Weston Building.

Like its northern neighbors, it is built of brick and three stories tall, but the front has much more window space, particularly on the upper floors. The street level has five separate bays, the center one a recessed entrance.

Wikipedia says Boston architects Freeman, Funk and Wilcox designed the building for Bussell and Weston. Roger Reed, writing for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, calls the architectural firm Freeman, Frank and Wilcox – Web references do not resolve the discrepancy – and says Bussell and Weston was a dry goods company.

The original building had what Wikipedia calls a stepped parapet. On-line photos show stepped parapets having more than one level, as the name suggests. Reed wrote that the present Italianate cornice, similar to but elevated slightly above its neighbors, replaced the original sometime between 1912 and 1920.

One on-line source calls the architectural style Classical Revival, and others mention the Chicago style windows on the upper floors. Reed says Bussell and Weston intended, and their architects achieved, a building that would stand out from its neighbors.

In 1920, department store founder and owner Delbert W. Adams bought the Bussell and Weston building and contents and moved from his 1910 store on the east side of Water Street. His store closed in 1982, according to Augusta’s on-line Museum in the Streets; Reed’s report says a department store used the building until 1985. The name change from D. W. Adams to D. V. Adams is nowhere explained.

In 1985, Reed listed the building owner as G. T. G. Association. His description commented on the unchanged interior space, “complete with iron columns, wooden staircase and pressed metal ceiling.”

While on Water Street, it seems appropriate to describe the Hartford Fire Station, although at 369 Water Street it is south of the boundary of the Water Street historic district that this series has covered beginning with the Feb. 4 The Town Line piece.

The station’s alternate address is 1 Hartford Square. It is southeast of the south end of Water Street, with Gage Street on the northeast and the backs of the buildings lining Swan Street on the southwest. Built in 1920, the Hartford Fire Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, as a $6 million addition and renovation project was under way.

The large two-story brick building was designed by local architects Bunker and Savage, established in 1916 and still in business. An on-line Maine Preservation article calls its style Classical Revival.

The same article says the name recognizes George Huntington Hartford, whose son donated the land for the building.

George Huntington Hartford (Sept. 5, 1833 – Aug. 29, 1917) was born on an Augusta farm. By the time he was 18, he was in Boston starting a career in retail businesses. In 1861 he was in Brooklyn, New York, where he was hired as a clerk in George Gilman’s Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.

Wikipedia says Hartford moved up in the firm until he became a partner when Gilman retired in 1878 and effectively ran the company until Gilman died in 1901. After Gilman’s death, Hartford bought out his heirs and ran what was by then A & P until his own death, though two of his sons took over day-to-day management in 1907 or 1908. Hartford invented the idea of a chain of grocery stores, and before he died he and his sons made A & P the largest retailer in the United States.

The 1920 Hartford fire station was the first in Augusta to have a fire horn that could signal fire locations to everyone in the city, and the first to be designed to accommodate motorized as well as horse-drawn fire equipment.

As fire trucks became larger and heavier, the station ran out of space and the floors began to deteriorate. In 2016, work started on an addition, plus repairs and interior remodeling of the original building. The on-line Maine Preservation article lists many people responsible for the successful project, including Fire Chief Roger Audette and Sutherland Conservation and Consulting (SCC), of Augusta.

SCC was founded in 2007 by Amy Cole Ives, of Hallowell, who previously spent eight years working for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. In May 2008, the SCC website says, Maine Historic Preservation gave her a Statewide Historic Preservation Honor Award for her role in promoting legislation that led to the state’s Tax Credit for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties and the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC).

Ives’ specialty is analysis of historic paint and other finishes on buildings, vehicles and art works. In March 1917 she helped organize the sixth International Architectural Paint Research (APR) Conference at Columbia University in New York City. She also presented a paper there.

(The third APR conference was in January 2008, also at Columbia University. The fourth was in 2010, in Lincoln, in the United Kingdom. The fifth was in March 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden. The seventh was scheduled for Tel Aviv University, Israel, in October 2020, and was retitled, more broadly, the Architectural Finishes Research Conference. It was rescheduled to a January 2021 virtual conference.)

In October 2020, Ives announced that SCC was absorbed by MacRostie Historic Advisors (MHA), LLC, with at least one employee joining MacRostie’s Boston office. Ives planned to continue consulting on historic paint.

George Crosby House

The statement that Augusta has four designated historic districts that opened the Feb. 4 article was an error by this writer. The city has five designated districts: the Water Street commercial district that has been described; the Capital District around the State House on State Street, to be described in the next article; and three residential districts, Bond Street, Crosby Street and Winthrop Street.

The residential historic districts contain mostly private houses that are not open to the public. Should readers care to visit them, owners’ rights and privacy are to be respected.

Bond Street is a short street that connects State and Water streets, just south of Bond Brook. The historic district includes seven one-and-a-half story wooden residential buildings, numbers 8, 9, 12, 18, 21, 22 and 25. All were built between 1878 and 1884 by Edwards Manufacturing Company to house employees in its textile mill. The company sold them to private owners in 1946.

Wikipedia says there are two four-unit buildings and a single-family house on the north side of Bond Street and four duplexes on the south side. All are similar in style. In 1900, the census found 167 people in 20 families living in the buildings.

Although other Augusta mill owners provided employee housing, Wikipedia says the Bond Street buildings are the only ones still standing in the city. The historic district was listed on April 11, 2014.

Crosby Street is a dead-end street south of and uphill from Bond Street. It runs north off Bridge Street, parallel to State Street above it and roughly parallel to Water Street below it. Crosby Lane connects the middle of Bond Street to State Street.

The Crosby Street historic district, listed Sept. 11, 1986, encompasses eight houses: one on State Street, one on Crosby Lane and six on the south end of Crosby Street. These are elegant, stylish homes, the earlier ones Federal and the later Greek Revival style, and would have been built for business and professional men.

The large two-story Federal George Crosby House at 22 Crosby Lane, with a story-and-a-half ell almost as big, is the oldest of the seven, Wikipedia says. Built around 1802 for businessman George Crosby, it was followed about 1806 by a similar house next door built for John Hartwell, described as a carpenter and auctioneer.

A Maine Historic Preservation Commission piece quoted online says the two houses have doorways designed from the1797 “Country Builder’s Assistant”, by Asher Benjamin, one of many architectural plan books that helped builders in places like Maine follow national style trends.

The Crosby house was the home of Governor Samuel Smith from 1832 to 1834. His choice led to additional generously-sized houses built by Eben Fuller and William Hunt, among others.

George Crosby is listed in Captain Charles E. Nash’s chapters on Augusta in Kingbury’s Kennebec County history as the first cashier of the Augusta Bank, chartered Jan. 21, 1814.

John H. Hartwell was born in Lincoln, Massachusetts, Jan. 2, 1787. He married Eliza Brooks (1789-1864) on May 31, 1810, in Hallowell, and they had two sons and six daughters. He died March 6, 1859, in Augusta.

Nash wrote that Eben Fuller (Jan. 25, 1795 – Oct. 7, 1873) opened the Fuller drug store in 1819. The building burned in the September 1865 fire, and Eben and his only son, Henry Lucius Fuller (1827-1875), rebuilt it. Eben Fuller married Eliza Williams (1799-1883); they had one son and four daughters.

The Winthrop Street historic district is the largest of the three residential districts, covering about 100 acres. When the district was designated on Aug. 6, 2001, it included 192 buildings on Chapel, Chestnut, Court, Green, State and Winthrop streets. On Dec. 30, 2008, Wikipedia says, the district boundary was expanded to add the 1830s Federal house at 20 Spring Street.

Winthrop Street runs approximately west from Water Street to the Augusta airport. It separates Mount Hope Cemetery on the north from Forest Grove Cemetery on the south.

Some of the earliest houses in the historic district date from 1815 or before. Most were built between 1830 and 1850, after the state capital was moved to Augusta by law in 1827 and, in fact, in 1832. New houses continued to be built for residents involved in Augusta’s publishing (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020) and manufacturing enterprises until around 1915.

Non-residential buildings include Lithgow Library, the Kennebec County Courthouse, at 95 State Street (see Jan. 7; the Lot Morrill house on Winthrop Street described there is also inside the historic district) and two churches. A variety of architectural styles are represented, with Federal, Victorian and Colonial Revival dominant, Wikipedia says. Some of the former residences now house professional offices.


Readers who planned to look at the Shurtleff House, on Route 201, in Winslow, (see The Town Line, Jan. 28, 2021) will not find it. Michael Fortin, owner of Fortin’s Home Furnishings, on the east side of Route 201, said when the property went up for sale, he bought it because he owned adjacent land. When he inspected the neglected house, he found it was “far beyond repair” and, with regret, had it demolished on Feb. 19, 2021.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, various

Next: Augusta’s Capitol Complex Historic District.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings, Augusta Part 7

Sturgis/Haskell block

by Mary Grow

The east (river) side of Augusta’s Water Street has another individually-listed 19th-century historic building besides those described in The Town Line articles published Feb. 4 and Feb. 11. The 1899 five-story brick building at 325-331 Water Street was first known as the Gannett Building, later as the “Journal” Building and now as the University of Maine at Augusta’s (UMA’s) Handley Hall.

Gannett building

The Gannett Building was presumably named for Augusta publisher William Howard Gannett (1854-1948), who published magazines in Augusta beginning in the mid-1880s (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020). It was designed by Arthur G. Wing, described in Wikipedia as a local architect who died in 1912; this writer found no additional on-line information about him.

Wikipedia calls the style commercial Renaissance Revival. There are three street- level store fronts and above each four stories with three windows each, the whole topped by a cornice. The windows have granite sills; the most conspicuous arches are on the fourth floor.

According to Wikipedia, this building was the first owned, as opposed to rented, home for Augusta’s Kennebec Journal newspaper. Often described as Maine’s oldest continuously published newspaper, the Kennebec Journal began in January 1825 as a four-page weekly produced by Russell Eaton and Luther Severance.

Augusta became Maine’s capital in 1827, and after state government became established in 1832 the Kennebec Journal gained importance and a new revenue source. It became a daily paper on Jan. 1, 1870.

Various people owned the newspaper in the 19th century. The Gannett family was not involved until mid-1929, when William Howard Gannett’s son Guy P. Gannett (1881-1954) added it to the Gannett Publishing Company papers.

A Jan. 8, 2015, Kennebec Journal article by Craig Crosby on the 190th anniversary of the newspaper says the younger Gannett moved headquarters to a Willow Street building his father had previously owned. Apparently the move was soon after the June 1929 purchase. Crosby fails to say where the move was from, leaving uncertain the date the Journal left what was presumably by then called the “Journal” building.

At another unstated time the University of Maine at Augusta bought the building and contracted with WBRC Architects Engineers to change it from office space into art and architecture teaching areas, with a ground-floor gallery. A WBRC web page shows the exterior, labeled Gannett Building, and says interior work included undoing earlier changes to uncover “wooden beams, punched tin ceilings, masonry walls and wooden floors.”

(According to its website, the WBRC firm was founded in Bangor in 1902 by two young University of Maine engineering graduates named John F. Thomas and C. Parker Crowell; the firm was Thomas and Crowell. Thomas soon moved to Massachusetts; Crowell stayed with the firm for the next 54 years, with its name changing as partners joined and left.

The ninth name, in 1987, was the longest: Webster/ Baldwin/ Rohman/ Day/ Czarniecki. By 1989 Day had left and Bromley and Rich had joined; the new group chose the initials WBRC, and so far no one has changed it. WBRC has branches in Portland, Maine, and in Florida, Maryland and Michigan.)

UMA gave the building its third name, Handley Hall, in honor of UMA’s first female president, Allyson Handley. She took office on March 1, 2008, at the age of 60, and held the post for six years.

A 2018 announcement of her becoming president of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association says UMA was the third college she served as president. It credits her with changing UMA’s undergraduate architecture program to “a four-year, accredited architecture degree,” giving graduates a head start in the profession.

The “Journal” building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1986, at the same time as the buildings described below and the Kresge and Doughty blocks and the Masonic Temple discussed in the Feb. 11 issue of The Town Line.

Noble block

On the inland (west) side of Water Street, starting at the north end, listed buildings include a four-building block built after the 1865 fire described in the Feb. 4 The Town Line article. They are the Sturgis and Haskell Buildings, 180-182 Water Street, and the Noble Block, 186 Water Street, both built in 1867; and the Whitehouse Block at 188 Water Street, built in 1865 (since the fire was in September 1865, it must have been constructed in a hurry).

The brick buildings are three stories tall, in the commercial Italianate style, and connected by a cornice. The northern two are off-white with two different types of blue window trim, the southern two yellow with white window trim. The style of window trim varies not only from building to building but between second and third floors on each building.

Each separate building would have a single street-level entrance and triple windows on the second and third floors, except that the northernmost, and last finished, Sturgis and Haskell Building has a rounded corner as it fronts the intersection where Bridge Street comes downhill to meet Water Street. There are only two east-facing windows on the upper floors overlooking Water Street; the third windows face northeast from the rounded corner.

Architect John C. Tibbetts, of Augusta, designed the double building for Ira Sturgis and Erastus Haskell. A 1985 Maine Historic Preservation Commission inventory says the original cast-iron store fronts at sidewalk level remained, but with larger-paned windows. Arches above the windows at 180 Water Street had been filled in to make the windows square-topped. The building at 180 was then owned by Carrie Chan and 182 by Peder K. Baughman.

Tibbetts also designed the Noble Block next south, for Thomas C. Noble. Wikipedia says the first story of the Noble Block was finished in 1865 and the upper floors in 1867.

Portland-based architect Francis H. Fassett, whom readers met before as designer of the Williams Block on the east side of Water Street (see the Feb. 4, The Town Line) designed the southernmost and first-built of the four buildings for Owen C. Whitehouse. Before the fire, Whitehouse had his dry goods store on the same site. In the new building, Wikipedia says Whitehouse’s dry goods store was on the second floor; street-level tenants included “Augusta Savings Bank and the United States Pension Agency.” Fraternal organizations, unspecified, used the top floor.

Augusta 19th century businessmen Ira Sturgis, Erastus Haskell, Thomas Noble and Owen C. Whitehouse

The quantity and quality of information in readily available sources about Ira D. Sturgis, Erastus Haskell, Thomas C. Noble and Owen C. Whitehouse varies.

Ira Daggett Sturgis (1814 or 1815 -1891), oldest son of James and Nancy (Packard) Sturgis, was a Vassalboro farmer turned lumber baron whose family began operations in The Forks, farther up the Kennebec River, in the 1830s.

An on-line history called Canada Road Chronicles (hereafter Chronicles) says in 1835, Sturgis married Augusta native Rebecca Russell Goodenow (1815-1894). They had four children; the older boy was named Ira.

During the 1840s and 1850s, Sturgis and a half-brother ran water-powered sawmills in Vassalboro, and he bought large tracts of timberland in the northern Kennebec Valley. Captain Charles E. Nash, author of the chapters on Augusta in Henry D. Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, says Sturgis’s factory on Seven Mile Brook, in Vassalboro, built wooden items, including “the first orange and lemon boxes ever exported from the state of Maine.” His nearby shipyard built ocean-going vessels.

Sturgis shifted his interest to Augusta briefly; spent the late 1850s and early 1860s in the lumber business in Aroostook County and New Brunswick; and returned to Augusta.

In 1867, Chronicles says, the younger Sturgis daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, married Josiah Manchester Haynes, of Waterville. Sturgis and Haynes promptly formed the Augusta-based Kennebec Land and Lumber Company, with Sturgis president and Haynes treasurer. A more recent on-line source, A Capital Happening (hereafter Happening) on Facebook, dates this company to 1861. Happening and Nash name Albert Daily as Sturgis’s partner.

Nash says Sturgis made production of steam power cheaper by using sawdust as fuel. A second steam-powered mill in Pittston was soon accompanied by a modern ice house. Sturgis established the connections that made Kennebec River ice familiar in major cities in the southern United States (see the May 14, 2020, The Town Line for more information on ice harvesting on the Kennebec).

In February 1870 a flood washed away a substantial part of the Augusta dam, the fourth time it had been damaged since it was first built in 1837. Sturgis oversaw its reconstruction in July 1870, supervising engineer Henry A. De Witt and the work crews.

Haynes became Land and Lumber Company president in 1875, according to Chronicles; Happening and Nash say the lumberyard burned in October of that year. Both agree Sturgis and another Augusta businessman named Thomas Lambard formed Sturgis, Lambard and Company (in 1876, according to Happening; Chronicles and Nash add Sturgis’s nephew, Ira Randall, as a third partner). That company became Augusta Lumber Company (in 1889, according to Happening); Sturgis was its president until his death. Augusta Lumber Company appears to have remained in business until it was sold in 1941.

Erastus Haskell (1815 – 1891 or 1892), was born in Winthrop. He learned the shoe trade in Waterville and worked in East Vassalboro for three years, moving to Augusta Dec. 1, 1840. Before the 1865 fire, he ran a shoe store on the east side of Water Street, in one of the buildings that burned. The New England Business Directory lists him as an Augusta boot and shoe dealer in 1883 and in 1889.

Haskell served as a City of Augusta assessor for three years, and “served three years in each of the branches of the city government,” according to Nash. He married Mary C. Williams; they had two sons and daughter. Haskell died in Augusta and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

An on-line genealogy lists Thomas Chadbourne Noble, who was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on August 24, 1807; married Adeline Treby Johnson (1817-1901); and died Feb. 5, 1901, in Augusta. They had four boys and one girl; the second boy was Thomas Chadbourne Noble (1846-1890).

Another genealogy includes Thomas C. Noble of Augusta, born in 1845, who married Edith Goddard on Jan. 22, 1880. He died in 1889 and she remarried.

Probably the Thomas C. Noble who was eager to have a new building in 1865 was the older, who would have been 58 by then, rather than his son, barely 20.

Owen C. Whitehouse was one of nine children of Vassalboro residents Daniel Whitehouse, Jr., and Merab (Coleman) Whitehouse. With his older brother Seth he went into the dry goods business in Augusta in 1846. The S. C. and O. C. Whitehouse company “did a large and successful business,” Nash wrote.

Whitehouse had other business interests besides dry goods. A 50th anniversary history of Augusta Savings Bank, founded Aug. 10, 1848, lists him as added to its incorporators in 1852. When the 1833 Freeman’s Bank was reorganized on April 6, 1864, as Freeman’s National Bank, he was one of the directors. The 1877 Maine Register shows him as a dealer in wool and skins at an unspecified Augusta location and a seller of flour and grain on Water Street.

Whitehouse also served his city. Annual reports show he was a fence viewer and a tythingman in 1870-71, and an overseer of the poor in 1883. (Tithingman is the modern spelling, and the term, originally related to keeping order in church, by the 1870s probably referred to a local constable.)

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892)

Websites, various

Next: still more of Augusta’s historic buildings.

MaineGeneral Health opens new practice

MaineGeneral Health has announced the opening of a new medical practice, MaineGeneral Addiction Medicine on Feb. 1, 2021. Addiction Medicine will provide comprehensive services to patients seeking treatment for substance use disorder, opiate use disorder and the treatment of other addictive substances. Services are offered at two locations, 9 Green Street in Augusta and Thayer Center for Health in Waterville.

MaineGeneral’s Addiction Medicine team uses an evidence-based approach to manage opioid, alcohol and stimulant and sedative (benzodiazepine) use disorders, with a focus on diagnosis, treatment and prevention. “From one-on-one appointments with addiction medicine physicians, to group meetings, individual counseling and needle exchange services, we are here to support patients and families through this process,” said Nicholas Gallagher, DO, medical director.

“MaineGeneral looks forward to providing more robust substance use disorder treatment services to our community,” said Chuck Hays, president/CEO. “For the last 15 years, we have provided medication-assisted treatment for opiate use disorder. Having an Addiction Medicine practice allows us to continue to effectively respond to the current opioid crisis in our community, as well as the ongoing prevalence of alcohol use disorder and its long-ranging effects on individuals and families.”

To learn more about MaineGeneral Addiction Medicine, please call 872-4151 or 207-621-3759 or visit http://www.mainegeneral.org/addiction-medicine.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings, Augusta Part 6

The Kresge Block.

by Mary Grow

Last week’s exploration of Augusta’s Water Street Historic District talked about the designated historic buildings on the northern half of the east (river) side of the street. This article will continue south along the river.

The Kresge Block at 241-249 Water Street is the newest of the Water Street buildings that rate individual Historic Places recognition. It was built in 1932 for S. S. Kresge’s five and dime store (which Wikipedia calls a department store).

(Sebastian Spering Kresge [July 31, 1867 – Oct. 18, 1966] was a Pennsylvanian who founded the S. S. Kresge chain of discount stores and the Kresge-Newark department stores. Bowdoin College’s Kresge Auditorium is named in his honor. The S. S. Kresge stores became Kmart in 1977.)

Before the Kresge Block, Augusta’s Museum in the Streets on-line brochure says, an Italianate building on the site housed Dirigo Business School, identified in 1886 as Dirigo Business College, which opened in 1867 and operated from various locations. An online source calls it a two-campus school when it lost accreditation and closed in 2003.

Wikipedia calls the Kresge Block “a distinctive and rare local example of commercial Moderne architecture.” The Museum in the Streets uses the term “Art Deco.”

Although built of the same brick and granite as its neighbors, the Kresge block stands out. It is only two stories tall, and its tan-colored bricks contrast with the reddish ones on either side. Between the second-floor windows, which are rectangular without arches, elegant three-piece pilasters rise to a flat front with, per Wikipedia, “a multicolor crosshatch brick pattern.”

The ground floor has a double storefront, metal-bordered windows (some sources call the borders bronze, others copper) and on the north end an entrance to the second floor with a metal hood above it. Professional offices occupied the second floor in the 1930s.

The Museum in the Streets says the Kresge store opened in a 4,500-square foot space. Amenities included “mahogany counters…and a modern soda fountain.”

In 1978 or 1979 Richard Cummings bought the building, which then housed a Jupiter Discount Store. He moved Stacy’s, the Hallmark stationery store he had opened in 1973 and named for his daughter, Stacy Gervais, into the ground floor. In 2007, the family restored the front of the building to its 1932 look.

A Dec. 14, 2015, Kennebec Journal article by Jessica Lowell announced the store’s closing at the end of the year, after almost 43 years in business. The article said Augusta developer Tobias Parkhurst would buy the Kresge Block in January 2016 and planned to rent two second-floor apartments and two separate ground-floor retail spaces.

Lowell’s article quoted Parkhurst and others involved in real estate who said the market for downtown buildings has turned upside down as shoppers drive to suburban malls and strips. In areas like Augusta’s Water Street, street-level retail spaces have lost value, while upper-floor office space and apartments are sought after.

The Kresge Block was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1986.

The Vickery Building.

Continuing south, the Vickery Building at 261 Water Street is another granite building, like the Libby-Hill Block described in the immediately previous article (see The Town Line, Feb. 4). Designed by John C. Spofford, it was built in 1895 to house Peleg O. Vickery’s printing and publishing business (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020, p. 10).

John Calvin Spofford (Nov. 25, 1854 – Aug. 19, 1936) was born in Webster, Maine. (The 1886 Maine Gazetteer describes Webster, incorporated in 1840, as the town immediately east of Lewiston, also bounded by Wales, Litchfield, Bowdoin and Lisbon. After some boundary changes with its neighbors, in 1971 its name also changed; instead of honoring statesman Daniel Webster of New Hampshire, it now honors Anasagunticook Chief Sabattus.)

Spofford’s training and career were primarily in the Boston area, but he designed buildings in Bangor, Belfast and Lewiston as well as Augusta. In 1890 and 1891 he designed the first addition to the Maine State Capitol.

The Vickery Building is four stories tall. As described in Wikipedia, it is in Italianate commercial style, with Ionic columns on each side of the recessed street-level door; elaborately trimmed windows on the second and third floors; and smaller fourth-floor windows topped by more trim and a parapet.

The Vickery Building was used commercially for most of its existence. The 1915 Maine Register contains an advertisement for C. E Downing Insurance in the Vickery Building. A May 5, 2020, Kennebec Journal article, again by Jessica Lowell, says until it went up for sale sometime before 2017, occupants included medical offices, the Vickery Café, the Children’s Discovery Museum and a drugstore.

In 2017, Andrew LeBlanc and Jona­than Miller, partners in Mastview Development, bought what Lowell describes as four adjoining buildings and began converting them into apartments. The new Vickery has 23 one- and two-bedroom apartments, she wrote, with monthly rents from $1,000 to $2,100.

She quotes LeBlanc and Miller as saying they want to preserve the historic exterior appearance of Water Street while providing comfortable modern living spaces that they expect will attract residents of varied occupations and income levels.

The Portland Builders website gives the building address as 257-271 Water Street and says a historic preservation grant helped create 13 of the apartment units. More information about the Vickery apartments is available on line at www.thevickery.com.

The 1895 Vickery Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 22, 1984.

The Doughty Block.

Immediately adjoining the Vickery Block, and if the address on the Portland Builders website is correct incorporated into the contemporary Vickery, is the Doughty Block at 265 Water Street. Built in 1890, it is the only six-story building in downtown Augusta. With only three windows across its façade, it is narrower as well as taller than its neighbors.

The exterior is brick, with arches over the windows, five horizontal stone bands separating the floors and a conspicuous cornice extending its flat roof. The online Maine encyclopedia calls its design “somewhat odd”; Wikipedia says it combines Italianate architect, by 1890 going out of style, with Renaissance, just coming into fashion.

The owner was Charles Doughty. The designer was Charles Fletcher, described by Wikipedia as “a prominent local builder.”

Captain Charles E. Nash, author of the chapters on Augusta history in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, says Charles F. Fletcher was born on Church Hill in northeastern Augusta in 1846. He began his career as a builder in 1873, and in 1889 partnered with George C. Robbins, of Sidney.

Church Hill was named for Samuel Church, who migrated from Connecticut to Maine around 1780 and settled in Augusta in April 1800. The contemporary Church Hill Road is on the east side of the river and runs north from Route 3 into southwestern Vassalboro.

The Doughty Block, like the Kresge Block, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1986.

Continuing south past the intersection of Water, Winthrop and Front streets, the Masonic Hall at 313-321 Water Street is another of John Spofford’s designs. Wikipedia calls it “a restrained interpretation of the Renaissance Revival.”

The 1894 building is four stories high and has enough street frontage to allow for five separate retail areas. Built of red brick, it has an arch over the center entrance and more arches over the top-floor windows, which are connected to the third-floor ones by brick columns.

In 1970, George R. Caswell wrote a history of the building and some of its occupants. The Maine State Library’s copy is available online.

Caswell’s sources included a June 14, 1915, speech by Henry E. Dunnock in observance of the Trinity Commandery’s 50th anniversary and a Jan. 18, 1919, speech to the Abnaki Club, by Lewis A. Burleigh. According to them, the building was the fifth permanent home for Augusta Masons (the third was a victim of the 1865 fire [see The Town Line, Feb. 4], and the organizations met in temporary quarters in an attic for a few months).

Caswell credits Herbert M. Heath for the hall and for founding the Abnaki Club. On May 14, 1894, Heath created the Masonic Building Association, with $40,000 in capital and a board of directors consisting of five members from each of four Masonic groups: “Bethlehem and Augusta Lodges, Cushnoc Chapter # [,] Trinity Commandery and 103 Masons.”

The Association paid Edwin C. Burleigh, Thomas H. Lang and Eugene Whitehouse $9,000 for the Water Street lot and hired Spofford to design the building. On June 14, 1894, they held a cornerstone-laying ceremony that began with a 500-person parade, reviewed twice by Governor Henry B. Cleaves and the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Maine, Horace H. Burbank.

The parade stopped at the corner of State and Winthrop streets, where Burbank laid the cornerstone for Lithgow Library (to be discussed later in this series). The marchers continued downhill to Water Street, where Burbank and other dignitaries laid the cornerstone for the Masonic Hall.

Caswell includes a list of the cornerstone’s contents. Among them were documents relating to the Masonic lodges, lists of 1894 state and city officials, two pictures of wooden buildings that had previously occupied the site, a photograph of Spofford and copies of the June 14, 1894, issues of the Kennebec Journal, Maine Farmer and New Age, Augusta’s three newspapers of the time.

The Masonic Temple was dedicated on April 18, 1895, the first day of a five-day Great Masonic Fair that raised more than $5,000 toward furnishing the new temple.

Caswell found Abnaki Club records showing the organization spent almost $4,000 on its rooms, which included a smoking room, a billiards room, an Octagon Room, a parlor and a cloakroom and passageway. One expenditure was to have the word “Abnaki” in a panel in the floor outside the Octagon Room; the passage and room floors and the panel were all made of oak. By the time Caswell wrote, the wood – and the word – were hidden under linoleum.

The Masonic Hall, now listed online as Bethlehem Lodge, at 317 Water Street, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1986, at the same time as the Kresge and Doughty blocks.

Main sources:

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous

Next: still more historic buildings on Water Street, in Augusta

Area students give to those in need

Donated items from students at St. Michael School, in Augusta.

Part of the mission of Maine Catholic schools is to accentuate the importance of service with the hope of building a lifelong commitment and appreciation in each student to give back to those in need. Last week, that lesson was on full display at schools across Maine during Maine Catholic Schools Week as students designed and completed many service projects to help local organizations

St. Michael School, Augusta

The students at St. Michael School collected hundreds of school supplies for refugee children in Maine that are served by Catholic Charities Maine’s Refugee and Immigration Services (RIS). Each grade was assigned different items to donate like crayons, books, toys, construction paper, chalk, erasers, water bottles, calculators, binders, pencil cases, folders, and markers.

“In completing the service projects, the students are learning service to others while demonstrating the values and faith they are getting in a Catholic education,” said Kevin Cullen. “To see the children so excited to give back is beautiful. They did a fantastic job, as always. I’m very proud of them.”

Mount Merici Academy, Waterville

The academy hosted a donation drive to help those in need at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter by collecting tissues, toilet paper, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, and socks. The items were used to assemble personal care kits for shelter residents.

Augusta educator named Maine Catholic schools teacher of the year

From left to right, St. Michael School Principal Kevin Cullen, Diocese of Portland Bishop Robert Deeley, Maine Catholic Schools Teacher of the Year Jennifer Hoffman. (photo courtesy of Diocese of Portland)

“In January of 2019, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer for the second time. This would require a major surgery and brutal treatments which would last at least two years,” said Kevin Cullen, principal of St. Michael School, in Augusta. “Someone needed to step up, and for us at St. Michael School, it was Jennifer Hoffman.”

English teacher, vice principal, and advisor are just a few of the many titles that Jennifer Hoffman successfully holds at St. Michael School, earning her the respect and reverence of the students, teachers, families, and staff.

On Friday, February 5, she added another: 2021 Maine Catholic Schools Teacher of the Year.

Bishop Robert Deeley, along with Marianne Pelletier, the superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools, and Fr. John Skehan, pastor of St. Michael Parish, in Augusta, presented the award to Mrs. Hoffman during a surprise assembly that included a tribute video featuring the glowing and loving remarks of her students.

“She cares about all of her students, and I love being in her class,” said one boy student.

“She is always willing to help us, and she is always happy,” added a girl student.

Moments later, the students rose to offer a standing ovation to Mrs. Hoffman as she was called to the front of the assembly held in the socially distanced school gym.

“I had no idea what was happening. I can’t believe it,” she said. “Wow!”

Bishop Deeley presented her with two special plaques marking the occasion, one for the school and one for Mrs. Hoffman that, fittingly, featured an apple for the teacher.

“In addition, Mrs. Hoffman receives $500 for her classroom, and $500 for herself,” said Pelletier, as Mrs. Hoffman was given bouquets of flowers by Cullen and her husband, who was in attendance along with her sister and son, Noah.

Maine Catholic Schools Teacher of the Year Jennifer Hoffman, left, receives the award from Bishop Robert Deeley at a recent assembly held at St. Michael School, in Augusta. (photo courtesy of Maine Diocese of Portland)

“You are outstanding at what you do,” added the bishop. “I’m so grateful for Mrs. Hoffman and all of our Catholic school teachers.”

Credit is something that Mrs. Hoffman is never quick to accept, the ‘downside’ of being one of the most humble and kind people to ever grace the halls in the nearly 130-year history of Catholic education in Augusta.

Which brings us back to Kevin Cullen, who, during the course of cancer treatments, was put on bed rest for almost four months, forcing him to miss graduation, enrollment efforts, report card creation, and tours for prospective families.

“In Catholic schools, we don’t have someone to step in because we do not have money for that,” said Cullen. “This was going to require our best full-time teacher to also be the full-time principal.”

Mrs. Hoffman maintained her full schedule of teaching junior high classes while assuming the additional duties of overseeing the entire school. She did it, to no surprise, with empathy and aplomb.

“She has worked for Catholic schools in Augusta for more than 25 years, the last 13 at St. Michael, and she is the walking embodiment of what a Catholic school educator needs to be in the 21st century,” said Cullen. “She is kind, patient, rigorous, fair, and faithful. Jesus is part of every lesson she teaches.”

Her ability to reach students with her dynamic and uplifting presence is well known in the area thanks to proven success.

“Our students take the NWEA test, as do almost all Catholic schools in Maine, and for the past five years, our seventh and eighth graders as a group have tested in the 99th percentile in Language Arts,” said Cullen. “Mrs. Hoffman oversees our accreditation work, organizing the entire staff to put together the work required to become an NEASC accredited school. She was also the first teacher on our staff to dive head first into remote learning when COVID-19 became a verb and we had to modify everything we did.”

The ability to change with the times is admirable, but the humanity and faith that Mrs. Hoffman delivers day in and day out at St. Michael are timeless.

“Her students know that she cares about them, that she loves them as her own, and that she will do whatever it takes to help them surpass their own goals,” said Cullen. “She doesn’t push people up the hill. Mrs. Hoffman is first up the hill leading the way, and everyone chooses to follow.”

Mrs. Hoffman resides in Augusta with her husband, Clay, and her two sons, Noah and Joshua.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings, Augusta Part 5

Historic map of Downtown Augusta.

by Mary Grow

The City of Augusta’s list of designated historic places includes four districts. The Water Street district, supplemented by recognition of individual buildings, covers a good part of the main business street that parallels the Kennebec River on the west bank.

The district is described as running from the Commercial Street intersection south to the old courthouse and post office at 295 Water Street, which is individually listed and was described previously (see The Town Line, Jan. 7).

Commercial Street angles inland from Water Street a long block north of the Calumet bridge and parallels Water Street to Winthrop Street, which descends from the west. Opposite Winthrop Street, Front Street runs toward and then south along the river, separating the southern end of the district from the riverbank.

Wikipedia says the Calumet bridge, built in 1973, was until 2009 the Father Curran Bridge. It was named after Rev. John J. Curran, who served from 1962 until 1972 at St. Augustine Church and who died in 1976. The legislature renamed the bridge after two claims of sexual misconduct were raised against the late priest and one was found credible.

The Water Street district was listed in 2017. Wikipedia says it qualified as a Historic District because it has a concentration of 19th-century commercial buildings, built “to serve an economy based on water transport and state services.”

The first three individually listed buildings on the east (river) side of Water Street, running from north to south, are as follows:

The Colonial Theater at 139 Water Street is the second incarnation of the second theater on the site. The original one burned in a 1912 fire that also destroyed nearby buildings; the new one succeeded it in 1913. It was designed by Harry S. Coombs (1878 – 1939), a Lewiston architect. Coombs’ building was heavily damaged in another fire in 1926 and was promptly repaired and expanded.

Wikipedia describes the style as Beaux Arts and Georgian Revival and says the 1926 version added Art Deco features. The building is brick on a concrete foundation, two stories high, large enough to cover most of the space between Water Street and the Kennebec River. The center section has three ground-level doors; a parapet raises the central roof above the level of the two side roofs.

The building was used as a theater until 1969. In its early days it showed silent films with a live orchestra accompanying them, including premiering silent films by Vassalboro native and author Holman Day (1865 – 1935). 1Seating capacity was over 1,200 people.

After the theater closed it was used for occasional events and for storage. On Oct. 8, 2014, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the longest lasting and most important theater in downtown Augusta and “an eclectic example of early 20th century design by a noted architect.”

A Dec. 2, 2019, Kennebec Journal article by Keith Edwards describes on-going restoration efforts, which began inside and by December 2019 involved straightening the parapet, which had leaned over the sidewalk, and repainting the front its 1926 yellowish-brown color. The project cost was estimated at up to $8.5 million.

On Sept. 16, 1865, a fire repeatedly described as the most destructive in Maine to that time destroyed almost the entire downtown area, from the wooden bridge across the Kennebec (built after the original bridge washed out in 1837, predecessor of the Calumet bridge) south to Winthrop Street and from the riverbank west across the railroad track that runs on the uphill side of Commercial Street.

Contemporary accounts, notably one in The New York Times, say more than 40 buildings housing more than 100 businesses and office were des­troyed (a later report said 80 buildings were destroyed and 20 more damaged). Losses were estimated at half a million dollars, not all covered by insurance.

Among the burned buildings were the post office, telegraph office and express office; an unfinished railroad depot; the federal “Quartermaster, Commissary and Pension Offices”; two hotels; all the city’s lawyers’ offices and banks (the banks saved their records and money); and all the miscellaneous retail businesses.

The only building south of the bridge that survived the fire is the 1862 Williams Block at 183-187 Water Street. Maine architect Francis H. Fassett (June 25, 1823 – Nov. 1, 1908) designed it.

Fassett’s Williams Block consists of three three-story brick commercial buildings sharing common walls. Second and third story windows have arches; the flat roof has a cornice that projects over the sidewalk.

Wikipedia says Fassett designed the building for Reuel Williams, a prominent 19th-century Augusta businessman and politician. The Williams Block is a comparatively subdued example of Fassett’s architectural style; one source calls it Italianate, in contrast to his more common Victorian Gothic structures like Augusta’s South Parish Congregational Church (to be described later in this series). The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Continuing south, the Libby-Hill Block at 227-233 Water Street is unusual in that it is built of granite. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission’s application for national recognition lists the architect as unknown. It says wealthy businessmen B. Libby and H. H. Hill had the block built in 1866, choosing granite to limit future fires.

The block is flat-roofed, with granite brackets supporting a granite cornice. This block also consists of three connected buildings, much modernized in exterior appearance.

According to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, the first businesses on the street floor, from north to south, were A. D. Millett’s “dry and fancy goods store”; George Dewell’s barbershop; and James Patterson’s “book and music store.” George Cony used the upper stories for a dancing school and an “assembly hall.”

The block was owned by Maine Savings Bank when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Hiram Hovey Hill, M.D.

Physician and Surgeon
(April 10, 1810 – December 2, 1889)

Dr. Hiram Hovey Hill was a widely respected physician and surgeon. On Tuesday, June 15, 1886, his fellow physicians honored him at a banquet at the Augusta House in recognition of his 50 years in practice. The brochure describing the occasion includes Hill’s speech of thanks, in which he summarized his early life.

Hill said he was born in Turner, and when he was 15 and 16 he lived with Mount Vernon’s village doctor and decided medicine would be his career. Beginning at 21, he studied under three Augusta and Hallowell doctors and took courses at the Medical School of Maine at Bowdoin for two years. After a year at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, he returned to Bowdoin to graduate, because he, said, he couldn’t afford to finish at Pennsylvania.

Hill started his practice in Augusta on June 15, 1836. He told his 1886 guests that he immediately “found as I began to have patients that I didn’t know much,” so he kept learning, developing a system of thorough examinations to ensure no symptoms were overlooked.

Soon after opening his office, Hill married Sarah Ann Carpenter, of Augusta, who died in 1864. In 1870 he married Clara Lothrop Dalton, of Norridgewock. He had no children.

Hill was among the founders of the Maine Medical Association and an early president, according to one of the association’s publications. He was active in promoting medical progress, working to improve the state medical school and helping found Maine General Hospital, in Portland, where he served as a consulting surgeon. (Francis Fassett was the architect for the original hospital building.)

Waterville (later Colby) College gave Hill an honorary degree in 1853.

Hill practiced almost until he died. The medical association publication says he was on a call on Oct. 5, 1889, when he fell in a dark stairway and seriously damaged his right hip. He never recovered, and was bed-ridden until he died at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 2. A multitude of fellow practitioners, patients and friends attended his funeral.

According to the 1886 brochure, 50 guests, mostly doctors, attended Hill’s testimonial dinner, and others sent regrets full of praise for the honoree. One non-medico was former Maine Governor Selden Connor. Another was Judge W. P. Whitehouse (see The Town Line, Dec. 10, 2020), who praised Hill’s testimony in Superior Court cases.

Francis H. Fassett, architect
(June 25, 1823 – Nov. 1, 1908)

Francis H. Fassett was born in Bath (Maine; the reference to Bath, United Kingdom, in Wikipedia is almost certainly an error). He left school at 14 to work in a store and at 18 was apprenticed to a local builder. He began designing almost immediately and in 1864 moved to Portland, seeking more opportunities. Portland suffered a major fire in 1866, and Fassett built many of the replacement buildings.

Fassett was Maine’s most prominent architect in the 1870s. He is credited with designing up to 400 public and private buildings. His style is described as High Gothic; many of his designs feature towers, turrets, and elaborately decorated door and window openings.

Surviving Portland buildings include the Francis Hotel and the former Baxter Library, on Congress Street; the Sacred Heart Church, on Mellen Street; and the three-story duplex Francis Fassett house, on Pine Street.

Fassett’s apprentices included his son Edward, who collaborated on Sacred Heart Church, and John Calvin Stevens (Oct. 8, 1855 – Jan. 25, 1940), a more famous architect than his preceptor. Among many libraries, churches and private houses (including Winslow Homer’s Prout’s neck studio), Stevens designed the 1901-1902 Governor Hill Mansion, in Augusta (to be described later in this series). In 1918 he remodeled the 1833 Blaine House (see more about the Blaine House in The Town Line, Jan. 21).

Fassett married twice, first to Mima Ann Welch (July 12, 1825 – Dec. 9, 1859) and in 1861 to Harriet Bagley Hudson (1829-1916). Edward Francis (1848-1922) was his first-born, followed by William Green (1850-1886), Walter Hudson (1852-1888) and Anna Elizabeth (1855 – ??). Their half-siblings born to Francis and Harriet were Frederick Gardiner (1865-1951), Mima (1867-1950) and Harriet Hudson (1869-1940).

Main sources:

Websites, miscellaneous

Next: more historic buildings, continuing south on the east side of Augusta’s Water Street.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings – Augusta Part 3

The Kennebec Arsenal compound in the early years, above, and the arsenal today. (mainepreservation photos)

by Mary Grow

Augusta Part 3

The previous articles in this series on historic places talked about some early Augusta sites and buildings. Two more, besides the Cushnoc Archaeological site and Fort Western discussed last week, are on both the National Register of Historic Places and the list of National Historic Landmarks. They are the Kennebec Arsenal on the east bank of the Kennebec and the Blaine House on the west bank, beside the state capitol building.

The Kennebec Arsenal was built as a result of strained relations between the United States and Britain, which peaked in the War of 1812 (June 1812 – February 1815); and of later border disputes between the State of Maine and the abutting Canadian province of New Brunswick, which peaked in the Aroostook War (1838-1839).

During the War of 1812, British warships repeatedly attacked Maine. The British seized Fort Sullivan, in Eastport, (built in 1808-1809) in July 1814, capturing 65 soldiers. (This writer has found no suggestions why the fort was named Sullivan. Perhaps after New Hampshire’s Revolutionary War General and later state Governor John Sullivan [Dec. 17, 1740 – Jan. 23, 1795]?)

In September 1814, British General John Coape Sherbrooke led the Penobscot Expedition. With 3,000 troops from Halifax, he defeated American forces as far up the Penobscot River as Hampden and Bangor, and seized Machias.

Following this success, the British renamed the Machias fort Fort Sherbrooke and held Castine and the territory east until the war ended. They called the area New Ireland. The February 1815 Treaty of Ghent returned the area to the United States, although disputes over islands near the border continued and, Wikipedia says, Eastport was not returned to the United States until June 30, 1818.

The Wikipedia article adds that the departing British took back to Halifax 10,750 pounds that Castine had accumulated from tariffs and used the money to found Dalhousie University.

The end of the war did not settle the border between the United States and the Canadian province of New Brunswick. There were arguments over what is now northern Aroostook County and southern Madawaska County, as settlers from both sides moved into the area.

Consequently, in 1827 the federal government developed plans for a major arsenal in Augusta, on a site south of Fort Western accessible by ocean-going ships. The arsenal was built between 1828 and 1838.

Wikipedia says the original, mostly granite buildings, built between 1828 and 1831, were “commandant’s and officer quarters, barracks, stables, a carriage shop, and the main armory.” By 1838, the commandant’s building was enlarged and redesigned in Greek Revival style, and two magazines, a munitions laboratory, an office, a wooden stable and a granite and iron perimeter fence were completed. Other sources list buildings differently, but it is clear there were at least eight early granite buildings.

In 1838, Maine and New Brunswick sent soldiers to their common border. United States General Winfield Scott came to the Kennebec Arsenal to negotiate with his friend John Harvey, then Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick. The two agreed to recall the respective militias and the dispute cooled.

In August 1842 the Webster-Ashburton Treaty established the boundary between the United States and Canada that exists today, including the Maine-New Brunswick line that runs along the Saint John and Saint Francis rivers. (Webster was Daniel Webster from New Hampshire, at that time United States Secretary of State; he is also known for his role in negotiating the Compromise of 1850. Ashburton was Alexander Baring, First Baron Ashburton, a British financier and diplomat.)

After Maine became less significant in international affairs, the arsenal became less vital. Wikipedia says the government made weapons in it during the Mexican War (1846-1848) and the Civil War (1861-1865); but it was too remote to be practical for major production.

The federal government closed the Arsenal, issuing the order in 1901 and finishing the process in 1903, and transferred the property to the State of Maine, owner of the Maine Insane Hospital (later the Augusta Mental Health Institute [AMHI]). The mental hospital was established by legislation in 1834 and the first buildings were completed in 1840, adjoining the Arsenal grounds on the south.

By the early 20th century, the state needed more hospital beds. Beginning in 1905, the wooden buildings on the Arsenal grounds were demolished and the granite buildings were redone and integrated into the hospital.

An on-line site describes the building called the “Old Max,” designed by Lewiston architects Coombs and Gibbs and added at the eastern side of the grounds in 1907-1909. Four stories high, built of granite and brick and designed to harmonize with the earlier Arsenal buildings, it was for maximum security patients, those too dangerous for the hospital and too mentally ill for prison.

Beginning in the early 1970s, Maine and other states moved to a new model of mental health care that minimized confinement in institutions. State officials debated what to do with the formal Arsenal/hospital. The Old Max became a state office building.

The Kennebec Arsenal was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in August 1970 and as a National Historic Landmark in February 2000.

In 2004 Save America’s Treasures, a National Park Service grant program, provided funds that state officials used for work on the granite wall and iron and granite fence around part of the original Arsenal property.

Three years later, the state sold the Arsenal property to a private company. A contemporary description lists eight major buildings on the property, plus the fence and gate, retaining walls and a wharf. Wikipedia says there are six buildings.

Conditions of the 2007 sale included a requirement that the new owner preserve and maintain the property. However, the owner let the Arsenal deteriorate to the point where in 2013 Maine sued to force the company to return the property. The owner did some work and promised more, Wikipedia says; but by 2013, the Arsenal was listed as a critically endangered historic landmark.

Contemporary photos of the Arsenal show clearly the light-colored interlocking granite blocks. An on-line site describes it as “one of the best and earliest surviving examples” of a 19th-century federal munitions depot.

Other descriptions feature deterioration, vandalism and graffiti.

Judging from two recent letters to the editor in the Central Maine newspapers, there has been no improvement. In December 2020, a Manchester resident referred to proposals to renovate the Arsenal for commercial or residential space and mourned the failure of city, county and state governments to act.

A second writer echoed the concerns in January 2021and extended them to the entire AMHI site. He called it a “historic gem” that should be preserved as representative of an important part of social and medical history.

The Blaine House, also called the James G. Blaine House, is the fourth Augusta property that is designated both a Historic Place and a Historic Landmark. It is part of Augusta’s Capital Complex Historic District. The Capitol building and Capital Park are also part of the complex and additionally have individual Historic Places listings.

The house stands at 192 State Street, just north of the Capitol building. It is named for James G. Blaine (1830-1893), whose life was summarized earlier in this series (see The Town Line, Aug. 20, 2020).

The Blaine House today. (Internet photo)

The Blaine House was originally a Federal style mansion, built in 1833 by a retired mariner, Captain James Hall. In 1862, Blaine bought it as a gift for his wife, the former Harriet Stanwood.

In the 1870s, Blaine had the original building remodeled and enlarged, making it Victorian and Italian in style and putting an addition on the west (back) side. The house remained in the family until 1919; Wikipedia says it housed the state Committee for Public Safety during World War I.

James and Harriet Blaine had seven children. When Harriet Blaine died in 1903, she left the house to three surviving children and two grandsons. The youngest daughter, Harriet Blaine Beale (1871-1958), had a son, Walker Blaine Beale, for whom his father, Truxton Beale, bought out the other heirs.

Walker Beale was killed in France in World War I, and his share of the house returned to his parents. Truxton Beale gave his share to Harriet, by then his ex-wife, making her sole owner.

In 1919, Harriet Blaine Beale donated the house to the State of Maine in memory of her son, specifying it was to be used as the Governor’s house. She became a writer, publishing children’s books and editing a collection of her mother’s letters. She died at her New York City home and is buried in Bar Harbor.

The legislature in 1919 accepted the gift and the condition. Maine architect John Calvin Stevens remodeled the building in neo-Colonial style, and in 1921 Carl Milliken became the first governor to live there. Most of his successors have also chosen to live in the historic house.

Governors have used the house to entertain famous guests, including President Ulysses Grant, advocate for the blind Helen Keller and aviator Amelia Earhart. An on-line source says some chief executives used it to promote Maine; for example, Governor Louis Brann, who served from January 1933 to January 1937, attracted large crowds to his celebrations of Maine Summer Visitors’ Day.

The Blaine House was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. In 1989, Governor John McKernan started a restoration program that included creation of Friends of the Blaine House, a nonprofit organization that helps the state fund building maintenance. Friends of the Blaine House has a website, www.blainehouse.org, with information about the building, the organization, the gift shop and tours.

Wikipedia says in 2014 heat pumps were installed to reduce the horrendous heating bill.

When current Governor Janet Mills opened the annual Christmas light display on the building on Dec. 11, 2020, she called it “a Celebration of Resilience.”

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings – Part 2

Fort Halifax, in Winslow.

by Mary Grow

Augusta Part 2

As mentioned in the first article on historic places in Augusta (see The Town Line, Jan. 7), four are on the National Park Service’s Register of National Historic Landmarks (as is Fort Halifax, in Winslow). The Augusta sites, listed in historical order, are the Cushnoc Archaeological Site, Fort Western, the Kennebec Arsenal and the Blaine House.

All except the Blaine House are on the east bank of the Kennebec River. Fort Western is the northernmost, just off Cony Street, northwest of City Hall.

The Cushnoc Archaeological Site is southwest of City Hall, north of the waterfront park. The old Arsenal building is south of the Route 202 bridge.

Wikipedia dates the Cushnoc archaeological site to 1628 and describes it as the location of a trading post built by English settlers from the Plymouth Colony. The name Cushnoc is an Anglicized version of a native word meaning “head of tide.” Under a patent from London, post officials traded with the Kennebec Valley Abenakis, exchanging corn and other agricultural and manufactured products for wild-animal furs.

Fort Western, in August

Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, says no description of the post survives. He surmises it was a wooden building, with a bark or wood roof and window-panes of oiled paper, and was surrounded by a high wooden fence.

In 1634, an interloper from the Piscataqua Plantations at the mouth of the Piscataqua River named John Hocking tried to share the trade. He sailed past the post and anchored upriver. John Alden and John Howland from the Mayflower emigrants were in charge of the post. Howland, who was about six years older than Alden and previously holder of several offices in the colony’s government, ordered Hocking away.

Hocking refused to leave, so Howland sent three men from the post in a canoe to cut his ship adrift. According to the dramatic account by Robert F. Huber in the Howland Quarterly, the quarterly journal of the Pilgrim John Howland Society (first published in 1936), the current bore the canoe away after the men cut only one cable. Howland added a fourth man, Moses Talbot (or Talbott, in Huber’s story), and sent them out again.

When Hocking threatened them with firearms, Howland repeatedly called to him not to shoot them – they were only obeying orders – but to shoot him instead. Nonetheless, Hocking shot Talbot in the head; another man in the canoe promptly shot Hocking, who died instantly.

Hocking’s crewmen reported his death to England, failing to mention that he had fired the first shot. Investigations followed, creating concern about British interference in colonial affairs and a jurisdictional disagreement between the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies. The investigators vindicated Howland as representing the owner of exclusive trading rights.

By 1661, profits were dwindling. The original traders sold their license and the premises to other Boston merchants, who kept the post going sporadically for a few more years.

Kingsbury quotes a source who said overgrown remains of the trading post building were still visible as late as 1692.

Excavation of the site began in 1984. Over the next three years, experts outlined the wall that surrounded the post and found postholes where there had been buildings. Wikipedia lists artifacts from the site including “tobacco pipes, glass beads, utilitarian ceramics, French and Spanish earthenwares, and many hand-forged nails.”

The archaeological site has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989 and on the list of National Historic Landmarks since 1993.

Fort Halifax, in Winslow, and Fort Western, in Augusta, were both built in 1854, as was the road between them. Which fort was built first is not entirely clear. Kingsbury says unequivocally Fort Halifax was started first and Fort Western second, as an auxiliary. The Fort Western website says construction of that fort was finished in October 1754. Several sources say Fort Halifax construction began on July 25, 1754, and was not finished until 1756.

Fort Western was built by order of the Kennebec Proprietors, also called the Plymouth Company, the organization of first British-based and later Boston-based landowners mentioned in several previous articles (see especially The Town Line, July 2, 2020). The fort was sited just upriver from the former trading post site. It was intended as a supply depot for Fort Halifax, 17 miles farther inland, and as protection for settlements the Proprietors hoped to create.

According to the on-line Maine encyclopedia, the fort was named to honor Thomas Western, a resident of Sussex, England, who was a friend of Massachusetts Colonial Governor William Shirley.

The website for Fort Western gives a history of the fort in the context of the “great contest between cultures” going on in the 1750s. British from Massachusetts and French from Québec both sought influence over the Kennebec River Valley and the Natives who lived there.

Wikipedia describes Fort Western as a rectangular palisaded area about 120-by-220 feet. It was built on a hill, so that its defenders could see more than a mile up and down the Kennebec River.

There were 24-foot-square blockhouses on the southwest and northeast corners and 12-foot-square watch towers on the other two corners. The main house, two stories high, was 32-by-100-feet; a diagram shows it along the east side of the enclosed ground.

Kingsbury’s description adds an outer and sturdier palisade 30 feet from the inner one that started at the river on both ends and enclosed three sides of the fort.

A July 24, 2020, Kennebec Journal article says the main building’s walls were (and are) a foot thick, built from timber floated upriver from Richmond. Two 600-pound cannons in the second story could fire four-pound balls as much as a mile.

Captain James Howard from Massachusetts was the first fort commander, with his sons, Samuel and William, and a company of 15 men, relocated from Fort Richmond farther down the Kennebec.

Supplies came from Boston as often as four times a year on schooners and sloops that navigated the river as far as the head of tide. From Fort Western soldiers took them to Fort Halifax in smaller, flat-bottomed river boats or on sleds over the crude road along the east bank of the river.

When they were not moving supplies, the men spent their time on what the Fort website calls routine duties – collecting firewood, feeding themselves and repairing boats.

The fort was never attacked by either Natives or the French. At least once a supply boat was fired on from the wooded river bank. And one member of the garrison, a private named Edward Whalen, was captured in May 1755 as he carried dispatches north. The website says he remained a captive, first in North America and then in France, until he was exchanged in 1760.

After British forces captured Québec in 1759 during the French and Indian War, the Kennebec was more peaceful, even though the war was not formally ended until the 1763 Treaty of Paris. The already small Fort Western garrison was reduced further, but the fort was manned until late 1767.

In 1769, Howard bought the fort and about 900 acres of land around it, for 270 British pounds, and became the first permanent settler in the area. A website called Legends of America says he and his sons made the main building into a house and a store. Son William and his wife Martha moved in around 1770; James’s brother John joined them later.

The Proprietors’ efforts to encourage settlers bore fruit after the region became safe. The Howards’ store prospered; they formed a shipping company, S & W Howard, that promoted trade with Boston; and Kingsbury says the small community welcomed the sawmill James Howard built on Howard’s Brook (now Riggs’ Brook), a mile north of the fort.

The Howards also trapped and sold alewives during their migrations to and from upriver spawning grounds.

Kingsbury says in 1770 James Howard built a large and elegant house that became “the manor house of the hamlet.” As the settlement’s second magistrate, in 1763 he officiated at Cushnoc’s first wedding, the marriage of his daughter Margaret to Captain Samuel Patterson. Later he served as a judge of the court of common pleas. He died May 14, 1787, aged 85.

Cushnoc archeological site.

The Legends website says James Howard’s son William lived in the former fort until he died in 1810. Kingsbury lists William Howard – this writer guesses the same William Howard – as Augusta’s first treasurer, elected at the town’s organizational meeting April 3, 1797, and credits him for first envisioning, in 1785, the dam across the Kennebec that was built in 1837. William Howard was succeeded as treasurer in 1802 by Samuel Howard (probably William’s son, born 1770, died 1827).

As previously related, Benedict Arnold and his men stopped at the fort on their way to Québec in September 1775, the last military use of the premises (see The Town Line, Jan. 7, 2021). The Legends website says the men camped outdoors while Arnold and four other officers were accommodated indoors. In addition to their own business as they transferred to Major Reuben Colburn’s bateaux, the soldiers found time to make repairs to the building.

When a public meeting was held, the fort was the site. The area around the fort was the northern village when the Town of Hallowell was created in 1771, and town meetings were held in the fort until voters approved building a town meeting house in 1782.

After the 1770s, the palisades and then the blockhouses were torn down. Kingsbury says the southwestern blockhouse stood until around 1834. What remained of Fort Western was included in Augusta when Augusta split off from Hallowell in 1797.

At some time, Wikipedia says, the Howard family sold the former fort and the main building became a tenement – not merely a tenement, according to the Legends website, but the center of a slum neighborhood whose inhabitants supported themselves by selling liquor illegally, creating “an unsavory menace to the city.”

Publisher Guy Gannett (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020) was a Howard descendant, the Legends site says, and he bought the former family home in 1919. In 1920 he and his family restored the main building and built a new stockade (rebuilt again in 1960) and two blockhouses. The Gannett family later donated Fort Western to Augusta.

As the oldest wooden fort in the United States, Fort Western has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1969 and the list of National Historic Landmarks since 1973. Now a replica of an 18th-century trading post, it is normally open to the public from June through October.

Illustrations with the Kennebec Journal article mentioned above show trading post supplies, a bedroom with a curtained bed and more period furniture and household goods. These and other on-line contemporary illustrations show historic interpreters in 18th-century clothing welcoming visitors. The Maine Tourism site adds that the museum is a center for Kennebec Valley archaeological research and the home base for two companies of 18th-century military re-enactors, one named for James Howard.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892)

Websites, miscellaneous

Next: two more Augusta historic places/landmarks, the Arsenal and the Blaine House

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings – Part 1

Kennebec County Courthouse

by Mary Grow

Part 1

The City of Augusta has 44 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, but some overlap. Nonetheless, the capital city has a substantial share of the 136 historic places in Kennebec County.

Some of the buildings are private houses built for, owned by or otherwise connected with prominent individuals and families. Many public or formerly public buildings are also on the list.

Four of Augusta’s designated historic sites (and Fort Halifax, in Winslow) are also on the National Park Service’s list of National Historic Landmarks. They are the Cushnoc Archaeological Site, Fort Western, the Kennebec Arsenal and the Blaine House.

Kennebec Arsenal (photo by Joe Phelan)

According to the National Register on-line list, the earliest Augusta listing, on Oct. 1, 1969, was the Arnold Trail to Québec. Three buildings were recognized in 1974: the Kennebec County Courthouse at 95 State Street, the Lot Morrill house at 113 Winthrop Street and the Old Post Office and Court House at 295 Water Street.

The most recent is listing is the Hartford Fire Station, at 1 Hartford Square, listed on Jan. 1, 2018.

The Arnold Trail marks Colonel Benedict Arnold’s march to Québec in 1775 with an army of 1,100 men. This unsuccessful attempt to capture the British stronghold has been commemorated in history books and in the novel Rabble in Arms by Maine writer Kenneth Roberts. The Daughters of the American Revolution placed markers along the trail from Pittston, south of Augusta, to Eustis, almost on the Canadian border.

The marker in Pittston, on the east bank of the river, was placed in 1913 at the site of Arnold’s headquarters at Major Reuben Colburn’s house. In preparation for the expedition, General George Washington directed Colburn to send scouts up-river to evaluate the route and watch for British spies. An on-line site says the two men were Samuel Berry and Dennis Getchell, from Vassalboro.

Washington also ordered a fleet of 200 bateaux equipped with both paddles and poles. (A bateau is a flat-bottomed boat designed for use in shallow water; photographs of 20th-century reenactments show Colburn’s craft with high flared sides and pointed bows and sterns.) Workers at Colburn’s shipyard built the bateaux, using green lumber; the boats leaked copiously, soaking the expedition’s supplies of food and ammunition.

Old Fort Western

Arnold moved his headquarters north to Fort Western on Sept. 23, 1775. Another on-line site shows a marker and a photograph of a punch bowl Arnold is said to have used at the fort.

The DAR installed the next marker up the river in 1919, on the east bank across from the Winslow Congregational Church to mark the expedition’s landing place on Sept. 26, 1775.

Two more markers had been installed in 1917 on the west side of the river. One is in Waterville’s Castonguay Square to show where the soldiers re-embarked after carrying their bateaux around Ticonic Falls. The other is in Fairfield, at the intersection of Willow Street with Route 201 and Upper Main Street, between downtown Fairfield and Interstate 95; it marks one of the places where soldiers stopped to repair the bateaux.

The Kennebec County Courthouse, another early listing, is at 95 State Street. On-line sources say it was designed by architect James Cochran and built in 1829 by Robert Vose, under Cochran’s supervision.

The two-story granite building is in early Greek Revival style, with Doric columns across the front on both levels. The center block is topped by a wooden belfry. When the bell tower was restored in 2000, a plaque was added dedicating it to legal personnel and others “who under this tower have contributed to the impartial and effective administration of equal justice under the law.”

The original courthouse was enlarged twice, in 1851 and in 1907, in each case using granite and taking care to preserve the architectural style. The architect for the 1907 addition was almost certainly George Henri (or Henry) Desmond (1874 – 1965), of Massachusetts. Desmond also worked on the 1911 expansion of the capitol building.

Augusta sessions of the Maine Supreme Court were held in the courthouse for 140 years, from its opening in 1830 until 1970.

Between 2012 and 2015 a modern judicial center was built on the east side of the old building, connected by a skywalk. That building was designed by PDT Architects, of Portland, (since 2019, CHA Architecture). Most court business is now conducted in the new building.

Lot Morrill House

The two and a half story brick Lot Morrill house on Winthrop Street is also an example of Greek Revival architecture, built about 1830. Lot Myrick Morrill (1813-1883) was born in Belgrade. He was a lawyer who entered politics as a Democrat and temperance advocate and was elected a Democratic state representative in 1854.

In 1856, he switched to the anti-slavery Republican party and served as a state senator in 1856 and as Maine’s 28th governor from January 1858 to January 1861. He represented Maine in the United States Senate from January 1861 (when Hannibal Hamlin resigned his seat to become vice-president under Abraham Lincoln) until July 1876, when he resigned to become President Ulysses Grant’s Secretary of the Treasury.

Morrill bought the Winthrop Street house in 1845 and it remained in the family until his widow, Charlotte, died in 1918. In 1919 the successors sold the house to John Edward Nelson (1874 – 1955).

Nelson was born in China (Maine) and educated in Waterville and at the Friends School, in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from Colby College, Class of 1898, and earned a law degree from the University of Maine at Orono in 1904. He practiced in Waterville until 1913 and then in Augusta.

Nelson served as a Republican in the United States House of Representatives from March 1922 to March 1933, losing a bid for another term in 1932 and returning to his law practice until he retired in 1946.

Wikipedia says in 1931 the Fish Committee (chaired by New York Representative Hamilton Fish) recommended outlawing the Communist Party and taking other steps to discourage Communism. Nelson, a member of the committee, wrote a minority report describing the committee majority’s anti-Communism as hysteria and saying there was no serious domestic threat and no need for new laws.

The Lot Morrill house is currently owned by Sandor, a Maine-based Limited Liability Company, and is described on-line as a multiple occupancy building.

The old court house and post office at 295 Water Street is the third of Augusta’s earliest-listed historic buildings. One source lists it as the Olde Federal Building. Several sources call it Maine’s best surviving example of the Romanesque Revival style of architecture. It is built of Hallowell granite, two and a half stories tall, with a central tower, smaller side towers and dramatic arches at street level.

The building was designed by Mifflin Emlen Bell (1847-1904), described in Wikipedia as the supervising architect with the United States Treasury Department from 1883 to 1887, and his successor, William Alfred Freret (born Jan. 19, 1833, if any reader would like to give him a thought on the anniversary; died Dec. 5, 1911). It opened in January 1890. Wikipedia says it cost $178,281.20, and its conveniences included steam heat and a hydraulic freight elevator.

Augusta needed a large new post office by 1890 because of the volume of mail generated by publishing businesses in the city, including those of E. C. Allen, Peleg O. Vickery and William Gannett (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020).

Architect Bell worked on the final stages of the Washington Monument and designed the federal buildings for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, as well as many post office buildings, including those in Keokuk, Iowa; Quincy, Illinois; Aberdeen, Mississippi; Auburn, New York; and Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Freret succeeded Bell when Bell resigned and served from June 1887 until either 1888 or March 1890 (Wikipedia gives both dates). He was a New Orleans native who had served in the Confederate army. Most of his other government buildings are in the South – post offices in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Carolinas, for example.

Wikipedia’s only reference to a Freret-designed building north of the Mason-Dixon Line is the former post office in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, now City Hall. It resembles Augusta’s old post office, and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since March 1972.

Augusta’s former post office and court house has not been used for federal government purposes since the 1960s. It is now a commercial building owned by Vickery Downing Associates Inc., of Yarmouth.

Main sources:

Websites, miscellaneous

Next: more historic sites in Maine’s capital city.