February, 2001 Newsletter
of the Androscoggin Historical Society No.
by Douglas I. Hodgkin
There is grave danger that Lewiston will soon
lose another of its historic buildings.
The local newspaper, The Sun-Journal, plans to expand its
operations to encompass the area bound by Park, Pine, Bates, and Ash Streets,
except for the Lewiston Post Office and the Bradford House, more commonly known
as the Cote Law Offices. At this
writing, the newspaper plans to demolish several apartment houses, an office
building, and the Elks Building.
Lewiston Lodge #371 of the Benevolent and
Protective Order of Elks, established on July 7, 1897, initially met at 36
Lisbon Street. On November 23, 1905,
the lodge purchased the lot on the corner of Ash and Middle Streets and soon
constructed its new facility. The Elks
have been an important part of the community ever since, both in their
provision of local leadership and in the social events held in their building.
Their exalted rulers have included former
Maine governor James B. Longley. Other
leaders of the organization who have been important political or business
leaders have included Alton A. Lessard, Frederick A. Hall, Frank M. Drigotas,
Frank Coffin, Vincent Belleau, H. L. Gosselin, and Laurier A. Roy.
The building has not been placed upon any
list of historic places. This is
primarily a function of how the lines for a historic building survey were
drawn. The line happened to go down
Middle Street and the Elks Building happens to be on the wrong side of the
Just because a building is outside that
arbitrarily defined survey area that focussed on the core of downtown Lewiston
does not mean it cannot be of historic or architectural note.
Simply a look at the building should impress
the observer. Its style is elegant and
it contributes to the sense of place created by the Post Office (which seems to
echo some of the Elks Building features), the telephone company building, and
the Healy Asylum.
The Elks have moved to a new place on Lisbon
Road. On May 30, 1997, they sold their
old building to boxer Joey Gamache, who planned to open a restaurant. He started renovation, but when his
financing fell through, he sold the building to Pier Properties, Inc., a real
estate speculation firm of Portland, Maine, April 9, 1999. The latter apparently provided no
maintenance, and openings allowed pigeons and weather to enter. It is reported that there is damage to the
inside as a result of this neglect.
The owners of the Sun-Journal argue
that this damage makes it difficult to preserve the building. Moreover, they argue that its layout makes
it difficult to provide handicapped access.
However, historic preservation and reuse does not require that the
insides of a building be preserved intact.
From a community’s perspective, the exterior is of most value. Demolition of the entire building would
create a hole in the landscape. The
interior may be restructured to the owners’ needs.
Until recently, the Sun-Journal kept
their plans secret in order to obtain the properties without the inflation
of asking price that would occur if
owners became aware of the plans.
However, if historic preservationists now question the plan, they will
be rebuffed with the argument that money and time has been sunk in current
plans; why did we not raise questions earlier?
The newspaper is a family-owned
business. We should hope that this
family with its local roots would have some concern for the historic physical
landscape of the community. This editor
urges you to contact the members of the James Costello family if you believe
that the Elks Building is worth preservation.
Write to the editor of the paper. If your letters are published, the publicity
might help lead the business side of the newspaper to change its plans.
It also should be mentioned that the City of
Lewiston’s Economic Development Department is aiding and abetting these
plans. The overriding concern seems to
be retention of jobs in the downtown.
If you wish historic preservation to be taken into consideration,
contact Gregory A. Mitchell at [email protected]
or 207-784-2951, Ext. 302. It would not
hurt to speak to Mayor Kaileigh Tara or members of the City Council, as well.
COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
In June, 2000, the Maine State Archives sent
us free software titled Collections Management System, which is appropriate for
historical societies and similar organizations. It standardizes data management for historical organizations
around the state. This may in the
future enable researchers and others to determine what our holdings are through
a centralized system.
The following advice was published in Lewiston
Evening Journal, February 11, 1869:
But few persons, comparatively, understand how to
apply a blanket to a horse to protect him from contracting cold. We frequently see the blanket folded double
and laid across the rump and a part of the animal’s back, leaving those parts
of the body which need protection entirely exposed to the cold storms or
Those parts of the body of a horse which surround the
lungs require the benefit of a blanket in preference to his flanks and
rump. When we are exposed to a current
of cold air, to guard against any injury from contracting cold, we shield our
shoulders, neck, chest and back. If
these parts be protected, the lower part of the body will endure a degree of
cold far more intense, without any injury to the body, than if the lungs were
not kept warm with suitable covering.
The same thing holds good in the protection of horses. The blanket should cover the neck, withers
and shoulders, and be brought around the breast, and buttoned or buckled
together as closely as a man buttons his overcoat when about to face a driving
storm. Let the lungs of a horse be kept
well protected with a heavy blanket, and he will seldom contract cold, even if
the hindmost parts of his body are not covered.
Many of our best teamsters protect the breast of their
horses by a piece of heavy cloth about two feet square,
Merton C. Leavitt of Turner, a member of our
board of directors, died 11 December 2000.
He was also a member of the Turner Natural History Club and of the New
England Tool Collectors Association.
His other interests included photography, fishing, hunting, camping, and
gardening. The Society will miss his
contributions, and we extend our condolences to his family and friends.
The next meeting of Androscoggin Historical
Society is Tuesday, February 27, 2001, at 7:00 P.M., in the County
Building. Please note time change.
Topic: “A Busy Cradle: The Seven Famous
Presenter: Barbara Arsenault of Norlands, Livermore
We have received corporate donations from the
N D T Cleaning Services of Greene, Maine
Custom Masonry Inc. of Wales, Maine
The Cote Corporation (Crane &
Please patronize them if you need the type of
services that they provide.
from the lower end of the collar. This
is an excellent practice in cold weather, as the most important part of the
animal is constantly sheltered from the cold wind, especially when traveling
toward a strong current. The forward
end of horse-blankets should be made to fit a closely around the breast of a
horse as our garments fit our bodies.
Most horses will contract a violent cold almost as soon as a man, if not
blanketed while they stand still after having been exercised so violently as to
produce profuse perspiration. So long
as a horse is kept in motion there is little danger of his suffering any
inconvenience from cold winds. But
allow him to stand still for a few minutes, while loading or unloading, without
a heavy blanket to protect his shoulders and lungs, and he will take cold
sooner than some men. – Exchange.
Newspaper articles in our files provide an
outline of Lewiston postal service, which began 1799. From the Lewiston Evening Journal, February 4, 1939:
The story has been told, recently, of how Dan Read,
the pioneer postmaster here, used for his first “delivery truck” an
old-fashioned wheel-barrow, such as was common on the farms for harvesting
vegetables and fruit. But that probably
was long after he began the postal service here.
For the first “office” was in his house . . . that
stood near the river on a site near the present Broad street bridge and the
For 38 years Dan Read was Uncle Sam’s representative
in handling the Lewiston mails. . . .
No-one now knows the site of the building in which the
post office next was located, beyond the fact that it was “under the hill,”
meaning on lower Main street near the North bridge. It was moved from Read’s house to this new location in 1856. That was about the time the cotton mills
were going up in Lewiston.
It could not have remained there long, for the next
site was on the east bank of the canal, in a two-story wooden building that
stood on what is now the gate-house lawn, between that structure and the
present B. Peck block [now the L. L. Bean telemarketing center]. It must have been a convenient spot, facing
Lisbon street, which was beginning to be developed for small shops and stores.
Then came a day when the townspeople turned out to
watch an unusual episode, about 1861.
For the post office building was hauled down Canal street to Ash and up
the knoll, to take its place at the north-east corner of Lisbon and Ash
[currently occupied by People’s Bank offices]. . . .
Benjamin I. Leeds, agent for the Franklin Company, who
owned the building, at first leased this Lisbon and Ash street lot; then he
bought it, about 1871, for the modest sum of $3500.
For many years this three-story structure housed a
clothing store on the ground floor.
John Straw, civil engineer, had an office in the building; and Curtis
& Ross, photographers, occupied the top floor. . . .
For a decade the early residents did their postal
business at Lisbon and Ash; and then came another transfer, this time to the
original city building on Pine street, which was put up about 1872. . . .
When that structure burned in 1892 the post office
went up in flames. But temporary
quarters were established across the street, in Savings Bank Block, on the
southwest corner of Pine and Lisbon.
In the meantime, the first Federal post office
structure to be erected here was started on the Ash street location, at the
southeast corner of Park street. That
was the granite building which was torn down . . . to give place to the present
modern brick building.
A Lewiston Journal Magazine Section
article of October 26, 1963, notes the following:
Lewiston’s former [granite] Post Office was the only
one in the United States that was embellished with the Irish shamrock.
There were two of them – one on each side of the
doorway arch on the Park St. entrance.
They were fashioned from granite, about a foot in diameter, and handsome
What makes them of historical and sentimental
importance is that they were the only shamrocks ever placed on any Federal
building in the United States.
As nearly as can be determined it was the fierce pride
of an Irishman – Daniel J. McGillicuddy – that made this possible. Though he was later to represent Maine in
Washington as a distinguished Congressman it was while he was Mayor of Lewiston
that he brought about the miracle through influence in the Nation’s Capital. .
From 1895 until 1934, 39 years, the office was at it’s
[sic] present location, but was much too small to handle the needs of the
The Post Office was housed in the Wade & Dunton
building at the corner of Park and Oak Sts. as temporary quarters while the old
building was demolished and the new office erected. Feb. 4, 1935 it opened in it’s [sic] present quarters. . . .
An article in the Journal, December
31, 1900, notes early politics of the postmastership:
It is recorded that in August, 1799, when, after many
delays [official appointment was July 15, 1799], the mail from Washington
brought a long-delayed document [recording his appointment] to Dan Read, esq.,
in the newly-incorporated town. Mrs.
Dan Read said, “Children! Keep still.
Me and your pa is postmaster.” . . .
Dan Read opened shop at home. He was postmaster undisturbed for 38 years,
or until 1837. Little Van was President
in that year, and Dan Read came into notice of the spoilsmen and was summarily
“fired” after almost two score years of service. . . . William R. Frye
succeeded Dan Read, and he held the office four years, until “Tippecanoe” came
in and Mark Lowell was appointed. Mr.
Lowell held it four years and on the return of the democracy to power and the
election of Polk he resigned in order to avoid being turned out. N. B. Reynolds followed him, and he resigned
when Taylor was elected
WING-BENJAMIN TRUST FUND
The Wing-Benjamin Trust Fund of Augusta
awarded the Society a grant of $500 in June, 2000, for use in our
computerization of our holdings. We
thank them for their generosity.
GOINGS-ON AT THE SOCIETY
by Michael Lord, Executive Secretary
Laws & Practice, by Thomas F.
“Visitors Guide” and
“Relocation Guide,” by Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce
Constructed and Lived: Ethnicity in Cross-Gender Strikes 1887-1903,” by Prof.
Ileen A. DeVault, Cornell University
Auburn Board of Trade
report, 1911, given by Attorney John Griffin
HOME: The Story of
Maine, a four volume video set
produced in 2000 by Maine Public Broadcasting
Dictionary of Architects in Maine,” from the website of the Society of
Architectural Historians, written by Earle G. Shuttleworth Jr. & Roger G.
The McKenney Story, by O. Herbert McKenney Jr. (Gateway Press, 1989)
Heritage Books Archives
Maine Volume II, by David C. Young et al.
History of Lewiston, by J. G. Elder, an 1882 edition donated by the
Public Library of New Sharon, Maine
Wedding dress and veil
from W. E. Wight estate, donated by Marian Wight Conklin
Wedding dress and World
War II Army uniform of the Croteau family, donated by a daughter.
Photocopies of original
compositions of E. W. (Ned) Hanscom, the organist at the High Street
Congregational Church for a quarter century in the late 1800's. He studied with Tchaikovsky. They were donated by Carol May of North
Geography book written
by Alexis Frye, son of William P. Frye, donated by Lillian Guerra, Assistant
Professor of History, Bates College
Three Evans Rifles
manufactured in Mechanic Falls, Maine,
Box of Lewiston and
Auburn postcards from ca. 1930's-1940's, donated by Ruth Leavitt
Preservation Design Manual, 1999,
Russell Wright, consultant; donated by City of Lewiston.
Memories of World War
II, a collection of newspaper
clippings of local military personnel published by the Leo Begin Chapter of the
American - Canadian Genealogical Society in Auburn.
Turner, Maine; Two
Centuries of History, Trivia and Observations, by Rufus Prince, brought here
and kindly signed by the author.
Donated by the Town of Turner.
An unpublished biography
of Horace Munroe, shoe magnate of Auburn, by John F. Hartley, donated by the
Calendar Year 2000 Statistics of Society Business: telephone - 679; museum visits - 221; library visits
- 352; letters - 1401 (includes Clearing Legal Title Project letters and forms,
compilation of the Cultural Organizations List, and the lecture series programs);
meeting notices sent - 568; meeting attendance - est. 209; business meeting
attendance - 17; newsletters sent - est. 423; Balloon Festival attendance - 39;
annual dinner attendance - est. 39.
The 30th Great TV Auction on Maine
PBS: We are participating through the donation of
a set of Lewiston-Auburn postcards – the same set we have for sale.
Possible Cause of Our Secretary’s Death: Debra Chadbourne’s family and I have
theorized that her death may have been caused by the chemical PPA, a compound
commonly found in some cold remedies and in greater concentrations in some diet
drugs. Ephedra is another similar
chemical. These chemicals were in the
news last fall. If you have any
medicines with these in them, I urge you to flush them.
Douglas I. Hodgkin, Editor
Androscoggin Historical Society
2 Turner Street
Auburn, ME 04210
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