As Pejepscot Historical Society Executive Director Larissa Vigue Picard can attest, history is not static.
The Mall in Brunswick once was a swamp "filled with beavers," the historical society notes.
And the towering Gothic Revival First Parish Church next to Bowdoin College — a landmark for motorists on teeming Maine Street — traces its roots to a congregation of 1717 "when the Pejepscot Proprietors began settling the area," the historical society notes. Figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from the pulpit of the church building, which dates to 1846, according to the historical society.
The past and present meet in "Maine to Main: Downtown in Brunswick and Topsham," the Pejepscot Historical Society's exhibit about urban development.
Vigue Picard said the exhibit, which runs through the end of the year, boasts a "social media kind of feel to it" with a spot for sticky notes with personal reflections and an interactive photo display with buildings shown "then and now."
Also, the the exhibit includes a small section regarding the bridge that connects Brunswick and Topsham, the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which the Maine Department of Transportation has recommended replacing at a cost of $13 million. A small controversy has erupted over the proposal, sparking pushback from a citizen's group called Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge.
Early last month, five members of the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge attended the first meeting to kick off the federal Section 106 historic review for the bridge project. As required by the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the federal agency providing funding for the project, the Federal Highway Administration is required to conduct a review of the impact a project will have on historic "resources," the group noted. The friends group stated that its goal in this process "is to insist that a full and complete analysis of the options for rehabilitating the Frank J. Wood Bridge is undertaken before any final decisions are made."
"We did want to acknowledge the bridge," Vigue Picard said, "it's not the first bridge that has gone across there and it won't be the last, hundreds of years ago there was no bridge, there was pre-European settlement here there were plenty of Wabanaki Indians who were using canoes to get across the river. So history is not static."
The Pejepscot Historical Society, active since 1888, did not take a position on replacement of the bridge.
"We recognize people's love of this bridge, and its history and its value, our organization has not taken a stand either way," Vigue Picard said.
"Maine to Main" also brings to mind an issue brewing in places like Portland — reversing the effects of urban renewal through traffic calming and street reconfiguration.
"With regard to urban renewal, one of the iconic structures, one of the symbolic structures to Brunswick — like Union Station in Portland — up here was the old town hall. … That was the building that came down during that urban revitalization period that people today say, 'I can't believe we did that. Why did we do that?"
The "Maine to Main" exhibit, according to the society, was "timed to follow on the heels of the National Register of Historic Places district recognition for downtown Brunswick."
The Pejepscot Region specifically centers on the towns of Brunswick, Harpswell and Topsham. The historical society operates two historic house museums – the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum and the Skolfield-Whittier House, both of which are open seasonally for tours from May through October.
"Maine to Main: Downtown in Brunswick and Topsham" | Pejepscot Historical Society | The Skolfield-Whittier House is open seasonally from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Summer hours (Memorial Day to Columbus Day): Wednesday-Saturday, 10:00am–4:00pm | Always free and open year-round at 159 Park Row in Brunswick, "the Pejepscot Museum & Research Center features rotating exhibits on various local history topics, access to archives and collections, and research assistance from a volunteer corps." | http://pejepscothistorical.org
Greater Portland Landmarks | Custom House Tours | "With its magnificent architecture in the heart of a bustling seaport, The Custom House was recently restored to its 1872 glory." | July 6-Oct. 26, Wednesdays at 10:30am and 11:30am | 312 Fore St., Portland | http://www.portlandlandmarks.org/tours/
Maine Charitable Mechanic Association | "The Maine Charitable Mechanic Association was founded in 1815 as a craftsman’s guild to teach and promote excellence among Portland’s various mechanical and artistic trades. Carpenters, Glass workers, Sailmakers, Shipbuilders and Riggers, Ironworkers, Stone Cutters, Brick Masons, Jewelers, Watchmakers and Nautical instrument makers, Furniture makers and similar tradesmen all learned their skills and crafts through Apprenticeship education sponsored by this Association. The Library was started in 1820 in various locations around the city. …" | 519 Congress St., Portland | Library Hours: 10:00am-3:00pm, Tue., Wed.,Thurs. | 207.773.8396 | http://www.mainecharitablemechanicassociation.com
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