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What’s new in Harpswell?

Posted by paul dostie on April 13th, 2016

david hackett“What’s new?” asked my visitor. I was minding the office at the Harpswell Historical Society during the Memorial Day Parade. Dave Hackett was out officiating, directing traffic, introducing speakers and pulling the horse-drawn hearse out of the barn. Harpswell natives are multi-taskers and Dave comes by his skills honestly. But, he can’t be in two places at the same time so it fell to me to keep an eye on our relics and stuffed birds. I was a little surprised by the question.

“Nothing,” I said. “This is a historical society. Everything is old.” Everything was also dead, stuffed or lacquered I could have added. I didn’t. If I’d given it more thought, which isn’t my strongest suit, I’d have come to it that “new” in a historical society is a relative term. “New” could mean “in my lifetime.” Harpswell has a 300 year recorded history…more if you count arrow heads and shell mounds. “New” could mean since the ice age. I looked up at my visitor; tall man, mid-forties, smooth hands, LL Bean vest and all (or most, I didn’t look that carefully) of his teeth. He probably knew how to Skype and Twitter so “new” probably meant “since last summer when I came in and asked the same question.” I should have had a better answer. We had a new coat of paint on the street side of the building. Dave scored a ship’s sextant from a supporter’s attic. We have a fresh (to us) set of Klansman sheets from the 1920’s and a dough boy’s uniform that looks like it might have been worn by a twelve-year-old. It’s all new if you haven’t seen it before.

This coming Memorial Day I hope to be manning the office again and selling copies of Richard Wescott’s History of Harpswell published cooperatively by the historical society and Curtis Library in 2010. Two thousand ten….how’s that for new!

A History of Four Brunswick Streets

Posted by paul dostie on March 3rd, 2016
Maine StreetEvery once in a while another hapless resident of Brunswick will get clipped crossing Maine Street and the discussion about the width of the street will reemerge with the regularity of crocuses. “Whose idea was it to make Maine Street so wide?” you might ask, indicating to one and all that you just moved here from away. Well, it’s that wide to safe-keep residents from being ambushed by the ungrateful native people we dispossessed in the mid 1700’s. It was then called “12 Rod Road,” a swath 198 feet wide engendered by prudence and a bad conscience that ran from Fort Pejepscot on the Androscoggin River to Maquoit Bay. Maine Street is the vestigial tail of 12 Rod Road and the village core. The other major arteries (or limbs, depending on how you like your metaphors mixed)  that define the town of Brunswick are Union, Federal, and Pleasant Streets. No one need worry too much about ambush in non-election years but if you ever wondered about who lived in the Boody House on Maine Street or, for that matter, most any house on Maine Street, Union, Federal or Pleasant, you can now do that without having to make a pilgrimage to the County Registry of Deeds in Portland. Richard Snow (of the Snow Index fame) has been chronicling the town for decades. His latest gift to his native Brunswick is a house-by-house study of both sides of Pleasant (from Maine Street to the Miss Brunswick Diner,) Union (from Mill to McKeen,) Maine (from the river to Maquoit/Mere Point Road,) and all of Federal. He says he likes to keep busy. The product of his research, the 450 page  A History of Four Brunswick Streets, is here at the library.  
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