When R. Herman Cassens founded the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company of Belfast in 1909, he unknowingly set the stage for not only this exhibit, but for a unique legacy to the entire state of Maine and other New England states. Cassens’ vision was to photograph small towns and rural areas, and he sent his crews to out of the way places, where they were instructed to consult with the local residents about what to photograph. It must have been an exciting day when the Eastern Illustrating photographer toting bulky box cameras showed up in his Maxwell in tiny places such as Monroe, Burnham, and Prospect.
The end result of Casssen’ approach to creating post cards for sale—and at one time his successful company was the largest real photo post card business in the United States—was an enduring look at aspects of life that probably went largely unnoticed by nearly everyone. Barns, fences, small boats, swimming holes, churches, schools, social events, baseball games, post offices, churches, factories–all were documented. The extraordinary feature of the collection is that it is so very ordinary in content. The saying that “all history is local” was never more applicable than it is to this collection. People are fascinated by these photos because they depict such common scenes and events. The views are
different—but not so very much.
This exhibit was created with the help of the many different historical societies and historians of Waldo County and their input is greatly appreciated. Connecting with the local community is part of the Penobscot Marine Museum’s mission. Become a member today and help us preserve and share our history.
Untitled, North Church, Belfast, Maine
Following a split in the congregation of the First Church, the North Church was built in 1831 on Market Street, between High and Church streets. The architect was Col. B. S. Dean of Thomaston. During the summer of 1889 An extension to the church edifice, containing a large lecture room and parlor was completed. At that time eight stained glass windows were substituted for the old ones.
In 1921, the Congregationalists sold their church to the Frank D. Hazeltine Post 43 of the American Legion and reunited with the Unitarians at the First Church. Following the sale, the addition was “daintily appointed” and used by the Belfast Business Professional Women’s Club throughout the 1930s as their meeting room. The American Legion still owns the building.
Contributed by: Megan Pinette, Belfast Historical Society
Mayor Hanson Res, Belfast, Maine
In 1892, Edgar F. Hanson built his lavish mansion, Colonia Villa, on Northport Avenue, opposite what is now City Park. He was a newspaper and magazine publisher, general manager of Dana Sarsaparilla, and ten-term mayor. The plans for the house were drawn up by George Barber & Co., a mail order architectural firm specializing in homes for the rural wealthy. It reportedly cost $40,000, a large sum for the time.
The house changed hands several times in the early years of the 20th century and succumbed to a fire in 1923. The house lot remained vacant until 1930, when it was purchased by two Belfast restaurateurs who opened The Bluebird Terrace cafe, catering to tourists motoring into town on Route 1. The building is now owned by the Waldo County Shrine Club.
Contributed By: Megan Pinette, Belfast Historical Society
Untitled, Colonial Theatre, Belfast, Maine
Rising like the phoenix from the ashes, the Colonial Theatre was rebuilt in 1924 following the fire which destroyed the original theater built in 1912. In addition to showing movies, popular entertainments included stage shows, lectures, boxing matches, bathing beauty contests and “get rich quick nights.”
Next door to the theater, Central Maine Power opened a storefront office and advertised itself with a large electric sign. One could pay bills, buy a new all-electric appliance, or take a class in how to use the new equipment. The gas pump on the other side belonged to a Ford dealership and was one of twenty-eight filling stations in the downtown.
Contributed by: Megan Pinette, Belfast Historical Society
R.R. Station, Brooks, Maine
Passenger rail service first came to Brooks on November 1, 1870. Regular service ran from Belfast to Burnham and in 1874, the total number of passengers carried was17,244. The station in the photograph is the second station at Brooks. This Queen Anne style structure was built in 1892 by the Maine Central Railroad. Of note, between 1921 and 1925 an average of 60 tons of potatoes per year were shipped from Brooks. In 1916, the train brought to this station the Honorable Warren G. Harding, U.S. Senator, the only U.S. President to come to Brooks. In addition to potatoes and a president, this station was also the arriving place for the circus animals that came by train.
The building to the left of the station was the Yankee Blade Company building, which published a newspaper. The station was situated across the road from the A.C. Chase Company store (not seen in this photo), which coincidentally was the first station building that had been moved. Depot Square, as that area was known, was the busiest place in town with two round trips daily with passengers, freight and mail.
Point to point passenger service ended March 9, 1960 on the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad. The station was staffed by a Station Agent until the 1980s. A well-known railroad historian and author, Mr. Linwood Moody, was Station Agent in the 1950s and 1960s. The station serves as the base of operations for the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railway. The station is currently owned by Brooks Preservation Society and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Brooks Preservation Society leases the railroad from the State DOT and operates railroad excursions from May through October.
Help from: Betty Littlefield, Belfast Historical Society
Joey Feero, Brooks Preservation Society
View at Burnham, Maine
Burnham is on the outermost northern boundary of Waldo County. It is eight miles in length north to south, and the same east and west. An agricultural town, Burnham was originally called Twenty-five Mile Pond Plantation and was incorporated in 1824. The village has had a tannery; lumber, shingle and stave mills; a shoe factory; and a brickyard. In 1871 the town had an inn called “The Rail Road House,” as Burnham Station was a stop for the B & A Railroad. One of the most recent businesses was the Ethan Allen Furniture Company, whose furniture has gone around the world.
Contributed by: Isabel Marsh Meresh, Waldo County Historian
Mt. Waldo Granite Company, Frankfort, ME
This is the second incarnation of the Mt. Waldo Granite Company which sat on the shore of the Penobscot River on what is now Rt. 1A. The Mt. Waldo quarry officially opened in 1853 and in 1880, the business Mt. Waldo Granite Works was incorporated. Their specialty was cutting paving stones. Oxen were the first means of hauling granite from the quarry to the wharf on the Penobscot River and they were eventually replaced by a railway. The wharf had 300 feet of deep water frontage and two derricks of 20 ton capacity each loaded massive blocks onto waiting schooners which could carry as much as 1300 tons. Schooners were used exclusively until 1911 and then large barges used. Eventually the railroad arrived in Frankfort from Stockton and allowed a quicker and better method of transporting granite.
In the spring of 1916, the Mt. Waldo Granite Works filed for bankruptcy and in 1923 a fire destroyed the buildings and cutting sheds. In 1930, the property was purchased an Italian immigrant, Bruno Grenci and his partner Thomas Ellis. After 20 years of inactivity, Mt. Waldo again came to life, returning Frankfort to the busy era it had once been with the opening of the Mt. Waldo Granite Company. A new railway was laid, a steel derrick was built at the wharf and a large steel stone shed was constructed as seen in this photograph. The plant employed close to 100 men. During WWII, quarry operations were difficult and the company was forced to close from 1942-1945 due to a lack of steel for saws and the buildings in this photographed were dismantled and shipped to South Portland for the war effort. New buildings were built in 1945 and the business continued until 1966. The granite shed briefly became “Mohammed’s Mountain Marina” and then the “Bargain Palace”, a discount used clothing outlet before being razed in 1966 and the site is now a state park.
Help From: Robert Drew, Frankfort Historian
Freedom Lumber Co., Freedom, Maine
The mill yard buildings on the left belonged to the Freedom Lumber Company, which had purchased the mill (not seen in this photo) in 1907. The mill was originally built in 1834 by John True to be used as a grist mill. It was sold in 1845 to Edmond Fuller and stayed in the Fuller family until 1894 when it was sold to Ralph Wiggin and Frank Banton who turned it into a wood turning mill. After 1918 the mill began to turn mop, dowel, and novelty handles from lumber like the piles seen in this photo, which was taken around 1948. Behind the lumber piles is the Freedom Academy. The old Freedom Academy, one of the veteran schools of Maine, was incorporated by an act of the Maine State Legislature on February 19, 1836. The original building was destroyed by fire on January 25, 1947 and was replaced by the building seen here which was designed by Norman Elliot and opened in 1948. The new academy was a modern, self-contained building. Behind the trees you can see the steeple of the Freedom Congregational Church.
Help From: Viola Greely, Freedom Historical Society
The Town Hall was built in 1894 for $4,000 on the site of the former First Baptist Meeting House and has served many purposes over the years. The Masonic Lodge next to it was built in 1905. In 1904, the State of Maine passed a law requiring consolidation of high schools in jurisdictions like Islesboro. The town took advantage of the newly constructed Masonic Hall in 1905 to house the high school for 40 students. In 1906, the students moved next door to the Town Hall. There were six girls in the first graduating class in 1908, three of whom were Erma, Marie and Marion Coombs. In 1971, the building was obtained by the Islesboro Historical Society for its sole use. The Society had been organized in 1964 partially to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Islesboro’s first settler, Shubael Williams, who owned 500 acres of land in the Bounty Cove area.
Contributed by: Lang Smith, Islesboro Historian
Front View and Grounds, Drexel Cottage, Islesboro, Maine
“Gripsholm,” originally known as “Coombs Bluff,” was built for George W.C. Drexel of Philadelphia in 1903-04 on a 160 acre site overlooking Sabbathday Harbor. The reason given by the Camden Herald for not building in Dark Harbor was that Drexel was asked by summer residents from New York to move his large coal-burning yacht from the harbor so that they could avoid inhaling the smoke. In a huff, he moved the yacht to the more acceptable climate of Ryder’s Cove, where he acquired acreage from the Herbert family. At 6,000 square feet, it replaced the Shattuck house as the largest summer cottage. The cottage is now home to a Hollywood movie star whose character names have included Vinnie Barbarino, Danny Zuko, Tony Manero and Vincent Vega.
Contributed by: Lang Smith, Islesboro Historian
Lake George, Liberty, Maine
Liberty, Maine was settled in the 1790s and was incorporated in 1827. Viewed from Haystack Mountain toward the present day Pinnacle Road (Route 220 South), the St. George River begins at the dam under Pinnacle Road. The Channel runs from the dam up to Little Lake St. George. Beyond this is Lake St. George with two of its islands, Millstone and Green Islands, visible. An old legend states that the lake was called “Andia Ta-Rock-Te” by the local Indians, though the meaning of the word has been lost.
The farmhouse on the right of Pinnacle Road was originally the home of Timothy Copp. This is now gone and the fields have grown up. This was one of the earliest homes in Liberty. The first and third homes on the left remain the same. The middle home was lost to fire in 2001. The point of land just beyond the Channel and the shore beyond it have dozens of homes now. Most were built as summer camps and many have been turned into year round homes. There have been camps on shore and on the islands since at least the beginning of the 1900s. The small buildings at the bottom of Haystack Mountain at the dam and along the Channel were boat houses. This view is now obscured by trees.
Contributed by: Gail Philppi, Liberty Historical Society