As mentioned in the May 16th Biddeford-Saco Courier, we are thrilled to a virtual unveilling of the two maps we recently had conserved and digitized by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in North Andover, Mass. (The maps are super huge, and we are still trying to figure out how to display them in real life…stay tuned for that!)
Both maps are a wonderful records of Biddeford’s Main Street Historic District, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2009. (Oh and also portions of that little area called the Mills Historic District? Also on National Register? You probably haven’t heard about it though…) 😛
You can find full records of each map in the library’s catalog – but we’ve got digital copies right here for you to download and enjoy absolutely free, thanks to the support of the AWESOME Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. ENJOY!
(Psst…the maps are huge, so be prepared if you aren’t downloading from a fast network…)
The community room was packed to the gills Thursday night, with upwards of 150 people attending author and journalist Mark Alan Leslie’s informative talk on the Underground Railroad in Biddeford and Maine in general.
McArthur was really happy to be able to give Mr. Leslie some documentation on the activity in Biddeford and Saco during these years, though so much more work needs to be done to document this topic and African-American history in southern Maine.
For what its worth, here are answers to a couple local questions that cropped up during his talk :
Q. When did the (pro-slavery) Maine Democrat newspaper break up?
A. Prior to 1880, as far as I can tell, perhaps closer to 1870? Just as Mr. Leslie conjectured.
Q. Was Biddeford’s Negro Island named for Underground Railroad activities?
A. NO. We have documents that show Negro Island was called that as early as 1795. We still don’t know why or how it got the name, though.
Q. Were there any safe houses in Biddeford-Saco?
A. We don’t know! No family histories, oral histories or documentation of UR activities have been passed to the library! If you know of any stories of this, please let us know!!
The over-flowing crowd was obviously hungry to learn more about this important topic in U.S. history…so here are some links for those who were unable to attend the talk, or who wish to educate themselves further about the shameful (and as we learned, still existent!) institution of slavery in the United States.
The Portland Maine Freedom Trail “Dedicated to the countless thousands of men and women who fled the bonds of slavery but were recaptured or died at the hands of their pursuers before they reached the safe embrace of the Underground Railroad. They are not forgotten.”
Mark Alan Leslie Missed the talk? Look to find the Maine author and journalist in one of his other Maine speaking engagements in 2019.
Our building was designed by John Stevens (1824-1881), an incredibly popular church archicect of the mid-19th century from Boston, Massachusetts. Often there is some confusion though, as people probably look at his name and assume we mean John Calvin Stevens, the mega-famous (so most famous?) Maine architect.
But no, although John Calvin Stevens (1855-1940) takes the credit for Biddeford’s beautiful City Building, it was that other John Stevens (and you could rightly say the first John Stevens) who designed the beautiful 1863 building that would become home to Biddeford’s public library in 1902 – the McArthur Public Library that we all know and love.
It is said that Stevens was so popular that he designed over 100 churches in New England, and it could be true…though I’ll let someone else do the tally on that. (Road trip!)
You’ll notice, many of his buildings look eerily similar…so in your travels, be on the lookout for other Stevens buildings – you won’t be able to miss them!
I wanted to call attention to the following article, because it so beautifully articulates much of my own experience and I suppose that of many others as well. I excerpt the first paragraph to draw you in, and it will – I promise. Then click on the link to read the rest at the wonderful site where it lives. Be sure to read on at the end, the numerous comments are just as instructive. ~Renée
“Why are we so invisible?” I’ve heard this question wherever Franco-Americans gather, be it through my social media contacts, at conferences, or at my occasional speaking engagements. The history of Franco-Americans is all but left out of the historical accounts on both sides of the border. It couldn’t be more missing among the history of U.S. ethnic groups. And it is largely unknown in Québec.”
Biddeford had a thriving granite industry through the early 20th century (the many quarries that remain are evidence of this – they don’t call it Granite Street for nothing!)
Celebrate and learn about this heritage with John Anderson of Rockland, in a program about the fascinating life of his grandfather, Capt. Anders Anderson, an immigrant and schooner captain who hauled granite for 30+ years in Maine. You won’t want to miss this glimpse into Maine’s historic granite industry!
The highly anticipated new local history book “A Brief History of Biddeford” by Emma R. Bouthillette has finally been released, to wide acclaim and appreciation. Ms. Bouthillette is a life-long Biddeford resident and graduate of Biddeford High School and the University of New England. She has great journalistic chops and has written for newspapers and magazines around Maine; her experience really shines through in this wonderfully readable book.
Last night McArthur Library celebrated her book release with a packed house of enthusiastic well-wishers and history buffs, so much so that we sold out of our copies! We will DEFINITELY have a large number to circulate…but there are a couple of local places where you can pick up this fabulous volume – especially if you want to give a copy to your favorite Biddeford Dad or Grad!!!
If you’re local ~ PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE BUY LOCAL!!! If you’re not…we are sorry you are away from Maine, we hope you can come see us soon, and in the meantime we give you option 3. 🙂
ELEMENTS!! Go across the street to Biddy’s beloved taproom/café, get something delicious (what else is there at Elements, I mean, really…), snag your copy of the book, relax and enjoy!
Nonesuch Books at Biddeford Crossing!! For those of you on the road, out and about, shopping at the shops…stop in and see the lovely Nonesuch folks and – like me – linger over which little chocolate morsel you are going to indulge in. Because you always have to get a piece of chocolate at Nonesuch. It’s the law.
The Internet! For all of our Away friends, you CAN still revel in the Biddy too…the book is available through all the usual suspects, so we’re just going to give you the publisher (Arcadia Publishing-History Press) and you can go from there.