July 19, 2013

Hallowell to celebrate a long forgotten past Saturday

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

HALLOWELL — A massive sculpture some say has been forgotten in recent years will be remembered at one of central Maine’s biggest annual events Saturday.

click image to enlarge

Faith historical photo

Contributed photo

Hallowell celebrates

Old Hallowell Day will take place Saturday featuring a host of events citywide.

The parade along Water Street will begin at 10 a.m., while the fireworks show over the Kennebec River will start around 9 p.m.

There will be other events Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For a full list, go to oldhallowellday.org/schedule.

The official painting for this year’s Old Hallowell Day, by local artist Chris Cart — set to appear on T-shirts and buttons celebrating the day — is an adaptation of a photograph of city granite workers posing with a massive sculpture.

It looks somewhat like Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty depicted on the Statue of Liberty in New York City, but it isn’t. It’s the heroic figure of Faith, clutching a Bible in her left hand with her right hand pointing toward the sky.

The figure ended up leaving Hallowell, and it is the focal point of the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Mass.

After the Statue of Liberty and another Montana statue, the 81-foot-tall Massachusetts monument is the third-tallest statue in the nation. On her own, Faith is 36 feet tall.

Dedicated in 1889, the monument honors the Pilgrims, who settled the oceanside town in 1620 after fleeing religious persecution in England. Below Faith are four supporting statues depicting morality, education, freedom and law.

Faith was cut from Hallowell granite, while the monument’s 45-foot pedestal was cut in Vinalhaven. It was designed by Boston architect Hammatt Billings, who originally wanted it to be 150 feet tall, just a foot shorter than the Statue of Liberty. He reduced the size later and died in 1874, 15 years before the statue’s dedication.

Granite was once one of Hallowell’s biggest industries. An 1877 advertisement placed in the Lewiston Evening Journal by the Hallowell Granite Co. touted that it was “finer than any other granite and lighter in color” with a close resemblance to marble, “but much more serviceable and permanent.”

So once Old Hallowell Day planners decided on a granite theme, they scoured old photographs of the Hallowell Granite Works, said Jane Orbeton, co-chair of the planning committee.

Though Hallowell granite has been used in a lot of prominent structures, including the Maine State House and the Manhattan Bridge arch, Faith stood out, Orbeton said.

“The one that had the figure of Faith seemed to have the most appeal to the public,” she said. “It did a good job of capturing the working people who lived here.”

The picture and theme also have key tie-ins: a historic granite crane the city received as a gift more than 10 years ago. In 1985, KeyBank officials found it in a small quarry the company bought to build a parking lot off Edison Drive in Augusta.

The bank installed it near its parking lot until it leased the building to the Maine Revenue Services in 2003. It was donated to the city then, and it was moved to a spot behind Hallowell’s public works garage after that.

Recently, a group of residents led by Albert Hague and Nancy McInnis, have been attempting to raise money to move the crane to Waterfront Park as a monument to the city’s granite history. The city council has approved it, but the Kennebec Journal reported in April that volunteers would need to raise between $25,000 and $30,000 to move it there.

So if it hadn’t been for the crane, Faith likely wouldn’t have been Hallowell’s central figure this year.

“It was connected to the crane,” Orbeton said. “It seemed like a natural thing this year to devote the day to the granite theme.”

But in Massachusetts, the monument, which is on one of the highest points overlooking Plymouth Bay, has been forgotten over the years.

It’s in a residential area. Trees around the site have grown up since the statue was erected, giving visitors to the monument only an obscured ocean view. In 2006, the state of Massachusetts, which controls the monument, released a plan to improve and increase traffic to the site.

But little has happened there, said Mike Landers, the former president of Friends of the National Monument to the Forefathers, a group that raised money for the site before disbanding in recent years.

“It’s sort of a sad story with the monument,” he said. “It’s somewhat treated as the red-headed stepchild in Plymouth.”

Landers, a Maine native who spent part of his youth in Milo, said his group found it difficult to raise money to restore the monument and its site, and historical groups in Plymouth have prioritized other things.

But he thought Hallowell’s Saturday tribute to the monument was “awesome,” and he wished he could make the three-hour drive north for it.

“At times, I’ve thought it was completely forgotten,” Landers said of the monument. “I’m glad that it’s not.”

Michael Shepherd — 621-5632
mshepherd@mainetoday.com

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