Maine State Building
A visit to the Maine State Building begins with an over whelming feeling of disbelief that in the late nineteenth century such a magnificent building could be built with materials sent from Maine to Chicago and then later moved back to Maine to Poland Spring by train and ox cart!
The Maine State Building was originally built in 1893 for the Chicago Worlds Fair also known as the Columbian Exposition. The Fair was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus. All 44 states, dozens of countries and even companies sent buildings to the grounds to participate in the grand event. In total, there were almost 200 buildings on the grounds.
“It was considered best to construct, if possible, a building of Maine granite, slate and other materials that would typify and exhibit these industrial products so abundant in our State…The State building occupied a commanding and desirable location at Jackson Park, on the shore of that vast inland sea, Lake Michigan.” 1895 Report of Board of World’s Fair Managers.
The State of Maine appropriated money to construct the building and the design of Charles Sumner Frost, originally of Lewiston, was chosen. The building was to be made of Maine materials in order to exhibit the quality of the state’s resources as well as the quality of its craftsmanship. The first floor exterior of the octagonal building was made of Maine granite from Norridgewock, Freeport, Biddeford, Hallowell, Vinelhaven, Addison, Red Beach and elsewhere in the state while the roof was 40 tons of Maine black slate from the Monson Slate Company of Monson. The wood that made up the interior and exterior came from Maine forests and crafted by Maine crafters while the fine carved oak fireplace mantel was crafted by Morse and Company of Bangor. The original door and window screens were manufactured by the Portland Screen Company and E.T. Burrowes Company of Portland and the plush portieres were supplied by the Sanford Manufacturing Company of Sanford.
The Ricker Family bought the building for $30,000. Arrangements were made for the dismantling of the building and shipping by freight train back to Maine. It was to take 16 freight cars!
"The Rickers sent a crew of 19 men to Chicago, led by Forrest Walker of Poland, the resort's head carpenter and civil engineer to take the building down, carefully marking each section. The building was taken apart under the personal supervision of Hiram W. Ricker, loaded on a special train of sixteen cars and transported to Maine, at a cost of over three thousand dollars...to become the crowning feature of the opening of the season of 1895. The corner stone was laid on August 14, 1894, and the Maine State Building was dedicated on July 1, 1895, as part of the celebration marking the Ricker's settling in Poland." - Maine State Building Centennial, 1895-1995
Below are the diagrams of the original floor plans when the building was reconstructed at Poland Spring.
The first floor The second floor
After its move to Poland Spring, the building underwent several minor and major renovations. A third floor was added to the building although the height of the building did not change. Skylights were added and the interior glass ceiling was replaced with a similar but much more ornate design. The first floor was dedicated as a library and reading area, while later on mineral and botany exhibits were added. Originally the library had the almost 300 books that were in the building at Chicago and over the course of several decades grew to holdings of almost 10,000 volumes. The second floor was divided into four bedrooms with private bathrooms and with storage space. The third floor was added to establish an Art Gallery where American Art was exhibited.
When the Job Corps came to Poland Spring in 1966, the owners decided to box up a lot of the building contents and put them in storage. In 1968, a four day auction was held where many art pieces, books, furniture and much more were sold. When the Preservation Society took ownership of the building – years of mismanagement and neglect had taken its toll and the building was in less then deserved condition. While some items have been returned, either through purchase or donation, less than 5% of the books are in the library, a small number of art pieces and other furnishings are present. The items that are part of the museum display are a sampling of what was once on the entire property.