Maine State Building is a reminder of Maine’s industrial and economic
past but is also representative of one of the great milestones in our
country’s history. Constructed for the World’s Columbian Exposition held
in Chicago in 1893, the building was designed by Charles Sumner Frost
to serve as the state’s entry to the fairgrounds. The design is
categorized as Queen Anne’s style and is an amalgamation of several
different architectural designs of the period.
Constructed of granite from 11 different quarries throughout the state, slate from Monson and wood harvested and milled in the state, the building represented several of Maine’s most important natural resources. In Chicago, the building exhibited paintings and portraits of famous Mainers including Madame Nordica, James G. Blaine, Hannibal Hamlin, Sarah Orne Jewett and others; paintings by Scott Leighton and Harrison Bird Brown; 175 books by Maine authors; as well as various Maine-made manufactured goods like the screen doors, curtains and mantle and benches.
After the close of the fair, the state originally hoped to see the building remain in Jackson Park as a monument to their presence and as a reminder of the great resources and craftsmanship the state had to offer. The city asked the state to either sell or remove the building and thus the board of directors for Maine sent out bid requests. The Ricker family of Poland Spring, who had won an award for the purity of their Poland Water at the exposition and who had hosted meetings of the Maine board of directors in the years leading up to the fair, bought the building from the state for $30,000 – an enormous sum of money for that time.
Maine State Building being removed from Jackson Park in Chicago, 189
Rickers sent a crew of workmen to dismantle the building under the
watchful eye of Hiram W. Ricker and the resort carpenter and engineer,
Forrest Walker. In a mere 19 days, the building was carefully dismantled
and placed on a Grand Trunk Railroad freight train with 16 cars to make
the trip back to Maine. In a little over three days, the pieces of the
magnificent structure made it to Danville Junction in Auburn, several
miles from the resort grounds.
Being rebuilt upon the grounds of the resort, 1894-1895. The building was then unloaded and brought to the resort with oxen, cart and wagons. The slate roof alone weighed 40 tons! on August 14, 1894, the cornerstone of the building was laid and work was commenced. On July 1, 1895, as a part of the celebration of the Town of Poland’s centennial as well as the Ricker family arrival on the property a little over a century before, the building was dedicated as a library and art gallery. Museum collections were soon to follow as mementos of historical items, flowers, fern and other natural science collections were donated.
Maine State Building dedication, July 1, 1895. The building remained in this form until the 1960s when during the arrival of the Job Corps, the contents of the building were boxed up and put in to storage. In 1968, a three day auction was held in which many items from the property including most of the almost 10,000 books in the catalogue of the Maine State Building, dozens of paintings and other items were auctioned off.
Today, after years of tracking down items, several major pieces have been returned to the building. Visit the Maine State Building to see some of these artifacts and historical items.