Friday, June 4, 2010

Corners and Hills Reflect Rich Eliot History

By Betsy Caron
Staff Columnist
In honor of the town’s 200th birthday, the Eliot Historical Society is challenging its residents to locate the 18 new handmade signs put up to recognize historic and significant locations throughout the town. The signs are part of Eliot’s weeklong bicentennial celebration, which will be held Aug. 7 to 14.
“The actual 200th was in March, but the actual week of celebration will be the same as it was 100 years ago,” said historical society treasurer Julie Johnson.
The signs were put up on May 23. Residents familiar with the town may be able to locate places like Farmer’s Corner, where inventor Moses Gerrish Farmer once lived, or Rosemary Hill, representing Rosemary Cottage.
Each sign was hand carved and painted by members of the historical society. Fran Hartford, a retired carpenter and 30-year industrial arts teacher at Marshwood High School, carved the wood over the course of two weeks beginning in March.
Johnson painted the background and blue lettering on all signs representing the hills and corners, putting about six hours of work into each one. Polly McDonough designed and painted the new town hall sign, taking around 60 hours.
“The picture on the left is a Garrison, and it dated back to 1679. It’s called a Hammond Garrison,” McDonough said of the house she painted on the town hall sign. “On the right is a picture of the Nightingale, which is a ship built in Eliot in 1851. There were shipbuilding companies here.”
McDonough said she wanted to paint images representative of Eliot’s past. “The Nightingale is kind of a symbol of Eliot,” she said. “It’s fairly well known. For the Hammond Garrison, I wanted to pick something that went way back before Eliot was an incorporated town.”
The historical society did a similar project in 1985 for Eliot’s 175th celebration, but the older signs have since deteriorated.
“There was one still standing when we put them up on Sunday morning down on Welch’s corner,” Johnson said. “All you could really make out was the ‘w,’ and if you didn’t know what it said you would not know what it was.”
Other events planned for the celebration week include a parade, open houses and displays, fireworks and a bicentennial ball, where many guests plan to appear in period costumes.
“A ball is a time for a lot of people to come together,” McDonough said. “There’s food and music, dancing, and so it’s fun.”
The ball, which is being held at the Regatta at Eliot Commons on Aug. 7, will also offer a more modern twist with a DJ and square dancing.
A complete calendar of events will become available online as the celebration draws closer. Until then, the Eliot Historical Society hopes the community will take a drive around town to find and discover the new signs and Eliot’s rich history.
Photo caption: Left to right: Fran Hartford, Polly McDonough, (President) Dennis Lentz, (Treasurer) Julie Johnson and Paul Johnson. (Betsy Caron photo)