'Knowledge is belonging': A month-long celebration of Brunswick history

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BRUNSWICK — For those who know to look, there is an unexpected form carved in the stone above the large columns that flank the entrance to Bank of America on Maine Street.

Where one might expect an ornate swirl, or perhaps a cherub, instead there are ears of corn, dating back to the days when the building used to be the headquarters of a vegetable canning company.

Learning quirky details about buildings in town is one of the best parts of Historic Preservation Month, said Emily Swan, chairwoman of the Village Review Board, which organizing the month’s events.

“Once you know things like this, it helps enrich your experience of walking down the street,” she said.

Swan said walking and biking tours of Brunswick’s historic buildings are a good way to learn tidbits about the town’s history. She said people leave the tours “so happy to have something to know about the town.”

This year’s tours will focus on several recently renovated historical properties, including the People Plus building on Union Street, the Captain Daniel Stone Inn, and 155 Park Row. At each stop, the building’s owners or managers will explain how they did the renovations while keeping historical exteriors intact.

Tours will also include other significant properties in town, as identified by an independent historical building consultant. Properties were ranked according to importance in national and local history, as well as exemplifying a significant architectural style.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House on Federal Street and the First Parrish Church on Cleaveland Street top the list.

Built in 1717, the town of Brunswick developed around the church, which was the town’s first. According to the church’s website, Harriet Beecher Stowe was attending a service at the church when she had a vision that would become a key element of her book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

The biking tour will take riders to see the homes of another wealthy ship-building family, the Pennells. The historic mansions and open fields along Pennellville Road and Pennell Way were named a national historic district in 1985 due to the area’s history as a wooden ship building area in the 1800s.

Swan said people often leave the tours feeling fond of Brunswick.

“The more people know about the history of Brunswick, the more they feel committed to preserving it,” she said. “Knowledge is belonging.”

Some of Swan’s favorite historical buildings are those that have maintained their original use. She pointed to the Hawthorne School, which is the administrative office of the School Department, as a building that has retained its ties to education, even though it no longer houses teachers and students.

“I think the more a building can retain its original function, the more its history remains alive,” she said. “When its doing something completely different, it’s a lot harder to imagine its original purpose.”

Historical Preservation Month begins Thursday, May 12, at 7 p.m. at the Curtis Memorial Library with a presentation on the economic benefits of historic preservation.

The walking tour leaves from the Captain Daniel Stone Inn on Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. The biking tour departs at 10 a.m. on June 4 from the Gazebo on the Mall.

Photographs of Brunswick’s historic buildings will be on display May 6-31 at the visitor’s center at Maine Street Station.

For more information, contact the Brunswick Planning Department at 725-6660.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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The Charles S. Pennell house is part of the Pennellville Historic District, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. As part of Brunswick Historic Preservation Month, the Village Review Board is offering a bike tour of the town’s historic places, including Pennellville.

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