Topsham exhibit offers glimpses into home life centuries ago

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TOPSHAM — As the dawn of 2010 carries us further into the 21st century, a new display at the Topsham Municipal Building makes sure we don’t forget the 19th.

“Home is Where the Heart Is,” in the center gallery, showcases clothing, children’s toys, household tools and handcrafted items that date largely from two centuries ago.

A linen towel, made for a wedding from flax grown in Topsham, dates further back to the late 18th century, according to town historian and History Committee Chairman Ralph Williams.

One particularly unique item is a silk cigar band quilted square, featuring brands like Gladstone, Mayflower and Quaker. This piece likely comes from one of the houses of the sea captains who lived in Topsham, Williams said.

The bulk of the exhibit comes from the town’s White Family Collection, donated by Dorothy M. and Nancy E. White. Their grandfather, Jordan White, born about 1835, made a pair of shoes and ice skates that sit in the display.

The display, which will remain up through the winter before being replaced by the next season’s historical collection, is open during the town hall’s regular business hours. The gallery space has existed for less than a year, and Williams expects it to be expanded.

He said he hopes the display will remind people of how much work went into making a home, and offer them “a warm sense” of one of Topsham’s historic families.

“We’d like to present any part of the (town) history here,” Williams said, adding that if people have something they would like to share, he would gladly add it to the collection.

Williams can be reached at 725-5258 and topsham.historian@yahoo.com.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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Among the historic items in Topsham’s “Home is Where the Heart Is” display are a porcelain doll, hair dressing and a silk cigar band quilted square.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.