Prior to 1899, the Ladies Sewing Circle of Waterford carried on a lending library at the Ambrose Knight store, run by Sarah and Carrie Knight. Interest in the library grew and more room was needed for books. The Knight sisters began construction of a stone building, but both died only a few weeks apart in August 1911 during its construction. The building was completed in 1912. On Oct. 1, 1937 a fire destroyed parts of the library and other nearby buildings. In early 1938, the library’s second floor was reconstructed in the new Dutch Colonial style, giving the library a very different look.
This large wooden building in Waterford, Maine, looks much like a church, because it was built as one in 1844! The building was constructed as a Universalist Church just over a decade after a local Universalist Society was formed in the area in 1830. In the subsequent decades of the church’s founding, dwindling membership by the time of the Civil War required the group to sell the building to local businessmen. The town rented a space in the building which used a floor as a school, after an additional floor was added to the base, giving the building the vertical appearance it has today. in 1896, the Bear Mountain Grange purchased the building as a meeting hall, allowing the school to operate in the building (an arrangement that lasted until 1949)! The building has seen better days, but besides the chipping paint and some wood-rot, it retains the original windows and has been relatively un-altered!
Eli Longley (1762-1839) came to Waterford, Maine by way of Bolton, Mass., in 1789 and erected a log cabin in town. As the first settler to build in this part of town, he owned a substantial piece of property, which was frequently travelled through as the area was being developed. Seeing a need for lodging, he built a one-story tavern in the location of this building, which was added onto and modified as demand and the area’s population grew. Longley would also subdivide some of his land for house lots along the new town common, selling to new settlers as they arrived. Longley sold the tavern in 1817, which was acquired later in 1847 by Dr. Calvin Farrar. Taking advantage of a nearby mineral spring, Dr. Farrar opened a successful hydropathic spa, which used natural waters to cure patients of their ailments. The spa was taken over by Dr. William P. Shattuck, who expanded the site as the “Maine Hygienic Institute”, a hospital exclusively for lady patients employing eclectic treatment. This business and the tourism it generated helped shift the town from a sleepy village to a tourist destination by the late 19th century, where city-dwellers would flock to view the natural scenery and breathe in the clean air. In the 1860s-70s, Shattuck “modernized” the Lake House Hotel with the two-story Victorian-era porch and sawn decorative trim.
The most architecturally significant example of the Federal style in Waterford, Maine, is this c.1810 home built for Ambrose Knight, who operated a store in town. The high-style Federal home features a well-proportioned fanlight over the entrance with a Palladian window above, all with geometric moulding. The home was likely built by a housewright who employed designs from Asher Benjamin’s pattern books for builders, as the high-style features and Palladian windows are uncommon in this part of Maine.
Dr. Leander Gage (1791-1842) came to Waterford from Bethel, Maine in 1817. He erected and lived in this Federal style house which overlooks much of the South Waterford village. Gage was a prominent medical practitioner in town and involved in local politics as a moderator at town meetings and as a school committee member until his death. The home has a Federal style stable and 1840s barn attached and had remained in the Gage family until at least the 1980s.
Built soon after a massive fire destroyed much of North Waterford Village in Maine, the Iocal order of Odd Fellows decided to rebuild, constructing this building for their members. Though active for several decades after the building was reopened, an aging and dwindling membership forced this chapter to merge with the Odd Fellows of nearby Norway, Maine. After, this building was occupied by the Daughters of Rebekah, an auxiliary group of the IOOF for women until 1973 when it was donated to the recently formed Waterford Historical Society. The society has since moved, and listed the building for sale in 2020 for just $10,000!!
One thing about Victorian-era houses that I love so much is the fact that it’s so rare to find two houses that are the same! The uniqueness and detail is just amazing and stalking these homes never gets old! This 1886 beauty was built as a double-house for Stephen Cummings of Norway, Maine. Cummings was a member of the family which built many of the grand homes in town as they ran a woodworking and carpentry company. Architect John B. Hazen designed the Stick style home with a octagonal bay at the facade, capped by a tower, giving the home a sort of pagoda effect.
The most iconic house in Norway, Maine has to be the Evans-Cummings House (also known locally as the Gingerbread House) on Main Street. The ornate Victorian era home was originally built in 1855 for Richard Evans, who was born in Portland in 1805 and after training as a carpenter, moved to Norway in 1833 for work. He and his wife, Mary Warren Hill, had eight children and they resided in the home until their death. In 1890, Charles B. Cummings bought the house in 1890 and hired local architect John B. Hazen to remodel the house. Hazen added the gingerbread adornments for which the house is now known colloquially. The home attracted a lot of attention in the region, and the later heirs continued that whimsical appeal. When the home was willed to Fred and Cora Cummings, they were said to have kept a stuffed peacock at the top of the stairs, which delighted children when they toured the home. The house eventually became used as storage by the owners of the local Advertiser Democrat newspaper, and its future was threatened. Since 2012, a local group, Friends of the Gingerbread House, have poured tens of thousands of dollars and an equal amount of time restoring the iconic home to her former glory! Preservation is important!
Last up on our tour of Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden and now Norway) Maine, is Norway. The town of Norway centers around Pennessewasse Lake, which supported native people in the region for thousands of years. It wasn’t until after the American Revolution that European settlers established the town. By 1789, a sawmill and gristmill were established, the first road was built in 1796, and the town of Norway was officially incorporated on March 9, 1797. Before incorporation, the township adopted the name Rustfield, to recognize the contributions of prominent landowner Henry Rust of Salem, Mass and the community once petitioned the Massachusetts General Court to be named Norage, meaning “falls” in the native peoples’ language. Norway won the name, but the origin of the town’s name remains unknown. The town leaned more towards industry than Denmark and Sweden due to the stronger rivers, and its population increased as a result.
This historic farmhouse sits on the eastern edge of Pennessewasse Lake and is one of the oldest extant homes in town. It was built in 1792 just years after land here was purchased by Nathaniel Bennett in 1790. Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bennett resided in the home until they died, childless. The home was eventually purchased by Don Carlos Seitz, publisher of the New York World, who grew up and was educated in town. Seitz operated the property as a gentleman’s farm, and is responsible for naming the property “Cedarbrook Farm”. His estate sold the property to one of his hired hands in 1927. It remains very well preserved and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 as the Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bennett House.
In 1820, just seven years after the incorporation of Sweden Maine, a homesteader, Amos Parker purchased fifty acres of land and began to erect a two-story, Federal house with a center chimney and a detached store beside it. Plagued by debt, Parker sold the unfinished house to Samuel Nevers circa 1833–1835, who purchased the property with the store for his recently married son, Benjamin. By 1860, Benjamin Nevers had a successful store and prospering farmstead. Benjamin died in 1883, and in the next two years, their daughter Charlotte, and her husband, Charles Bennett, dramatically remodeled and modernized the farmstead, adding a connected two-story ell building outward from the main house toward the old 1840 barn, connecting the entire property. I believe that the property remains in the Nevers-Bennett Family, as recently, Steve and Judy Bennett, recently negotiated an easement with the Maine Farmland Trust to protect their hay, beef, and maple sugaring acreage as farmland into the future.