There’s a wonderful scene near the end of the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. The movie’s hero, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is in the Bedford Falls cemetery with his guardian angel, Clarence. You know the story; Clarence showed George what life in Bedford Falls would have been like if he’d never been born. In this scene, George asks Clarence to tell him what happened to his wife, Mary. Clarence hesitates and stammers. Finally…
George: Where is she? Where is she?
Clarence: She’s just about to close up the library!
I made a stealth trip to the Lewiston Public Library late Tuesday afternoon, Lady Alone style. The city streets were slick but deserted; I steered my Jeep slowly and cautiously.
The library was also deserted when I arrived. I missed the memo about a city-wide parking ban and the library’s early closure.
(What is the number one rule of travel, even if it’s only 9 miles from your home? Plan your trip carefully.)
The Lewiston Public Library (LPL), constructed from a Carnegie grant of $60,000 is a Neoclassical-style building. It was designed by the Lewiston architectural firm of Coombs & Gibbs. This firm designed many buildings in Maine, not only locally in L/A, but also in far-away Houlton and Fort Fairfield. They designed the magnificent Kora Temple on Sabattus Street as well as the more humble Norway Grange #45.
The Neoclassical style of architecture became popular beginning with the Chicago’s World Fair, or the Columbian Exhibition, held in 1893. Think the book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, currently on the non-fiction shelves at the LPL. The exhibition’s planners mandated a “classical” theme; think Greek columns, elaborate cornices (that ornamental molding around the top of a building), and highly decorated doorways.
The stormy weather dashed my intentions to tour the LPL, but I’ll head back this weekend for a closer look. I haven’t mapped out a complete route of my library trips, but I’m going to make the LPL my “home base” for research and travel planning.
In case you were wondering, the Carnegie Library locations in Maine follow, in alphabetical order:
- Fort Fairfield
- Old Town
- Presque Isle
18 of these are public libraries; the libraries in Orono and Fairfield were considered “academic” libraries when built.
I’m excited about this series of tiny travel adventures; Andrew Carnegie once said libraries were “the never failing spring in the desert” and I think that’s exactly what we’ll find over the next few weeks and months.
Happy New Year!