Barbara Dyer: Landmarks of Camden

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 6:00pm

A very familiar landmark in Camden is the Archway on Union Street. It was placed there in July 1926 by the Board of Trade, before we had a Chamber of Commerce. The members felt that in many towns, hundreds of tourists went through, but never knew the town they were entering or leaving. It was called the “Welcoming Arch.”

It has been hit several times by trucks, etc., but people come forward to repair it, even though Union Street was no longer the main route, after Elm Street was changed over to become Route 1. It is a thing of beauty, simple and chaste in its design. It is made of solid concrete and painted white with no inscriptions except “Leaving Camden” and “Entering Camden.” It is 14 feet, 2 inches in height and 22 feet wide. The idea was that of George E. Allen and the contract went to Kendall Hopkins.

Another landmark is Balance Rock, which is a little harder to find because it is on Fernald's Neck near a point on Megunticook Lake. The granite boulder was brought there and deposited on end by a passing glacier. It is a picnic spot and probably everyone who has visited it over the many years, has tried but failed to topple it.

The beautiful Amphitheater on Camden Public Library grounds was designed by the well-known Fletcher Steele.

Mary Louis Bok hired the Boston landscape architect and it is only one of three places open to the public designed by him. It has been used for weddings, coronations of the Snow Bowl Queen, CHS graduations, band concerts, jazz festivals, arts and craft shows, Shakespearean plays, ice sculpturing and other activities.

Across the road to the harbor is Harbor Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Both of the above places are wonderful, serene parks in which to sit and watch the world go by.

What can we say about the Camden Harbor, “where the mountains meet the sea?”

The inner harbor is the most sheltered along the Maine Coast. Bar Harbor is the only other place where the mountains meet the sea on the whole east coast. Some of its cleanliness is due to action of the tides, that average about eleven feet. From the parks and public landing you will see all size sail boats, lobster boats and yachts moored at Lyman-Morse at Wayfarer Marine, and at P. G. Willey's, as well as Windjammers at the head of the harbor.

The local Post Office on Chestnut Street is where everyone meets and greets. It was built there in 1914. It was the finest government building in any town, especially with a then population of 3400 people. It cost $85,000. Camden never wanted to part with it, fighting the government and winning, when the Post Office authorities later wanted to build one located out of the business district.

The Camden Public Library is a thing of beauty. The original building on the hill, as designed by Parker Morse Hooper and Charles Loring, opened its door on June 11, 1928. The money was donated by Mary Louise Bok, some summer residents, and townspeople. It always has been a very busy place and the Centennial Wing, with an entrance from Atlantic Avenue, was built and opened in 1996, with Barbara Bush dedicating it. Money was donated by Charlie Cawley, Harvey Picker, and townspeople contributions. It is a very busy place for all ages.

Camden has been very fortunate with generous donations for many things and places.

In 1911, Cyrus H. K. Curtis purchased the lime kiln property on Bay View Street and had the lovely Camden Yacht Club built. He presented the place to the inhabitants of the Town of Camden in September of 1926. It has been used for many activities in the past, but now it is mainly used by the Camden Yacht Club. It is located on a prime spot on Camden's inner harbor. It is favorite anchorage for all types of yachts, due to its sheltered nature and the beauty of the harbor. The Club House is a most attractive large room, with a fireplace, India rugs, Mission chairs and tables, and a complete dining room service. There were showers, locker rooms and kitchen.

Also, there is another building with accommodations for yacht captains, waiting chauffeurs, and employees. This cost Mr. Curtis $60,000.00. In the 1930's, an exciting Camden Yacht Club Regatta was held with speed boat racing. Dr. Paul Jones won the class D and this famous little craft had established the world record in its class, doing a mile at the rate of 44.25. Gov. William Tudor Gardiner was one of the drivers in the race. The HAJ Finn boat races were held for many years by Yacht Club members. The Yacht Club is on the National Register of Historic Places.

We have two very old churches in Camden that are landmarks. One is the Chestnut Street Baptist Church, built originally in 1837. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1868 and the town clock was put in its steeple. It was due to the efforts of David Knowlton that the clock is there. In 1887 the steeple was cut down, because it was unsafe. It was not replaced until 1980, thanks to the effort of Eagle Scout, Billy Young. The other church is the First Congregational Church, built in 1834, at the cost of $5,000.00.

The church was organized, when Massachusetts had a law that fined any town without a gospel minister. Yes, Camden was fined, so the Congregational Church was organized in 1805, and built the Meeting House on Elm Street, and later built the present one.

In 1869, the Elm Street School was built, after two other buildings there burned. When built it was known as the High School, until the Camden High School was built on Knowlton Street in 1904. It has held many grades but around 1930 and then on, it was just grades K through fifth. It is still loved and used as a school and a treasured landmark by many who attended it.

There are many other treasures in Camden, but these will do for now. Perhaps more may follow later.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life in Camden, so far.