As we enter the last five years of our story of Pittsfield, it may be of
interest to look back for a moment at two periods of history that seem to have much in common:
the twenty years from 1880 to 1900 and the two decades from 1940 to 1960. In both these spans
we find young, imaginative, and aggressive residents who were not only successful in their own
careers, but were conscious of their civic responsibilities and were dedicated to building a
better community. Consider the constructive ideas of C. B. Haskell, the young editor of The
Advertiser; the ambitious industrial expansion programs of the Dobsons; the friendly
hospitality offered by innkeeper Isaac Lancey; the exuberant personality of Mart Parks; the
lively merchandising of Nat Perkins, C. E. Vickery, Hunter and McMaster, Henry Libby, C. A.
Contant. A. H. Cornforth and other shopkeepers; or the gala racing shows sponsored by Col.
Walter G. Morrill and his associates. Then think of the early 1940's, led by Joe Cianchette and
the men of the Kiwanis. Recall the rehabilitation of the Waverley Mill, The Lancey House,
The Advertiser, the Bijou Theatre, and the Airport. Remember the cooperative effort to
bring the Edwards Company to Pittsfield, to build a swimming pool, and to make a ski slope
possible. These are a few of the achievements of this latter period, reminiscent of earlier
At the end of these two eras, however, the parallel ceases. As we have
noted, there seemed to be a slacking off after the spurt of the 80's and 90's. What happened
after the 40's and 50's certainly cannot be described as something lackadaisical or
complacent—quite the opposite! The spirit of those years continued, but under new leadership.
That is as it should be. The new generation was not accepting the past as good enough. It was
picking up the tools, adding to them, improving them, and going forward. This is good, and
today we should be grateful to these young men and women for what they have done and probably
will continue to do for the future of our town.
SEBASTICOOK VALLEY HOSPITAL
Lets take a look at what's happened in the last five years. Shall we start
off with one of the largest and finest community projects in local history -- the Sebasticook
Valley Hospital? This was proposed and promoted by the so-called younger generation. The
idea was discussed in Kiwanis a year earlier, but nothing came of it. It was the Athenaeum
Club, a group of young women with a desire to do something worthwhile for their home town,
that initiated the project in 1959. Mrs. Merlon Tilton was President at that time. The idea
was sold to other clubs and organizations until it was generally accepted locally and then a
move was made to put it on an area basis. The Sebasticook Valley Hospital Associates was
formed with Carl Cianchette as President; H. King Cummings of Newport, Vice President; DeWolfe
Finch, Treasurer; and James Murphy, Secretary.
In April of 1960, John L. Baxter, Jr., was chosen to head the drive for
funds to match the Hill-Burton allotment of $235,000. It was an intensive campaign,
involving many people and reaching into Waldo and Penobscot counties. Mr. and Mrs. Luther
Leighton made the Grove Hill site possible by donating four acres of land. Sketches of the
proposed building were drawn by Crowell, Lancaster, Higgins, and Webster, architects. By July
1961, the funds were assured and construction on Grove Hill was begun.
Braving cold, bleak October weather, 200 persons witnessed the ceremonies
of laying the cornerstone by Carl E. Cianchette, assisted by Dr. George I. Higgins of Newport
in whose honor one wing of the hospital was named.
While construction was in progress during 1962 and the first of 1963, a
great deal of preparation had to be made for the opening of the hospital. Carl Cianchette
continued as President. Clifford Wright, John Baxter, Earle Friend, H. King Cumrnings, and
John Gilman made up the Executive Committee. DeWolfe Finch, L. A. Dysart, and C. C. Merrill
were chosen for the Investment Committee. Ronello Reynolds, Adrian Hallee and Mr. Cummings
were members of the Medical Committee. Mrs. Etta Dodge was selected to be the first
Administrator. Dr. Ernest D. Humphreys of Pittsfield headed the Medical Staff, composed of Dr.
Ernest Stein and Dr. William Thompson of Pittsfield; Dr. George T. Higgins and Dr. Paul Burke
Later, Dr. Thompson resigned and was replaced by Dr. John P. Dow. On the staff of
Registered Nurses were Carol Turner, Eleanor Richardson, Luise Cirillo, and Grace Brown.
On March 3rd, the hospital was officially opened with Governor and Mrs.
John H. Reed present to bring the greetings and congratulations of the state. More than 7000
persons were in attendance. Gilman Friend of Newport was master of ceremonies. Rev. Antonio
Girardin of St. Agnes Church gave the invocation. William Salters, representing Stewart and
Williams, the builders; Edward Webster of Crowell, Lancaster, Higgins, and Webster,
Architects; Mrs. Dodge; Dr. Higgins; Mrs. Ruth Shorey, President of the Auxiliary; and Carl
Cianchette, President of the Board of Directors, were introduced. Rev. Alice Hart of Newport
gave the benediction. Following the official opening, guests were escorted through the
hospital by members of the Sebasticook Registered Nurses Association, and members of the newly
appointed nursing staff.
It was a most satisfactory day for those who had been active in bringing
this major effort to such a successful conclusion.
The breadth and depth of the undertaking are indicated by a plaque that is
displayed in the lobby listing the names of individuals, business firms, and organizations
that gave $1000 or more to the hospital drive.
Following Mrs. Dodges resignation in 1963, Laurence V. Glynn of Gardiner
accepted the position of Administrator.
The hospital effort was a community project that involved young and old
alike, but in a large measure it was originated and motivated by an enthusiastic group of
young citizens who had a dream and saw it realized. It could not have succeeded without the
cooperation of all ages, as the names on the plaque testify, but the inspiration came from the
younger groups such as the Athenaeum Club.
To emphasize further the fact that the future is safely in the hands of a
new generation, let me call the readers attention to a few industries that are managed by
young businessmen. The Northeast Shoe Company, recently affiliated with the Penobscot Shoe
Company, is ably managed by Milton Lown, son of Nissen Lown, who came to
Pittsfield in the 50s
to take over the Waverley property from Pincos Medwed. As this book goes to press, the
Northeast Shoe is embarked on an expansion program that entails the construction of a 75,000
square foot structure south of the main factory and along the river. It is expected that the
number of employees will be increased from its present force of around five hundred to
approximately seven hundred, thereby becoming the largest single manufacturing plant in the
As we have mentioned earlier, C. M. Almy and Son of New York,
well-known manufacturers of church goods, has had a healthy growth in recent years under
the management of Ryan Fendler, son of Donald Fendler, who brought a branch of the business to
Maine several years ago.
The Maine Fence Company, Inc., on Greeley Street was started in 1961 by
Donald Bishop, a young businessman, who acquired control of the old Forham Canning property.
How well the company has prospered is indicated by the fact that the original crew of three
has grown to a crew of forty. Mr. Bishop has plans for even greater growth.
The Edwards Company; The Pittsfield Woolen Yarns, Inc.; and The Pittsfield
Industries, Inc., have all enjoyed normal growth and prosperity. The Edwards Company is
looking forward to expanding its operation, and at the old Riverside Mill, the new tenants
have added spinning to their wool processing operation.
One of the fastest growing businesses in the area today is the Cianchette
Bros., Inc. Ival, Kenneth, and Alton, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph L. Cianchette, are the three
principal officers and have established themselves among the leading contractors of the state.
Although they do general contracting, in recent years they have specialized in bridge
construction. Locally, among other projects, they replaced the old Hunnewell Bridge with a
fine concrete structure. Their offices, shops, and a subsidiary company, the Cianbro Mfg.
Corp., make an imposing industrial center on Hunnewell Avenue.
As a consequence of this industrial growth within the past five years,
Pittsfield today enjoys one of the largest, if not the largest,
pay-roll in its history. The progress made by these comparatively new
enterprises has been ably assisted by other older contracting firms such as J. R. Cianchette
& Sons, Inc.; Forest Frederick, Contractor; Leon E. Gordon, Inc.; Norman E. Jackson, Inc.;
Sinclairs Crane Service; Susi Construction Company; and Steelstone Corporation.
In the retail field, Bud's Supermarket has made tremendous strides under the
direction of Frank Homstead, an energetic and far-sighted merchandiser. The Pittsfield
store has steadily increased in volume, as have his outlets in Newport, Dexter, and
Wright's Dairy on upper Hartland Avenue, an outgrowth of Harry Wright's dairy
delivery service, is now operating in modern quarters under the supervision of his son,
Lawrence. Closer to the village, Wright's Food Center and Locker Plant is managed by a second
Willard W. Lehr, Jr., and Burton G. Hammond in the last five years have
successfully combined their two insurance agencies and in 1962 moved into new offices on
Hunnewell Avenue. This merger culminates an interesting evolution in local business. Mr.
Hammonds interest represents the Sidney F. Jones, Lester Stone agencies, for many years
located in the Jones block on Main Street, then in the bank block, and later on Hartland
Avenue; while Mr. Lehrs interest represents the Parks Brothers, E. N. Vickery, and S. M. Cook
agencies. The grouping of these several agencies into one company has resulted in establishing
these young partners in positions of leadership in state insurance circles.
The McMichael office is now the oldest agency on the street. The McMichael
brothers took over the W. A. Taylor Agency in 1946. It was moved from the bank block to a
location across the street where it has been in business for the past twenty years. Mrs.
Gladys Hoskins, who had been with the Taylor Agency since 1942, continued with the new
CHANGES IN THE ADVERTISER
The LehrHammond Agency is next door to The Pittsfield Advertiser.
During the past three years this old weekly has had a rather hectic career. Through
part of the 40s and all of the 50s, the paper was owned by J. R. Cianchette. In March of 1962,
Gerald Hackett resigned as Editor to accept a position in Washington, D. C., and in May of 63,
David Olson was made Editor. A few months later, Mr. Olson purchased the paper and shortly
moved from the Hunnewell Avenue location to the Leon Gordon block on Main Street. Apparently
things did not work out satisfactorily, for in December of 1964, there were suggestions that
publication might be suspended. Not long afterward, the paper was sold to Rockland interests
and moved back to its old home on Hunnewell Avenue. Today it is published by The Pittsfield
Publishers, Inc., Gerald F. Mitchell, Managing Editor. Mr. Mitchell has done an excellent job
and is fast restoring it to its former popularity.
THE LANCEY HOUSE
Like The Pittsfield Advertiser, The Lancey House has gone through a
hectic period in recent years. In the course of five years, the famous old hostelry had five
owners. After fifteen years of proprietorship that rivaled the heyday of Isaac Lancey, J. R.
Cianchette turned it over to Leon E. Gordon who was in charge only for a short spell when it
was sold to the Cianchette brothers, with Clair Cianchette as manager. During this regime, a
serious fire damaged the kitchen and coffee shop, which were quickly restored. In the fall of
65, the hotel was sold to Norman S. Stafford of Winchester, Mass. Within three months another
blaze occurred that completely crippled the property. Mr. Stafford's decision not to carry on
resulted in a widely advertised public auction that stripped the remains of furniture and
equipment. The building itself was then sold to Frank Homstead, owner of Buds Supermarket
adjacent to the hotel parking area. What Mr. Homstead will do with the old inn is a moot
question as this book goes to press, but it appears as though its life span will approximate
Other recent changes in the business life of Pittsfield include the Folsom
Used Car sales rooms, the Lawrence Flower Shop, and the
Donald H. Shorey Funeral Chapel on Hartland Avenue. Mr. Shorey, as a young
man, was associated with the Frank Fairbanks funeral parlors on Park Street. Following Mr.
Fairbanks death, Mr. Shorey established his own funeral chapel on Park Street. In 1961, the
newly organized Congregational Church purchased this property and Mr. Shorey constructed a
modern funeral home on Hartland Avenue which he opened in November of 61.
On Park Street, the Furniture Exchange moved into the Martin block;
Lawrence Coffin took over a grocery store, located in a building that once housed the offices
of Dr. Drake; and the Central Maine Oil Company purchased the adjacent brick block owned by
Niman Karam, demolished the historic HunterMcMaster store, and established very
attractive offices and a gas and oil service station on the corner of Park and
Central Street and Middle Street have undergone considerable change in
recent years. The Maine Central R. R. station was purchased by Delmont Soule, who now occupies
the property as manager of the R E A Express. The old buildings on the southwest corner of
Middle and Central have been razed and the space occupied by Fitts Tire Service and the state
liquor store. Adjacent to the liquor store and on the corner of Hathorn and Central, a new
postoffice building is being erected by the Cianchette Bros., Inc., and should be ready for
occupancy early in l966. The Lancey House Garage, managed by Earle E. Friend, Jr., agent for
the Oldsmobile, is located at 11 Central Street on the site of what once was Loder's flower
shop and later the Parker Littefield Garage.
Moving to lower South Main Street, we find two changes that have taken
place in the last five years. The BowlRite Lanes and Recreation Center, owned and managed
by Charles Rowell of Harmony, has proved to be a most popular indoor gathering place ever
since it was established in 1963. Throughout the fall and winter, the lanes are alive with
league activities. The Center and all its facilities are clean, welllighted, and
attractive to bowling fans of all ages. With the ski slope, the swimming pool and park ball
fields for outdoor recreation, and the Bowl-Rite Lanes and the Menendez Alleys for indoor
sport, Pittsfield is especially fortunate.
The second facility to be established in this locality is the Embers
Restaurant, owned and operated by David Mercier, a young man in
his twenties who apparently inherits his father's knack for cooking and
serving excellent meals.
On the periphery of the village there have been several important
developments. The Municipal Airport is presently under the management of Charles Andrews, a
veteran airplane mechanic and flight instructor. Today the airport is the busiest it has been
since the days of the war when the cadet training program was in operation. There is hope that
before long it will be tied into a commercial flight schedule, which, of course, would be of
great benefit to Pittsfield.
The huge Newhouse properties on the Burnham Road have been taken over by
George Newhouse, a graduate of M.C.I, and the University of Maine. George is one of the
outstanding young men of Pittsfield and is active in promoting its welfare. He has been
closely associated with the newly organized Junior Chamber of Commerce, serving as the
Chambers first president.
Since the opening of the Sebasticook Valley Hospital, there has been much
interest shown in developing the Grove Hill area. The town has taken constructive steps to
provide adequate water for this section. A second standpipe has been erected to supplement the
reservoir at the Pinnacle. A residential development is underway. A most important
contribution to the area itself and to the surrounding communities has been the construction
of the Chandler Nursing Home, a fine, modern facility. It is beautifully located, adjacent to
the hospital, overlooking the village to the west, the Sebasticook Valley to the south, and
the Dixmont Hills to the east.
In education, Pittsfield today is faced with problems common to most Maine
communities. The school districting program recently enacted by the state legislature is
having its impact locally. This, together with increased school population, has brought about
far reaching changes in educational policy. In 1965, it was found necessary to build an
addition to the Vickery School. The school lunch program, which had been operated in the
Lancey Street School, was transferred to the new grammar school. Within the next five years,
it is planned to form a school district consisting of Pittsfield, Detroit, and Burnham; to
close the Lancey Street School; and to inaugurate a
junior high program that will include the ninth grade, which in the past
has attended M.C.I. What happens after that is problematical, but if the trend is continued,
Pittsfield will some day have its own high school and M. C. I. will operate as a strictly
private preparatory school. The local school board, together with Superintendent Casey, and
the trustees of M.C.I., have been working in close cooperation to meet these problems
constructively as they arise.
M. C. I.
The last five years have seen several important changes at M.C.I. In 1960,
the west campus was landscaped. In 1961, a dormitory and cafeteria building was erected and
later named in honor of Harry W. Rowe, a graduate of the school, former Dean of Bates College,
and for many years President of the M.C.I. Board of Trustees. The old Parks homestead on
Hartland Avenue was given to the school in 1962 by Johnson W. Parks of Waterville and is
rapidly being developed into an outstanding recreational facility. If plans materialize, it
will encompass a golf course, a winter sports area, boating, and outing club activities. The
donor is a nephew of George M. Parks, in whose memory the gymnasium and the campus athletic
field are named. In 1963, Mr. E. N. Vickery gave the school land north of Alumni Hall for two
hard surface tennis courts. In 1964, the machine shop owned by the Cianbro Mfg. Corp. was
purchased to provide a music center. Previously the socalled Nye House was used for
rehearsals. The new music center made it possible to convert the Nye property into an
infirmary which was rededicated in 1965 as the Hurd Infirmary. The Bryant House, named for Dr.
E. C. Bryant, for many years a staunch friend of the school, has for the past few years been
used for dormitory purposes.
As this period draws to a close, the trustees are contemplating the
construction of another dormitory, to be located west of the Cianchette Hall of Science and
facing north. If these plans are realized, there will be accommodations for approximately 250
We have endeavored to relate a few of the highlights in the story of M.C.I,
since its incorporation on February 1, 1866. Its 100th anniversary year should be a memorable
one. Plans have been made
for an observance of this long record of service at the annual homecoming
in August of 1966. Few schools have had a more commendable history, and more than 4000
graduates, scattered over the entire globe, can be justly proud of the contribution the
centuryold institution has made to the world. It was founded in hope and with the prayers
of dedicated men; it survived the difficult early years because of the faith and sacrifice of
those founders and the devotion of a loyal teaching staff; and it has grown to its present
stature because of the continued interest of its governing boards, high scholastic standards,
and loyal support of thousands of alumni and friends. The dreams of the founding fathers have
been abundantly realized.
The Congregational Church was organized in 1960 with Rev. Scott Kittredge
as pastor. For the first six months, the members met at the American Legion home on Manson
Street. After an unsuccessful effort was made to purchase the property, the church, in 1961,
obtained the Shorey Chapel on Park Street and in the next few years made extensive
renovations. Further improvements were made in 1965 so that today, the denomination has an
attractive sanctuary, a comfortable parsonage next door, and the Lane Fellowship Hall that
provides Sunday School, a modern kitchen, and adequate space for social events.
Rev. Kittredge resigned in 1963 and was replaced by Rev. George Dillon, a
student at Bangor Theological Seminary.
Among the highlights in the parish life of St. Agnes during the early 60's,
Father Girardin mentions that in 1962 the parish pledged $1000 for the Sebasticook Valley
Hospital. In the same year, construction was begun for a new Rectory. L. N. Violette of
Waterville was the contractor. It is a beautiful twostory colonial style building
adjoining the Sacristy. It provides offices and comfortable living quarters for the local
priest. On October 28, 1963, open house was held at the Rectory at which 177 persons visited
the new home.
The Church of God, which had been located on Waverley Avenue, exchanged
properties with the American Legion in 1964 and moved their parish to Manson Street. This is
the old Methodist Church and has seen considerable history. While it was owned by
the American Legion, it was the scene of many outstanding events. County
and State Legion meetings took place here; wedding receptions were frequently held in its
spacious auditorium; and occasionally various church denominations have used it. It now serves
its original purpose, a place of worship, and Rev. James T. Murray, the present pastor, is
very pleased with the home it provides for his congregation. Rev. Peter M. Kemper accepted a
call to the First Baptist Church in 1960. Before the family arrived, the parsonage was
renovated. During the five years the Kempers were in Pittsfield, they made many friends for
themselves and the church.
In December 1961, Mrs. Ruth Plummer Cook passed away. She had served as
organist for thirty-five years. In the last years of her life, she directed a young
peoples choir that contributed much to the church life. In this, she was ably assisted by Mrs.
Clifford Humphrey. The chimes were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Cook shortly before her death.
A bulletin board was placed on the lawn of the church by friends in memory
of Mrs. Cook.
Rev. Donald Hinckley returned to the Universalist Church following the
resignation of Rev. Kittredge. His pastorate was a successful one. Rev. Hinckley and Rev.
Kemper came to their respective churches about the same time and served for nearly the same
period. Both were popular ministers, taking an active part in community affairs.
Pittsfield has always been a horsy town. The reader may recall the interest
shown in the sport around the turn of the century when Dr. Drake, Col. Morrill, the Dustins,
and other local personalities were wellknown in Maine for their speedy trotters and
pacers. With the passing of these wellknown horsemen and the gradual deterioration of
Union Park, interest faded. However, with the legalization of parimutuel betting in the 30's,
the rural fairs began to prosper and soon commercial tracks were built. J. R. Cianchette
became one of the leading promoters of the sport and at one time had substantial interests in
the Bangor Fair, the Lewiston Fair grounds, and a modern racing track at Gorham. Local
enthusiasm was stirred and quickly
accelerated during the 40's and 50's. Today, racing has once again become a
sizeable industry in Pittsfield. The L. Q. Wright Stables is probably the largest and most
active harness horse racing establishment in the state. Between thirty and forty standard bred
horses race under their colors in Canada and all parts of New England. The Cianchette brothers
have built a fine halfmile track on the flats south of the village and offer training
quarters for followers of the sport.
Along with harness horses, saddle horses have become popular and in recent
years, Pittsfield horses are appearing with increasing frequency at the shows around the
state. The Cianchette stables provide an excellent center for housing and training many of
these animals. The very young set have ponies quartered here, and it is a pleasant sight to
watch them start out together for a brisk workout. In the Memorial Day parades, these horses
and ponies have become leading attractions.
The story of Pittsfield cannot be concluded without mentioning the impact
of Route 95. The throughway was completed in this area in 1964. There was, of course,
considerable controversy over the question of one or two exits. Although the town voted
overwhelmingly in favor of two exits, we were given only one, and that leading onto Somerset
Avenue, which is now heavily traversed by the children from Vickery School. It is difficult
for some to understand why the largest town between Waterville and Bangor was treated so
arbitrarily. It is a situation which someday may be remedied. The ironical part of the whole
affair is that a Pittsfield man, Fred Eaton, took an active part in laying out the highway
when it was first proposed. Mr. Eaton, who was Director of Planning in the Highway Department,
fought hard to get the road to go along its present route in order that it might service the
more heavily populated areas. At that time, there was a school of thought that advocated a
more direct route from Augusta to Bangor.
Although his argument prevailed, Fred never lived to see the highway
constructed. He was a very able and fair official, and if he had lived to see changes that
took place in Pittsfield after the preliminary plans for the highway were drawn, I am sure he
would have understood our problem and attempted, at least, to see it solved. The increased
industry, the new grammar school, and the congestion at
the Main Street exit presented strong arguments for altering the original
If the reader will examine the highway map issued by the Highway Commission
in 1963 and illustrating the route proposed for this area, he will observe the notation in the
lower righthand corner that the data for the map was compiled in 1958, five years in
advance of the final decision to allow Pittsfield only one exit, and that on a street that at
certain hours of the day is clogged with motor vehicles and school children.
The highway itself is a tremendous improvement. We are now within short
driving range of Bangor, Waterville, and Augusta. There are those who feel that such easy
traveling will encourage people to trade out of town. On the other hand, it makes Pittsfield
an easier place to reach. Parents of M.C.I, students, for instance, no longer dread the drives
from out of state. It has brought us closer to the large centers of population. We can look
forward to the day when many who work in Waterville, Bangor, or Augusta, will find Pittsfield
within easy commuting distance. Our schools, our churches, our recreation facilities should
encourage new citizens to build homes and enjoy the attractions of a friendly town.
What the future holds for Pittsfield, no one can say, but we have every
reason to be optimistic. As in all communities, it rests in the hands of the young generation,
and in this respect, we are most fortunate. We are especially blessed with able and
civicminded young men and women who have their sights lifted high. Barring unforeseen
circumstances beyond local control, we should prosper and live happily, if not forever after,
at least for another generation. As one who is retiring from the scene, I can only wish them,
God Speed and Happy Landings!