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Western Maine Foothills Region

Rumford

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Mechanics Institute of Rumford, ca. 1911
Mechanics Institute of Rumford, ca. 1911

Item Contributed by
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

Fun and recreational needs of the town were also planned and encouraged by Hugh J. Chisholm. The Rumford Mechanics Institute, his final creation for his “model town” was intended for educational and recreational activities, and provided opportunities for the youth and adults of the community to engage in athletics, lectures, and movies, and initially featured a bowling alley in its basement. It is now known as “The Greater Rumford Community Center” and continues to be a site for recreational events.

The Chisholm Ski Club, founded in the early 1920s, offered winter Nordic and Cross Country skiing, and hosted an annual winter carnival, first at its ski jump location on Spruce Street, then at its Scotty’s Mountain location on Route 120, and finally at its present facility on Glover Road. The Black Mountain Ski Resort now features skiing for the family at affordable rates, a tubing hill for the non-skier, and a modern, up-to-date lodge for dining and après-ski events.

The mountains surrounding Rumford, including Black Mountain, White Cap, and Glassface offer summertime blueberry picking and hiking. The Androscoggin River and its tributaries are now relatively free of pollution and are suitable for swimming, boating, and fishing in the Rumford area as a result of the efforts of United States Senator Edmund S. Muskie, born and raised in Rumford, to enact the 1972 Clean Water Act at the federal level.

Interior of Congregational Church, Rumford Point, 1909
Interior of Congregational Church, Rumford Point, 1909

Item Contributed by
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

Little is known about the artists who lived and worked in the Rumford area. Dr. J. E. Martin wrote a comprehensive book on the life and work of Jonathan Adams Bartlett, 1817-1902, who was a folk artist living on the south side of the Androscoggin River in what was the Aaron Graham farm. The interior of the Congregational Church in Rumford Point is adorned with trompe l’oeil (trick the eye) paintings, but the artist is not conclusively identified. It could be Bartlett, or Charles J. Schumacher of Portland, who is known to have painted similar murals in a now demolished church in Mayville, near Bethel.

Other 20th century Rumford artists are Oscar and Laura Legere, Robert Soucy, and Christine Wing, an art teacher at the Rumford/Mountain Valley High School for 37 years. Currently the New Pennacook Arts Center, with rotating exhibits in the Tech Building in Rumford, is the focal point for local artists wishing to display and sell their creative works.

Linda Farr Macgregor, in her Rumford Stories, interviewed other artists and musicians, including Naomi Davis Robertson, a quilter with the Lady of the Lake Quilters; Burt DeFrees (now deceased), teacher and theatrical director; Mark Belanger, organist for St. Anthanasius-St. John’s Parish; and Judith Davis Kuhn, teacher and musical director for RAPPA (Rumford Association for the Performing Arts).

The creative talents of the citizens of Rumford are shown at the many craft fairs during the holiday season, and summer festivals. Jewelry makers, painters, photographers, wood-carvers, knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers all offer their wares at these events.

Many of Rumford’s buildings are on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. These include the Rumford Public Library; the Municipal Building; The Strathglass Building (Hotel Harris); and the Strathglass Park. All of these buildings are works of art in themselves.

Waldo Street Fire, Rumford, 1923
Waldo Street Fire, Rumford, 1923

Item Contributed by
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

The history of Rumford also has its share of tragedies, such as fires, floods, shipwrecks, and wars. The most notable fire occurred on Waldo Street in August, 1923 at the rear of the Majestic Theatre. Within 24 hours, 20 business facilities and dwellings burned, and 100 families were made homeless. The mysterious shipwreck of The Don, off the coast of Harpswell, on June 29, 1941, took the lives of 34 men and women from the Rumford/Mexico/Dixfield areas. Over the years, the mighty Androscoggin and its in-coming rivers flooded the area. The most notorious flood happened in March, 1936, when the Business Island was flooded; the Morse bridge, the steel Rumford Falls Bridge, the Rangeley Lakes Railroad bridge, and the Ridlonville bridge were washed away. Other significant floods along the River happened in 1953, 1972, and 1987.

No community in Maine escaped the onslaught of the wars of the United States. Lapham states in War of the Rebellion: The Civil War of 1861-1865, that there were “Rumford men in nearly every Maine regiment raised down to the close of the war... It is believed that no other town in the county furnished a larger number of native born citizens, in proportion to its population, than Rumford, and none had more men killed in action or died from wounds.” Rumford sent men to World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Other residents of the area have served in the more contemporary wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.