Showing posts with label Raymond-Casco Historical Society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Raymond-Casco Historical Society. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2024

Fairytale house a whimsical landmark in Raymond

By Nicole Levine

Find yourself in a fairytale when traveling down Main Street in Raymond. There lies The House That Jack Built, a peculiar town landmark that transports you into the world of a child's imagination.

An old postcard show The House That Jack Built in its heyday
on Main Street in Raymond Village. The former gift shop and
ice cream parlor is long gone but the building remains and
is a local landmark in the town. COURTESY PHOTO 
The House That Jack Built has a distinctive look that stands out amongst the rest of the houses within Raymond Village. It has playful yellow-colored walls with cyan blue framing around its doorways and windows. The house is built to look crooked, resembling an imperfect, yet magical children’s drawing.

To people passing by, its presence is a mystery. However, to many locals who have lived in Raymond for years, it is a nostalgic memory and sentimental reminder of their past.

The House That Jack Built was not created by Jack but was originally constructed in the 1930s by the Foster family of Raymond. Its fantastical look is inspired by the nursery rhyme that was favored by their daughter, The House That Jack Built.

The Fosters had opened an ice cream parlor and tea shop within the building, where they sold a variety of knick-knacks in their Maine-inspired gift shop. Some of their products included moccasins and maple syrup products. They also had their own soda fountain within the parlor.

Lucy Foster, also a former teacher, was often seen working within the shop. Many today still have very high regard for her heartfelt dedication to her students and her community. Don Foster, who also owned the business, was said to be “quite the character and funny” during his time working in the shop.

This used to be a very popular destination, as Route 302 originally ran past The House That Jack Built, before it was redirected to go by Raymond Beach in 1955.

The ice cream parlor was a favorite spot for teenagers during the time it was open. It was “the place to be” for local teens to hang out and socialize with their friends.

One customer reminiscing about the business, says “It sure was a popular place and one all the teens in the 50’s loved.” Another said, “I had my first banana split there.”

Many of the teens who used to frequent the ice cream parlor would often sign their names on the walls within the interior. The list of those names gives a unique glimpse into the past of those who used to call this their hangout when they were young.

The business within The House That Jack Built was open for around 25 years before it eventually closed. The property was then sold by the Fosters to the Timmons family.

Even though the business that brought so many teenagers fond memories had closed, The House That Jack Built continued to remain in many locals’ hearts.

Alice Bradeen, secretary for the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, grew up right next to the house. She was close with the Timmons family, who were residing on the property at the time. She spent many of her days exploring and playing there.

She described how there was also a wishing well added on to the back of the property. It was something that kids could climb inside and play. The wishing well just created all the more magic to this already fairytale-inspired home.

When describing the inside of The House That Jack Built, Bradeen says it was incredibly “quirky and neat” to go along with its eccentric exterior.

“You could picture how the tables were set up, and there was a bar where they served the ice cream with stools,” she said. It was almost as though she could still visualize what it once had looked like, when it was a thriving town scene. “Because it was something I saw every day, I did not appreciate how unique it was until later on.”

Nowadays many of us pass by this one-of-a-kind treasure, wondering to ourselves, “What is this quirky storybook-like building?”

The truth is, this Town of Raymond gem is truly something magical and serves as a looking glass back into local history.

Today, The House That Jack Built remains in the Timmons family. There has been some discussion of preserving the house as a historical landmark, however its future is unknown.

This charming feature of the town of Raymond brought a fairytale to life, and has created many fond memories for local residents, thanks to the Foster family. <

Friday, July 8, 2022

Project relocates blacksmith shop to RCHS museum

Workers disassemble the old Watkins Blacksmith Shop in
Casco for transport, reassembly and restoration at the
Raymond-Casco Historical Society Museum. The blacksmith
shop is among the oldest in Maine and will be used for public
demonstrations and instruction once the project has been
By Andrew Wing and Ed Pierce

If ideas shape the course of history, then generations to come will soon be able to relive part of Maine’s heritage that a team from the Raymond Casco Historical Society has disassembled and will restore at the society’s museum in Casco.

Steeped in history, the Watkins Blacksmith Shop is quite possibly the oldest blacksmith shop still in existence in Maine, and a project to resurrect and preserve this precious piece of Maine’s history is a massive undertaking for the historical society. The blacksmith shop first opened in the 1850s by William Watkins and was in use right up until the 1940s.

Footage of the blacksmith’s forge and shop was included in a 1922 silent movie called “Timothy’s Quest” and it once was part of a thriving rural community in Casco, but over the past eight decades, the building has slowly become a crumbling relic of Maine’s past. That is, until an idea about moving the building was pitched to Frank McDermott, president of the historical society.


“For the first time in nearly two hundred years, those traveling across Quaker Ridge in Casco will no longer start their journey with the familiar view of William Watkin’s Blacksmith Shop sitting on its knoll overlooking the village,” McDermott said. “Sitting at the intersection of the busy Bridgton-Portland Road, the Blacksmith Shop was literally at the center of local commerce and transportation. Today, the site sits empty, the result not of fire or neglect which claimed so many buildings of its era, but of a carefully planned move by the Raymond Casco Historical Society and a handful of experienced advisors and volunteers interested in preserving one of Maine’s historic treasures.” 
According to McDermott, the project was launched last fall when Steve Linne, the owner of the blacksmith shop, offered to give it to the Raymond-Casco Historical Society if it could be moved by Aug. 1 of this year.

McDermott, the former Raymond Schools superintendent, who has led the historical society for the past four years, immediately saw the potential of moving the blacksmith shop to the society’s museum on Watkins Farm in Casco, restoring it and using it for live demonstrations for the public.

“I haven't been as enthusiastic about a project in many years as I am about this,” said McDermott. “I see this as the reincarnation of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, and the reason I say that’s because I see us moving from a static museum where you go and stand and look, to rather a place where you go to both do and learn something.”

He pitched the idea to the historical society’s board of directors, and they liked the idea of relocating and turning it into a working blacksmith shop.

“I see us offering lots of things. For kids, we will offer crystal radio building workshops, or we will set up a telegraph system and teach kids about the telegraph,” McDermott said. “For adults, they can come and take blacksmithing lessons or metal casting lessons from the professional blacksmith that will be there so they can be doing things like they used to do.”

McDermott spent a good a part of last winter putting together a team of advisors that included Dr. Robert Schmick, Museum Director of 19th Century Curran Village in Orrington and a veteran of several blacksmith shop moves and Ed Somers of Bridgton, a specialist in preservation and restoration of buildings of this era. Somers agreed to take on the job of stabilizing and sectioning the building for transport and overseeing its reassembly.


Kerry Tottle of Limington devised a plan for lifting sections of the building over an adjacent building on the cramped worksite and led these experts. McDermott said that a small group of volunteers from Bangor, Hollis and several new members of the RCHS spent much of June preparing the building for relocation and helping load it on trailers.

Disassembly work was completed last week and now the shop sits in large pieces in a field at the RCHS’s Watkins Farm Museum site a few miles west of its original location awaiting reassembly. Work has begun on a modern foundation for the building designed to preserve it for future generations without detracting from its original appearance.

Over the next several months, new rough-cut hemlock flooring will be installed, the unique split stone foundation will be painstakingly reassembled on its own frost wall, and the ox lift will be hoisted back into place to await further restoration, McDermott said. Repairs will be made to several wall and roof sections using period materials being collected for that purpose and other structural repairs will be made.

He said that once the building has been made weather tight, work will commence to recreate the interior of the shop.

“Anyone who has ever been in an old workshop or barn has seen the shelves, brackets and old nails that appear everywhere on the walls. We needed to remove all those before we could move the building sections and reinstalling them will take time,” McDermott said. “It is also at this point that the side draft chimney will be rebuilt. The chimney collapsed a few years ago, but the bricks remain. Fortunately, a record exists of what it looked like from the silent movie of 1922.”


The shop is historically significant and believed to predate the separation of Casco from Raymond and is likely one of the oldest existing commercial buildings in the area, Schmick said.

“These kinds of trade buildings are few and far between in the State of Maine in general, and this is probably one of the earliest I have seen,” Schmick said.

The historical society has financed the move and foundation work thanks to several generous private donations and by borrowing from endowment accounts earmarked for maintenance and society operations. Casco voters agreed at town meeting to give up to $25,000 to assist the move, with the provision that it would only match the amount if the Town of Raymond agrees to contribute.

McDermott said RCHS’s initial matching $25,000 appropriation request was made too late to be considered as part of Raymond’s town meeting warrant this spring, but in reviewing Casco’s appropriation, Raymond Selectmen agreed to schedule a special town meeting on Aug. 9 to consider it. He said the project deserves the public’s support.

“We really need to get people to understand their history, the history of where they live, and how that relates to what we’re doing today,” said McDermott.

To make a donation for the project, call 207-310-3040. <