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Lubec, Maine

A Border Town Shaped by the Sea

Lubec's 1911 Centennial Celebration

by Ronald Pesha, Lubec Historical Society

Lubec staged a grand celebration in 1911 observing the Town’s Centennial on July 3rd and 4th.
With a population peaking at nearly 3370 people and exuberant community pride, Lubec decorated itself as these views of on Water Street show.

The actual “birthday” of Lubec is June 21, the date when the governor of Massachusetts (for Maine was part of that state until 1820) signed into law the Legislative Act on June 19th, 1811, which separated the new Town from Eastport.
Exactly 100 years later Lübeck, Germany sent a telegram. “On this eventful day commemorating the naming of Lubec, the city of the same name across the sea sends hearty congratulations. Signed, Senate of ther Hanse Town of Lübeck.” The weekly Lubec Herald newspaper reported the document one week later in its June 28th edition.
Decorations and Displays
By then the well-decorated Masons’ Washington Lodge #37 building, seen on the left below, was 56 years old. Chartered in 1822, the Lodge met in member Elijah Stearns’ Maine Hotel until 1839. The first building owned by the Lodge, erected in 1840, proved unsastisfactory and was replaced by this building in 1855 at a cost of $2,000. The prominent Mowry house seen here was moved away from Lubec during the latter half of the 20th Century.

The Weather and the Program
As a seaman and also Customs Collector, the personal diary of sardine mogul Jacob C. Pike contains daily weather commentary. Sunday July 2 "came in with a light breeze southwest and fine weather" and the same but cloudy skies prevailed on July 3. The published Program for the extensive two day anniversary lists athletic events, band concerts, ample public feeds, a “living flag” by Lubec’s children, and a celebratory townwide parade past splendidly decorated commercial and residential buildings, such as Jacob Pike's house at 2 Church street.

Residents of more modest dwellings also manifested muncipal devotion with streamers, stars, and stripes.

Clicking on and zooming in on the printed program, reproduced below, shows all activities, events, and even the names of the prominent business leaders of Lubec who directed the Centennial Committee.

Use of the zoom tool to read Monday's schedule, upper left of the program, lists a Automobile Hill Climbing Contest at 3:30 PM. The winner of ther "slow" high gear climb was Carleton Pike, who won the trophy shown below.

Though activities commenced on Monday, July 3, the photo below of upper Water Street likely was taken on Tuesday the 4th. Zoom in to see the uniformed individuals on the lower left, possibly members of one of the many bands. Note that the water of Johnson Bay beyond the end of the street is not visible, probably a result of fog always common in Lubec even during midsummer.

Here’s a view looking southwest on Water Street at its junction with School Street. The towered corner building housed the Post Office in 1911 (and for many years afterward), was also proudly deocorated for the grand celebration.

Stars and Stripes Throughout Lubec
The recently constructed Knights of Pythias Hall on Pleasant Street bordered Monument Lot with its share of streamers. The Order of Knights of Pythias is an international, non-sectarian fraternal order, established in 1864 in Washington, DC.

Behind the Pythias Hall stood the two-story gabled structure which long housed Lubec firefighting apparatus. It too bore appropriate patriotic bunting.

The bandstand, a prime gathering place for the public in an era larded with local musical organizations, stood at Main and Pleasant Streets, as does the much-rebuilt gazebo as of 2010.

Church and School Streets, on top of the hill which surmounts the village area of Lubec, was home to Lubec School for about a century. In 1911 this building housed both the elementary and high schools. Click on the photo and zoom in to view the outsized portraits of Maine Governor Plaisted, left, and the late Maine elder statesman James G. Blaine. At the extreme right of the school photo note the roof corner of Columbian Hall, which appears in the righthand photo also richly decorated.

Below, two welcome arches graced the exultant streets of Lubec This arch near the corner of Commercial and Pleasant Streets welcomed visitors who arrived via the ferry wharf at the camera’s rear. Click on the picture then read the text telling of the portion of this structure which still exists as of 2011.

The other arch guarded Bayview Street alongside Main.

A Centennial Mystery
The German namesake city sent more than a congratulatory telegram in 1911, for the Lubec Herald reported on “a huge express package which contained a magnificent engraving of Lübeck, Germany, in the Sixteenth Century. This engraving, which is eleven feet long by three feet wide is handsomely framed in dark oak and reinforced with brass stays. It shows the ancient town, with its waterfront and cathedrals, its quaint German architecture and sharp-roofed houses, its odd-looking boats and winding streets...The large engraving is accompanied by two smaller framed pictures, showing views of the town today...the town feels highly honored and grateful to its godmother for such an interest as the gift of these articles evinces.”
The artwork was promptly displayed in the window of Centennial Headquarters, the C.H. Clark Department Store (later Unobskey’s) on Water Street. Clicking on this picture then zooming in reveals the eleven-foot framed etching across the bottom of the wide window, with what appear to be two buckets and a presentation cup in front. The two smaller art pieces rest higher, partially obscured by the semi-circular bunting.

What became of these three magnificent pieces? A 1937 newspaper item states that the art went into the new 1911 bank. Since then, no trace. The brick edifice, at Water and Main Streets, still stands as of 2010, but no one seems to know what happened to the gift from Lübeck. The Lubec Herald also reported that “Souvenirs of the package in the form of nails, splinters of wood and bits of the lettering are eagerly sought for as relics of our hundred year remembrance.” None of these fragments has surfaced as of February, 2010.

The Ceremony on July 4
Jacob Pike's personal diary for July 4 says that the day "came in calm and fine, later warm," clearly excellent weather for the ceremony. According to the Lubec Herald’s front page for Wednesday, July 12 (no issue was published on July 5th), ““One of the features of the day was a Living Flag with 225 children on a specially built stand on Monument Lot.” Click on the photo below and zoom in to see the youngsters on the upper left holding their stars and singing patriotic songs.

“Here was also the address by Dr. Anton Marquardt of Colby College (in Waterville, Maine), formerly of Lübeck University, Germany,” continued the Herald coverage. “His address, as well as that of Judge Mahar of Augusta, Maine, was an eminently fitting speech, in which he paid a compliment to the people of the town in their efforts to fittingly celebrate their anniversary of establishment as a town.”
In conclusion Miss Evelyn Pike unveiled a black granite tablet. The monument is on the Pleasant Street edge of the park, and reads “Lubec Incoporated June 21 1811 Commemorated June 21 1911. Eighteen-year-old Evelyn was daughter of Bion Moses Pike, owner of the Lubec Sardine Co., who had donated the land to the town for the Civil War Soldiers’ monument. Click on the photo below then zoom in left center and see her lifting the veil off the tablet.

The day concluded with a fine parade, more athletics and concerts, and a “Grand Pyrotechnic Display” as dusk settled at 8:30.