March 16, 2010

Making history, brick by brick


— By . KIM

click image to enlarge


Gordon Chibroski

click image to enlarge

Doug Jones/staff photographer: Thursday, May 8, 2008: The Dr. Elihu Baxter House Museum in Gorham features the second and third family generations in these portraits of James Finney Baxter , left, and his son Percival P. Baxter hung on the stairway walls.

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writer

GORHAM — When James Phinney Baxter donated a library and his childhood home for use as a museum to the town, residents were invited to provide items for the house. Now, the public is invited to participate in the future of these institutions as they mark their centennial.

The Bricks for Baxter Campaign is raising money to build a walkway to the house and for an endowment fund for the library. The bricks will do more than provide funds for the walkway -- they will actually be installed in the new walkway leading to the 1797 Colonial where Baxter was born.

''The people of Gorham would be making history,'' said David Fogg, a member of the Baxter Memorial Library Board of Trustees, which also oversees the Baxter House Museum.

The long walkway -- the yellow house is set back from South Street behind a lawn and small flower garden -- is showing signs of age. Some of the bricks are chipped, grass is growing between some of them, and there's evidence of insects making their homes underneath. It's estimated that the new walkway will cost more than

Each brick can be inscribed with three lines of text. The message can be one that honors the memory of loved ones, commemorates special occasions or otherwise shows the contributor's support of the institutions. The first brick per contributor will cost $75 and each additional brick will be $60.

James Phinney Baxter's father, Dr. Elihu Baxter, purchased the house in 1812. James Phinney Baxter was born there in 1831. He would later make his fortune in the canning business and become mayor of Portland. His son, Percival P. Baxter, became Maine's governor.

James Phinney Baxter wanted to build a public library for his town. One condition was that his childhood home be turned into a museum.

The library and museum opened on Sept. 23, 1908, with much fanfare. Schools closed so students could attend the event, which was filled with speeches and a parade.

Baxter contributed family furniture to the museum and residents donated an array of items. There are hair wreaths under glass, canes leaning in a corner, children's shoes on shelves and a then-newfangled butter churn in the kitchen -- all shared to help provide a sense of history.

''It was the people's museum,'' Fogg said.

The library is next door to the museum, on the original site of the house. The library has grown tremendously since Baxter had it built. An addition completed in 2003 doubled the library's size to about 15,500 square feet and quintupled the usable space.

Bricks for Baxter will be among the efforts to benefit the Centennial Endowment Fund for the library. The hope is to raise $100,000 for the endowment and use the interest to pay for books, said Library Director Pam Turner.

Other events to mark the centennial are also in the works.

Local businesses and organizations have donated baskets of goods -- with themes like tea time and summer fun -- that will be auctioned at an event Saturday. History is the focus of efforts like a local oral history project and a display about the decades since the establishment of the library and museum. A high tea will mark the centennial on Sept. 23.

Fogg, meanwhile, is writing a book entitled ''Gorham's Greatest Gift.''

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Doug Jones/staff photographer: Thursday, May 8, 2008: David Fogg, of the Baxter Memorial Library, Board of Directors, demonstrates how inscribed bricks purchased by donations will be placed in the front walk of the Dr. Elihu Baxter House Museum in Gorham , as a fund raising effort to repare and maintain the historic treasure.

click image to enlarge

Doug Jones/staff photographer: Thursday, May 8, 2008: The Dr. Elihu Baxter House Museum in Gorham notes its US National Registry of Historical Places with a plaque near the front door where David Fogg of the Baxter Memorial Library, Board of Directors, enters to show the house to visitors.


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)