If you ever walked from Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse to Bug Light Park, you probably noticed the stately two-story, Italianate-style, brick house with the cupola that stood near the Portland Pipe Line pier. It was the last remaining home of the peaceful seaside Cushing’s Point neighborhood that was destroyed to make way for the bustling shipyards of World War II.

In a noteworthy display of fortitude and foresight, and with the help of many generous donations from citizens and local businesses, the South Portland Historical Society, under the leadership of Linda Eastman and Kathy DiPhillippo, has rescued that grand old house and moved it to city land within sight of little Bug Light.

A video documenting the move was the focus of the recent annual meeting of the society. Viewers were amazed to see just how a brick house, built circa 1900 and weighing about 100 tons, could be lifted off its foundation, up onto enormous steel beams, trucked some distance in the dead of winter, and arrive at its new site with almost no damage. The society hopes that by early summer, the house will be open to the public, serving as their office and as a museum of South Portland history.

Main streets

and Lafayette

The Maine Historical Society sponsored a fascinating exhibit this spring titled “Main Street, Maine: Downtown Views from the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company.” Organized initially by the Penobscot Marine Museum, it features delightful scenes of main streets in communities across Maine from 1920 to 1940. I loved the photo of Saco taken in 1910. Dominating the main street is the Odd Fellows Hall, a handsome, three-story brick building with ornate brickwork built in 1896 from designs by noted Portland architect John Calvin Stevens. Other buildings included the Saco House hotel, the Saco Hand Laundry, the Geo. D. Buck Hardware store and a bakery. Another great photo was of Princeton, in Washington County, where the post office building also contained Neil E. McConnell’s confectionary business. Signs on the windows advertised Fro-joy ice cream, Orange Kist soda and Mr. McConnell’s own “sodalicious” beverages made right there in Princeton.

After viewing the exhibit, we enjoyed a lecture by Alan R. Hoffman, author of “Lafayette in America.” Of particular interest was his description of Lafayette’s visit to Portland in June of 1824. According to the Eastern Argus, the local newspaper, the streets were thronged with people shouting huzzahs as he passed, schoolchildren were lined up to greet him and Revolutionary War soldiers were privileged to shake his hand, The president of Bowdoin College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Law degree and Henry Knox, hero of the Revolution and secretary of war under George Washington, traveled down from Thomaston to spend some time with the general.

A secret

retreat

Portland is a city of many secrets. I suspect that only a few people know that the 200-year-old, federal-style white house with the green awning at 166 State Street is the home of the Monastery of the Precious Blood. It was established in 1934 when the Catholic Church purchased the house that was the home of William Pitt Fessenden, U.S. senator from the state of Maine and secretary of the treasury under President Lincoln. Thanks to the dedication of Terry Foster, our History of Christianity professor at OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), we had an extraordinary visit with the four nuns still in residence. Sister Mary Catherine Aloysius greeted us, dressed in a white robe, with red sash and black veil – the same style habit worn by Mother Catherine Aurelia, founder of the Community in Quebec in 1861. She explained that the sisters live separately from the world, spend much of their day in prayer and take three vows – poverty, chastity and obedience.

We were seated in the chapel – it has six lovely stained glass windows, all imported from Italy and boasting glorious blues, greens, lavenders and pinks with dashes of silver. My favorite depicted St. Michael the Archangel, armed with shield and spear, doing violent battle with Satan disguised as a purple dragon. The altar, of luminescent white marble from the same quarry in Italy that Michelangelo used for his Pieta, is decorated with an incredibly intricate carving of the Last Supper. A crucifix in the Spanish style is centered on the back wall and Stations of the Cross line the sidewalls. The chapel is open daily to the public for prayer from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Rivalry

revived

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has mounted an outstanding exhibit, “Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice.” Curator Frederick Ilchman believes these three artists invented modern painting – that is, if your definition matches his: “oil on canvas, not done for any specific site and with the artist, not the patron, choosing the subject matter.” Titian (1488-1576), Tintoretto (1518-1594) and Veronese (1528-1588), all lived and painted in Venice, knew each other well, and competed fiercely with each other for patrons and fame. Fifty-six of their most famous works have come to Boston from such renowned museums as the Prado in Madrid, the Uffizi in Florence and the Metropolitan in New York City. They have been arranged by subject matter so that a direct comparison of styles is easy – thus, portraits done by all three artists are in one room, nudes are in another and religious themes are in another. An excellent time line of this remarkable 16th century further enlightens the visitor – just imagine, Columbus had just discovered America in 1492, Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in 1517, Elizabeth I became Queen of England in 1558, Michelangelo died and Galileo was born in 1564, Venice and its allies defeated the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Spanish Armada was vanquished in 1588 and Shakespeare wrote the “Merchant of Venice” in 1597. This wonderful show continues at the MFA until August 16, when it travels on to the Louvre. Go see it if you possibly can!!


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