WATERVILLE – Sarah Sugden sifts through the treasures found in nooks and crannies of the Waterville Public Library during its ongoing renovation project.

Sugden, library director, marvels at each one.

There are historical documents, old photographs of the city, personal journals and posters dating back more than 100 years.

An original official state document from 1868, signed by then-Gov. Joshua Chamberlain, commends Waterville resident Sidney Keith for his heroics in the Civil War.

“It was in a crummy old broken frame that was just tucked away in the attic — a space being converted to usable space for patrons,” Sudgen said Wednesday.

Sugden and others have found many treasures in the attic. A construction worker for Blane Casey, the general contractor for the renovation and expansion project, found an antique stereoscope above the ceiling of the Maine History Room.

Sugden is excited about the finds, most of which have been found in the past six weeks.

“It’s better than birthdays and Christmases all put into one,” she said.

There’s a tax bill from Massachusetts to the city of Waterville, dated 1804, when Maine was still part of Massachusetts. The assessment is a whopping $112.

Children’s author and illustrator Lois Lenski left the library some original illustrations she created especially for the children of Waterville.

“They’re all dedicated to Waterville’s children, in the early 1940s,” Sugden said. “Some of these were hanging on broken old nails on the wall; some were just, literally, in piles.”

Yearbooks and financial records from the Waterville Woman’s Club and dating back to 1910, also were found in the attic.

“These will be given back to the Woman’s Club for their records,” Sugden said. “Even these little humble things are so important. They tell stories. Libraries have stories.”

She opens a cardboard box containing cassette tapes made as part of a local history project in 1976. The tapes represent 44 hours of interviews with people of Franco-American and Lebanese heritage talking about growing up in Waterville.

Sugden said the tapes eventually will be converted to digital audio files that people may hear on the library’s website.

“This is a really good find,” she said.

She unfolds a long piece of paper bearing handwritten notes from the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago. James G. Blaine, a senator and former Maine representative, as well as James Garfield and former President Ulysses S. Grant, were among the candidates. Garfield ultimately won the nomination.

“Somebody from Waterville attended the convention, kept a private record of the ballot results and somehow it ended up here at the library,” Sugden said.

Other items found include Waterville resident Thomas Fogarty’s spelling homework from 1876, complete with doodles; a scrapbook kept by a Waterville High School student in 1898; a Colby College Class of 1896 booklet; a public school calendar from 1917; and senior portraits of Waterville High School’s Class of 1900.

A painting of Martha Baker Dunn, a local author and library trustee, now hangs in the library’s large reading room, a treasure Sugden found in the attic. The painting from the early 1900s features an austere, white-haired Dunn wearing a violet-colored dress with lace cuffs.

“She wrote a poem for the opening of the library,” Sugden said.

A first edition of Dunn’s book, “Lias’s Wife,” also is among the items found.

There’s a 1953 newspaper clipping from the Waterville Morning Sentinel bearing the headline: “Inertia chief difficulty in solving parking problems.” There’s also a receipt showing the cost to rent a post office box in 1892: 50 cents.

Sugden said the Waterville Historical Society has been a great resource for the library over the years and she hopes to work with Colby and others to help preserve the artifacts.

“We’re looking to collaborate with a number of organizations to identify what the treasures are, determine the most appropriate way to preserve them, and also make them accessible to the public,” she said.

She said in some cases, copies will be made of items so the library and patrons have records and, where possible, the original items may be returned to the families from whom they originated.

“It’s an immense project, obviously, but it’s entirely worth doing because that’s what libraries do — we connect people with information.”

Bill Arnold, curator of the Waterville Historical Society, said Sugden spoke with him about the finds and he plans to visit soon to see the items. He is particularly interested in old scenic photographs of Waterville.

Many items will be displayed in the Maine history room.

Sugden says it is important that people get connected with the city’s history.

“A lot of the documents are about the founding of our community. What a remarkable research tool for schools and people like me who are just interested.”

The library was built in 1905 with a $20,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie.

The $2 million renovation and expansion project is expected to be completed at the end of the summer. It includes building a new front entrance off Appleton Street that will include a stair tower and elevator.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.