Just days remain to catch the Freeport Historical Society’s nine-month exhibit on Freeport’s great shoemaking industry.

“Cobblers to Capitalists: Two Centuries of Freeport Shoemaking” is scheduled to close Friday, Jan. 15, at 4 p.m. However, RSU 5 Community Programs is offering a guided tour of the display Saturday from 10-11 a.m., at the Harrington House, 45 Main St. Historical society curator Holly Hurd – busy working on a “mini exhibit” on logging that starts on Feb. 1 – will be the tour guide for the last glimpse of the exhibit.

“We want to get as many people as possible in to see it,” Hurd said. “I’ll lead people throught it and describe it and answer questions.”

Hurd said that the cost of the tour is $5 for Freeport residents and $10 for nonresidents. Those interested can sign up by calling 865-6171 or going to rsu5-rce.org, she said.

“Cobblers to Capitalists” drew many visitors for its long run, Hurd said.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm and interest,” she said. “It seemed that we had a lot of local visitors, or people who were just interested in the subject.”

Freeport’s shoemaking industry at one time numbered 30 factories. H.E. Davis and E.B. Mallett built big factories in the center of town.

“The reason that Freeport has developed as a retail center was the shoemaking industry,” Hurd said. “The infrastructure was here.”

The last factory closed in 1970.

Hurd and volunteers devoted one room of the Harrington House to the early history of shoemaking in Freeport and the other to the factories, machines and tools. Cobblers’ benches, shoe pegs and other aspects of the industry are on display.

A research team examined census and tax records to identify the names of people who worked as shoemakers. The historical society obtained many photographs and objects from the L.L. Bean archives and other sources, and interviewed former shoe workers.

When Hurd concludes the tour, she and Jim Cram, interim executive director of the Freeport Historical Society, will turn their full attention to upcoming displays. The mini-exhibit on logging, with the help of photographs from Rangeley, runs for eight weeks. A year-long exhibit devoted to Freeport artists will follow.

“Logging in the Maine Woods, 1915-1928,” will feature the paintings of Alden Grant, Sr. The opening reception on Feb. 1 will be from 5-7 p.m.

The 19 paintings are on loan from the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum, for eight weeks only. The subject is logging in the Maine woods from 1915-1928 when axes, handsaws and horses were used to cut and haul trees.

“Alden Grant spent many hours of his childhood observing loggers working near his home in the area of Rangeley,” Hurd said. “He created these folk art paintings from 1986-1990, when he was in his late 1970s, from his memories of the logging camps in the early decades of the 20th century.”


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