FALMOUTH — Until recently, the origins of an illustrated map of Falmouth seemed lost to time.

But a concerted effort by Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long range planning and economic development, has revealed the map was painted by Edward La Salle of Portland in 1940.

The fully restored painting, which now hangs in a prominent spot at Town Hall, is also the subject of a new book entitled “Building Community: Edward La Salle’s 1940 Illustrated Map Painting of Falmouth, Maine.”

Holtwijk was the catalyst behind “Building Community,” in which local essayists tell the stories behind the map.

A book launch and community celebration will be held 2-4 p.m. Friday, June 14, at Town Hall, with brief remarks scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

The book is free and after this week, copies will also be available at Falmouth Memorial Library and the Falmouth Historical Society.

The book features each of the 30 scenes or vignettes that are part of the map. All of them are accompanied by an essay authored by one of two dozen Falmouth residents who were invited to take part in the book project.

The restoration and rehanging of the illustrated map was a key part of Falmouth’s 300th anniversary, which was celebrated with a variety of events throughout 2018.

In addition to the map, another project connected to the town’s tercentennial was recently unveiled: a special new interpretive sign at Town Landing.

“Given the importance of the waterfront to Falmouth’s history, the Tercentennial Planning Committee wanted to highlight that aspect of the community’s history with a legacy project that would last beyond 2018,” Erin Bishop Cadigan, coordinator of the 300th-anniversary celebration, said.

The sign, affixed to the end of the pier, includes an illustrated map of Casco Bay and also showcases historic postcards of the Falmouth Foreside area, which was a popular tourist destination in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

With the book on Falmouth’s illustrated map, Holtwijk said he hopes readers “sense the joy the painter must have had in … capturing (various) impressions of this community.”

Holtwijk said his interest in the map was piqued because of “how delicately and beautifully it was painted. Yet, no one could tell me anything about it – not the name of the painter or when it was painted.”

He said before the map was restored last year, all that was known was, at some point, it was stored in the basement of Falmouth Memorial Library.

But, Holtwijk said, “I felt that this painting deserved to be better known. I sensed that this painting contained a multifaceted story of Falmouth that needed to be explored and brought to light. A story of history, but also of memory and delight.”

It was only when the map was taken out of its frame that the restorers noticed what had been hidden: the name of the painter and the year he painted it.

While the mystery of who painted the map and when is now solved, questions still remain about who commissioned it and why.

Still, Cadigan, who wrote the introduction to “Building Community,” not knowing those facts in no way detracts from the value of the painting.

She said La Salle’s “conceptualization of our history is not common. This alone makes his work original and significant.”

“His painting is also a visually interesting and beautifully rendered work connecting artistic expression to historical context by underscoring the power of place …,” she wrote.

Holtwijk said the authors of the essays that accompany each vignette were invited to participate based on their knowledge of or connection to the scenes depicted.

Two of those authors are Betsy Jo Whitcomb and Francelle Carapetyan.

Whitcomb is an active member of the Falmouth Historical Society, but also works part time at Town Hall, “so I saw that mural every day and was fascinated by it.”

Although she’s familiar with many aspects of Falmouth history, Whitcomb said in conducting her research, “there were many surprises.”

“The area that most interested me, because of the (significant) changes that happened over time, was the Squitterygusset area, around Middle and Lunt roads,” she said.

Whitcomb hopes the book about the map painting “gives people who read it an appreciation for the map itself,” as well as sparking an interest in people to learn more about the history of Falmouth.

Carapetyan and her husband, Peter Bixby, were invited to write about the Pleasant Hill Chapel, which they have turned into a single-family residence.

In restoring the chapel, Carapetyan said her husband “designed the space so that the integrity of the windows and the scissor trusses would be honored”

She said what makes the chapel, originally built in 1880 so special, is “its beauty, the serenity one feels, and the light that pours in through the eight Gothic-style windows.”

What Carapetyan hopes readers get out of the book on the illustrated map is “a sense of the importance of continuity, of respect for history, and a love of community.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The mystery of who painted this illustrated map of Falmouth, which now hangs at Town Hall, has been solved. But questions remain about why it was commissioned.

Edward La Salle of Portland created 30 different vignettes depicting special places in Falmouth when he painted an illustrated map of the town in 1940.

A new book, “Building Community,” celebrates Falmouth’s historic illustrated town map. Copies are free; a book launch will be held from 2-4 p.m. Friday, June 14, at Town Hall.


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