Bill Umbel, left, Deb Shangraw, Darleen Doughty, Julie Larry, Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, and Mayor Mike Sanphy stand in front of the newly designated sign. Chance Viles/American Journal

WESTBROOK — The walking repairman sign on Route 302 is now officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places, adding some local pride to Duck Pond Corner and giving official recognition to the iconic sign Mainers have driven by for decades.

Built in 1962 by the late Al Hawkes for his television repair shop, the Walking Man was one of the first mechanical, moving signs in the state.

Westbrook Historical Society members and officials who worked to get the sign federal recognition are ecstatic that their hard work paid off.

Their effort began in 2014, when the Maine Department of Transportation was looking into installing a roundabout at Duck Pond Corner. Getting historical status for the sign at nearby Hawkes Plaza developed into a way to stop that project.

“We then started looking into the history of the area,” said Mayor Mike Sanphy, a city councilor at the time and president of the historical society.

Sanphy began working toward securing federal status for the sign with the help of Martha Brackett, Ken Moody, Phil Spiller, abutting property owner Deb Shangraw and Bill Umbel, who owns the sign and Lenny’s, a pub at Hawkes Plaza.

“What was key was (state Sen.) Cathy Breen,” Sanphy said. “The DOT folks were talking down to us, not really listening.”

“Breen came in and let them know they work for her, and set the record straight,” Sanphy said of the Falmouth Democrat. “From there, we were being listened to. Cathy really championed this for us.”

The group filed an application with Greater Portland Historic Landmarks and the sign was approved at that level. From there, Portland Landmarks’ Julie Larry and the rest of the team fought hard for federal recognition, which was approved this month.

Sanphy, with help from Moody, Brackett and Larry, put together a 20-page history of the sign, complete with maps and photos. Hours of work went into the national application process, he said.

“After all that work, it is great to see this, and it’s big for Westbrook,” Sanphy said.

The federal recognition protects the sign, possibly ensuring that it stays as is for years to come. It also opens up a number of possible doors for grants to repair and maintain it. That takes the burden off Umbel.

“The sign, it’s an icon,” Umbel said.

When people ask where his pub is located, “I mention the sign and they know right away,” he said.

Umbel says he is committed to keeping the sign as is, seeing it as both a local landmark and a reminder of the American past.

“The sign, with its architectural integrity, you notice places with these things,” he said. “Signs like this are gone now, and it’s huge to have it right here.”

Al Hawkes’ daughter, Darleen Doughty, is happy with the sign’s new status.

“I didn’t have much to do with the sign, but I know (Al) would have been happy,” Doughty said.

The sign is in front of Lenny’s at 1274 Bridgton Road.


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