South Portland Historical Society is pleased to announce the release of its 2022 fundraiser ornament – Willard Square. This is the ninth in a series of historically-themed ornaments. With the inspiration and efforts of board member Chuck Igo, the South Portland Historical Society began this fundraiser in 2014 with the release of its Bug Light ornament. Subsequent ornaments have included Fishermen’s Point and Portland Head Light (2015), the Liberty shipyards (2016), Red’s Dairy Freeze (2017), Portland Harbor – Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Fort Gorges (2018), the Cape Elizabeth Depot train station (2019), the Engine 6/Thornton Heights Volunteer Hose Company (2020), and Memorial Junior High/Middle School (2021).

The Willard Square ornament is available now. Ornament sales support the South Portland Historical Society. South Portland Historical Society photo

For its 2022 ornament, the historical society designed a 1930s-era image of Willard Square, when trolley service was still in operation in South Portland.

As the downtown of the Willard neighborhood, Willard Square has been a constantly changing and evolving village center. The Willard neighborhood itself was first known by the name Point Village. Even the streets had different names in the 1800s, so instead of Pillsbury Street, Preble Street, and Deake Street, for example, we once had Point Road, Shore Road, and Cove Road.

It was the establishment of a neighborhood post office in the square that brought about the change in the name from Point Village to Willard in 1884. In those days, there was no home delivery of mail; residents had to pick up their mail from the nearest post office. So when Edwin Cobb became the first postmaster of the new Willard, Maine, post office, residents could just take a short walk to the square to get their mail. Post offices were typically set up inside a grocery or drug store and the postmaster was often the shopkeeper.

In this 1920s view of Willard Square, Leroy York was operating the drug store. A team of horses can be seen getting a drink at the watering trough in the middle of the square. South Portland Historical Society photo

Willard Square has been home to many storefronts over the years. For this ornament, a trolley is shown entering Willard Square on a typical day in the 1930s. The IGA was at 412 Preble St. (later home to the long-running Bathras Market that many of us still remember) and the E.L. Nichols pharmacy and A&P store were located at 416-420 Preble St. Some of the other stores that operated from these two buildings over the years included Cleaves Market, Leroy York druggist, Austin C. Bean Drugs, and Richardson’s Market.

After Bathras Market closed in 1989, Willard Square entered a quiet phase. The office of Caron & Waltz Plumbing and Heating was located there for many years. When Scratch Baking opened in 2004, in the 416-420 Preble St. storefront, it brought new life to the area. With its delicious bagels, breads and other treats, Scratch is now the heartbeat of the square.

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A 1930s-era view of neighborhood stores in Willard Square. South Portland Historical Society photo

All nine of the landmark ornaments are available for sale through the historical society and its retail partners. Each ornament is cast in a durable metal with a beautiful brass finish, and comes in a protective cloth bag. Included is a small card with some historic details about the image; the card also lets a gift recipient know that proceeds from the sale of each ornament go directly to the South Portland Historical Society and its museum.

The ornaments are available for $20 each, cash or check, at the checkout counters of our retail partners: Drillen Hardware, 460 Cottage Road; Broadway Variety, 771 Broadway; and Embers Stove Shop, 581 Main St. You can also find this year’s Willard Square ornament for sale at Scratch Bakery in Willard Square. All of these stores have graciously agreed to offer them for sale and will collect the proceeds on behalf of the society.

A circa 1945 image of Richardson’s Market at 420 Preble St. South Portland Historical Society photo

Purchases made at any of the off-site locations must be made by cash or check; if you would like to use a credit card, you will need to purchase your ornament directly from the historical society’s museum gift shop.

The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment. If you would like to have an ornament shipped out of state, that can be done by calling the historical society. Ornaments are shipped in a sturdy ornament box for an additional $10 to cover postage and handling (or $8 if you are willing to wait a little for us to ship it). Please call the society at 207-767-7299 to place your order.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director for the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at [email protected]

In this 1987 image, Bathras Market was still in operation at 412 Preble St. South Portland Historical Society photo

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