Like many of us lucky enough to live in one of Deering Center’ s old wooden homes, I constantly come up against what is known in the real estate parlance as “character.” Old double hung windows, plaster walls, creaky hardwood floors, and cranky cast iron radiators create a relationship with your home that is both personal and complicated. Over 50% of the homes in the area were built before 1940 when oil was cheap, yards were big, and families were even bigger. In my house, built in 1905, the creaking hardwood floors assure the tenants downstairs that I still have a job and warn the dog I’m ready for his morning constitutional. And while it’s true there are some nights when the wind rattles the old original windows enough to question their usefulness, I never find myself dreaming about a snug condo on The Hill. I wouldn’t trade the peeling paint and uneven porch rails for soulless drywall and Italian tile. Not me. When I look at a photo of my house from 1924 during the height of the Deering Center building boom I feel a connection to the 92 years of history that occurred at one house, on one street, in one neighborhood. This is what I call small history and Deering is full of it. Continue reading SMALL HISTORY→
With the arrival of the New Year one cannot help but think about the passage of time and its unceasing movement through our lives. For many of us, the increasing use of cell phones and digital devices has replaced our watches and sometimes even wall clocks. And yet the importance of checking the time is still ingrained in us from the moment we are taught the big hand from the little. It’s then especially appropriate in this neighborhood, chock-full of schools, that three public clocks remain in place. They are important reminders of the development of community patterns and agreements of time when gathering for school, work, prayer and play. Continue reading Clock→
What is it? La Infanta is a sculptural assemblage by artist Kitty Wales of Vinalhaven. Made of salvaged steel and washing machine parts, the piece makes a playful reference to the Spanish princess of the enigmatic 1656 painting Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the history of a place must be made up of a thousand images. Our neighborhood of Deering Center is the sum of the people, places, artifacts, and events that make this a close-knit, vibrant, and interesting place to live. Like pieces of a puzzle, these individual images–the Deering High School clock tower, the gravestones at Evergreen Cemetery, the face of a veteran marching in the Memorial Day procession–fit together to form our community. Continue reading SCAVENGER HUNT→
Walking the streets of Portland like I do can be a dangerous proposition. I’m often strolling with my head either pointed down somewhere at my feet, or tilted back so far as to give me a wicked headache. Neither is the suggested mode of transportation for even the most desolate of city streets. That is unless you’re looking for old “stuff,” which is, in fact, what I almost always end up doing. If I’m not looking up I’ll miss the remnant of an old streetlight still clinging to it’s rusty post, or a faded white stenciled sign on the side of a brick building advertising a former business. If I’m not looking down I’ll miss – coal chutes. Continue reading COAL CHUTES AND LEAVES→
Throughout time people have created objects in order to improve on a situation. Engineering, architecture, manufacturing, and artisan work have all left their marks on cities, towns and villages. At one time vital, practical, ingenious, or mundane, what remains is often a rusty anachronism waiting for the inevitable scrap pile. Left in place, these objects act as historical bookmarks: messages from the past to the present reminding us that things mattered then just as they do now, with no less significance. To recognize this can make us humble and realistic about change in our world. Continue reading THE CUMBERLAND AND OXFORD CANAL→
Have you ever wondered about Portland’s old red fire boxes? In the days before people had telephones, many neighborhoods, including Deering Center, had fire alarm boxes posted on streets to aid residents in reporting emergencies. These devices were generally either a fire alarm call box or fire alarm pull box which notified the fire department in the event of an emergency. Continue reading FIRE BOXES→
Celebrating and informing Deering Center and surrounding neighborhoods of Portland, ME