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Maine Memory Network

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House in the 20th Century

This slideshow contains 20 items
1
Anne Longfellow Pierce, Portland, ca. 1890

Anne Longfellow Pierce, Portland, ca. 1890

Item 16836 info
NPS, Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site

"It is but right that the house should belong to the public… Henry always loved the old home above any spot on earth, visiting here on frequent intervals."
(- Anne Longfellow Pierce from the Lewiston Journal, 1893)

Anne Longfellow Pierce died in 1901. On her death and based on an agreement she developed several years earlier, the Wadsworth-Longfellow house and property transferred to Maine Historical Society.


2
Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, ca. 1908

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, ca. 1908

Item 11711 info
Maine Historical Society

The house and grounds she had inhabited for most of her life were in close proximity to the Portland city buildings -- and Anne, her family, and then Maine Historical Society were affected by the growth of city services.


3
New Chapman building, Portland, 1924

New Chapman building, Portland, 1924

Item 23532 info
Maine Historical Society

The city continued to encroach on the former family home.

The 10-story Fidelity Trust Building was built only nine years after Anne Pierce's death, in 1910. At the time, it was the tallest building in New England.

In 1924 the Chapman building was built on the Preble House site, across Preble Street from the Fidelity Building.

Developers retained three bays of the Preble house to reduce the impact on the adjacent Wadsworth-Longfellow house.

These tall buildings provided office space for the new class of workers who commuted to work.


4

"The Old Dump," Portland, 1919

Item 100164 info
Maine Historical Society

City infrastructure includes services that often are hidden or taken for granted.

Street repair, sewerage worker, or garbage collector might be seen as unglamorous jobs, but are vital for the health and proper functioning of a city.

City engineers recognized the need for better sewerage as early as 1880. Gradually intercepting sewer lines were built to channel wastewater to holding tanks near the Eastern Promenade.

These tanks were emptied into the outgoing tide. The Clean Water Act of 1972 provided funding for the city to build a wastewater treatment plant to end the practice of dumping sewerage into the harbor.


5
Hay Market Square, Portland, 1830

Hay Market Square, Portland, 1830

Item 14858 info
Maine Historical Society

Portland’s first city hall, designed by John Kimball Jr., was originally built in 1825 as Portland’s Market House and Military Hall in Market, now Monument, Square.

The market stalls were on the ground floor with an area for military training in the hall above.

In 1832, Portland was chartered as a city and the former Military Hall and Market House was remodeled by Charles Q. Clapp to be used as a city hall.


6
City Hall, Portland, 1885

City Hall, Portland, 1885

Item 7137 info
Maine Historical Society

Begun in 1858 and dedicated in 1859, a new city hall, designed by architect James H. Rand, was constructed on the corner of Myrtle and Congress Streets.

It was gutted in the 1866 fire, but rebuilt using the burned out walls. Architect Francis H. Fassett supervised the project.


7
Portland City Hall, ca. 1920

Portland City Hall, ca. 1920

Item 5636 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1908, fire once again struck City Hall and resulted in the destruction of the building.

This time, the decision was made to build a new structure.

This new city hall, built in 1909-1912 of granite from North Jay, was designed by Carrere and Hastings of New York, in association with local architects John Calvin Stevens and John Howard Stevens.


8
Souvenir Longfellow House pitcher, ca. 1910

Souvenir Longfellow House pitcher, ca. 1910

Item 100198 info
Maine Historical Society

As the site of city government transformed, so did the house. The structure that had served three generations of family members now became a historic destination and a shrine to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

A portion of what was once a garden provided space to build the Maine Historical Society headquarters, which opened in 1907.

In addition, souvenirs of the Wadsworth-Longfellow house became popular with visitors soon after the house opened in 1901.

Collectible items came in many sizes and forms and provided a way for visitors to own keepsakes.


9
Nathan Goold, Portland, ca. 1904

Nathan Goold, Portland, ca. 1904

Item 100206 info
Maine Historical Society

Different groups of people played active roles in the preservation of the house. Longfellow family descendants furnished the house.

Nathan Goold served as the first curator and showcased historic details and important family artifacts.


10
Woman's Literary Union gavel, Portland, 1903

Woman's Literary Union gavel, Portland, 1903

Item 78683 info
Maine Historical Society

Members of the Woman’s Literary Union and the National Society of Daughters of the War of 1812 volunteered as guides for the house during the first years it was open.

Nathan Goold presented this gavel, made from wood salvaged from the threshold of the Wadsworth-Longfellow house, to members of the Woman’s Literary Union in 1903 for their volunteer work as guides of the house.


11
Longellow Garden Club tree planting, Portland, 1957

Longellow Garden Club tree planting, Portland, 1957

Item 100185 info
Maine Historical Society

Woman's Literary Union member Ella Bangs wrote the first guide to the house.

Here, members are breaking ground on the construction of a new wing for their headquarters on Spring Street.

The Woman’s Literary Union was founded in 1889.


12

"Rainy Day" vine fragment, Portland, ca. 1902

Item 100165 info
Maine Historical Society

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow remained hugely popular in the early 19th century as the Historical Society developed the house as a tourist attraction.

Relating the house to Longfellow's poems was part of the interpretation.

Longfellow described the "Mouldering Vine" in his poem, "The Rainy Day."

When the vine died about 1902, this section was saved and hung in the house for many years.


13

"The Rainy Day" postcard, Portland, ca. 1910

Item 100182 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow wrote several poems about his life in Portland and the time he spent in the house.

He wrote "The Rainy Day" in 1842 when he was a professor at Harvard, but frequently visited his family in Portland.


14

"Rainy Day" desk, Wadsworth-Longfellow house, Portland, ca. 1920

Item 100183 info
Maine Historical Society

A postcard of the interior of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House shows the desk, facing the back yard, where the poet wrote "The Rainy Day."

One section of the poem reads:
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.


15
Longfellow Garden Club sign, Portland, ca. 1924

Longfellow Garden Club sign, Portland, ca. 1924

Item 100207 info
Maine Historical Society

The Longfellow Garden Club was organized with a mission to care for the site and establish a garden to memorialize the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.

The yard behind the house lay undeveloped until 1924 when garden club members completely replanted the garden.


16
Longfellow House, Portland, ca. 1905

Longfellow House, Portland, ca. 1905

Item 100184 info
Maine Historical Society

Tourism became increasingly important to Portland -- and to the Wadsworth-Longfellow house.

Postcards, differing slightly over the years, often showed the house, with an inset of the poet's image.


17
Wadsworth-Longfellow house broadside, ca. 1901

Wadsworth-Longfellow house broadside, ca. 1901

Item 74932 info
Maine Historical Society

The broadside encouraging people to "Visit Longfellow's Old Home" was one of the first efforts to encourage Longfellow fans and tourists to visit the attraction.


18
Visit the Longfellow House poster, ca. 1935

Visit the Longfellow House poster, ca. 1935

Item 7957 info
Maine Historical Society

This colorful graphic encouraged a visit to both the house and garden.

The artists who created the poster worked for the Works Progress Administration, a depression-era Federal program that engaged artists in documenting and preserving distinctive elements of American culture.


19
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow portrait, ca. 1880

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow portrait, ca. 1880

Item 100216 info
Maine Historical Society

Longfellow was seen as an important native son and portraits of him hung in many locations throughout Portland and commemorate his connection to the city.

This photographic portrait hung in the public library at the Baxter Building for many years.


20
Smith & Broe Druggists, Portland, ca. 1912

Smith & Broe Druggists, Portland, ca. 1912

Item 11155 info
Maine Historical Society

New technology, influenced by electricity and the automobile, allowed the scale of buildings and the pace of life to expand even more.

Tourism introduced a new dimension to the economy. Automobile owners required new accommodations for their vehicles and driving habits.

Soon the city was changing to meet these needs with gas stations, parking lots, and office towers for companies and workers.

Tenements and downtown residences were demolished and replaced with retail and commercial businesses that catered to drivers and office workers.

By 1920, almost 70,000 people lived in Portland. In the midst of a bustling street that reflects the new city, the Wadsworth Longfellow house stands in the shadows to the right.


This slideshow contains 20 items