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Lochness monster, castle in Rumford's future?
RUMFORD -- If a longtime resident of Strathglass Park realizes his dream, the lochness monster and a Scottish castle will join a palladium in the center of the park on a 1.5-acre parcel of land known as "The Pines."
Gary Morrison, who moved here in 1980, issued a letter to the Board of Selectmen on July 21, offering the town his services as caretaker of a "The Pines," which bisects the center of Strathglass Park.
He is seeking to implement a personal 10-year, three-phase plan to add amenities to the overall landscape incrementally.
The first phase is to erect a palladium in the center of "The Pines." This will feature some architectural designs already incorportated into the housing of Strathglass Park, such as Jacobean facades and pillars. The structure will be based on the Golden Proportion, which was employed by the renown architect, Cass Gilbert, who was a geometer.
The second phase will have sheltered benches adjacent to the paved pathway. The last phase, to be located in the part of the parcel closest to the granite gateway, would be representational display of the Urquhart Castle and Nessy, the Lochness monster.
Last week Morrison and Richard Skagliola were discussing life in the park before walking to The Pines when another resident, Thelma Giberson, walked within earshot.
"It's a beautiful place here," she noted.
Not seeking compensation, Morrison said his services will also include maintaining and upgrading the appearance by mowing the grass no shorter than 3.5 inches as the need arises. Further, if the town supplies the loam, he would fill in low areas of the parcel as well as use loam to plant flowers and foliage plant material.
In his letter, Morrison said, "As of this writing, the grounds of The Pines have been maintained in such a way as to improve the appearance of the grounds as well as to make it safe for pedestrians to walk the grounds without fear of tripping or spraining ankles. The Pines are, as yet, a work in progress. There are more plants to add to what already has been added as well as more landscaping this year."
Fundraising for the project will include an artistic endeavor by Morrison, who will do commissioned portraitures and landscapes based on the golden proportion. The artwork will be made for a minimum donation yet to be determined. A portfolio will be available in October. Those who might be interested in having a portrait done can email him at email@example.com.
Morrison said his wife has been his inspiration to make this contribution to the town. He also thanked his neighobrs who help mow and trip the grass on more than one occasion without being asked.
Morrison said he would like to see every building restored to their former architecture. "The sky is the limit. We can make this a showcase spot, if we can get other residents to help from time to time."
When he moved here, he noted, "I couldn't believe you could buy a home so cheap."
Recently, Christopher Closs, field service preservation advisor for Maine Preservation, the state's foremost historical preservation organization, toured Strathglass Park and concluded that the park is worth investing in because of its "uniqueness and character."
Following the tour, Closs met with members of the Strathglass Park Preservation Society.
Recently the Preservation Society completed their first project, which was to save and relight the gate.
On May 2, following two years of fundraising, organizing and negotiating, the $6,000 project concluded with new
historic-style luminiaries attached to the 16-foot granite pillars. It also included repairing the mortar on the pillars and the gate wings.
Society member Phil Blampied said the next project is repairing the wall leading from the gate toward York Street. The cost is estimated to be around $1,000. Contributions towards this project are welcomed.
Skagliola, the park's block watch coordinator, said. "We're not aware of changes they want to make. They may be parallel (ideas), but we're being shut out of the process. This should not be just for the investors."
"As homeowners, we have a vested interest," added Morrison.
One of Maine's first planned communities, Strathglass Park, like the paper mill, has dominated this community for more than a century, sprung from the vision of Hugh Chisholm.
Chisholm commissioned prominent New York architect Chase H. Gilbert to design the homes and together they visited Scotland in search of architectural inspiration.
In 1902, construction began on a unique assemblage of slate-roofed brick buildings with a Scottish inspiration: 51 two-family duplexes, four single family dwellings, and nine apartment houses. These buildings were created with a beautiful harmony, unified in style but individually unique in layout and appearance. No two were designed exactly alike.
The main section of homes was announced by a towering granite gateway which opened to an oval set of avenues divided by an open park area. These avenues -- Urquhart Street, Lochness Road, Erchles Street and Clachan Place -- were named after Chisholm's favorite Scottish towns.
Strathglass Park lived up to Chisholm's vision of creating quality affordable housing for the workers at his mill and became one of the most coveted neighborhoods in Rumford Falls. The terms under which residents of the park lived were quite generous. For only nine dollars a month the Oxford Paper Company provided more than just attractive homes with up-to-date conveniences. Each fully electrified home was provided with this novel miracle utility by the Rumford Falls Power Company (which Chisholm also owned) at the cost of one dollar per month. Coal was delivered regularly to each unit at the Company's cost. The snow was shoveled, grass was mowed, and the painting, papering and repairs were all provided as part of a plan to maintain the park as a showplace.
The real estate operation never made a profit, and its occasional losses were covered by the Oxford Paper Company. By 1948, it was decided that it was no longer financially feasible to maintain the park and the Rumford Reality Company was dissolved.
The houses were put up for sale, with the then current residents given the first opportunity to purchase their homes at the extremely attractive price of $3,400 to $3,900 for each duplex.
The sale of the Oxford Paper Company in 1967 also contributed to a decline in the Park as the generous maintenance program which they had continued to offer to the residents of the park was finally discontinued.
In 1974, Strathglass Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of the ornate brick facades and slate tiled roofs are in disrepair, and original architectural features are missing.
Amazingly, of those 51 buildings in Strathglass Park, all but one and a half of them still exist today.
Maine Preservation has named Strathglass Park to its list of Maine's Most Endangered Historic Properties.
The town's Economic Development Committee procured a $250,000 housing assistance grant two years ago, part of which was to aid low- to moderate-income residents of Strathglass Park complete necessary repairs to preserve that historical asset. With that grant completed, officials are considering pursuing a second grant.
Strathglass Park residents Gary Morrison (left) and Richard Skagliola discuss plans for the future of The Pines, located in the middle of the park. Morrison has a personal 10-year, three-phase plan to add a palladium as well as replicas as the Lochness Monster and the Urquhart Castle. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)