Langlais art at the JML: a source of pride and inspiration for St. George

“Four Lions” by Bernard Langlais

by Katharine Cartwright

In 2013 the Jackson Memorial Library (JML) officially joined the Langlais Art Trail, established through a collaborative effort between the Colby College Museum of Art and the Kohler Foundation, Inc. The goal of the Trail was to link the various non-profit institutions across Maine that agreed to “hold, promote, preserve and exhibit” art objects created by Cushing artist Bernard (Blacky) Langlais (1921-1977). Susan Bates, who was president of the JML Board at the time, thought that “it sounded like a great opportunity for the library” to be part of the Trail. She felt that Langlais’ art would become a notable addition to our culturally rich community and also link the library to other non-profit institutions in Maine. Bates formed an ad hoc committee from the JML Board of Trustees who selected four Langlais works for the library—and also one piece for the St. George School.

The story of how the JML became a part of the Langlais Art Trail is almost as long as the Trail itself. Bernard Langlais was born in 1921 in Old Town, Maine where he grew up. He left Maine after high school to study art at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Over time, the young artist developed into a celebrated innovative modernist painter. But, it wasn’t long before he abandoned painting and turned his interest to making art from wood. In 1956, when he purchased and renovated a summer cottage in Cushing, discarded fragments of wood caught his imagination and he began fashioning them into wood mosaics. He earned critical success In New York where his works were displayed at notable venues including the Whitney Museum. By the mid-1960s, the artist and his wife, Helen Friend, fled the stressful culture of the Big Apple and made the Cushing cottage their permanent residence. Langlais spent the rest of his life on their 90-acre homestead constructing enormous wooden sculptures as well as smaller works depicting the animal kingdom.

“Elephant”, top, and “Jungle Scene” bottom by Bernard Langlais

Because Langlais’ remarkable and unique sculptures gained national recognition and prestigious awards during his lifetime, they became important and valuable. When he died in 1977 at the age of 56, his widow wanted to preserve his body of work for future generations to experience. Therefore, she bequeathed both the art and the homestead to the Colby College Art Museum, who acquired it in 2010 when she died. This was a monumental gift: 2,900 pieces of art and a 90-acre homestead. The college was unable to conserve all the work and manage the property so it forged an agreement with the Kohler Foundation, Inc., to both arrange for distribution of Langlais’ art to non-profit institutions throughout Maine (linking them through the Langlais Art Trail) and find a way to ensure stewardship of the property and its many Langlais sculptures. According to Jane Bianco, a resident of Tenants Harbor and former Fellow at Kohler, “the Foundation does wonderful things in helping to conserve art environments across the country.” Terri Yoho, formerly the Executive Director of the Foundation, Bianco says, was instrumental in not only lining up conservators to work on the sculptures at the Langlais property but also in involving the Georges River Land Trust (GRLT) in providing stewardship for the 90-acre tract itself. This she did by contacting Annette Naegel, Director of Conservation at the GRLT to see if the group would be interested in acquiring the property. Although the homestead was somewhat outside GRLT’s mission, Naegel felt it was significant because of its location within the St. George River watershed region. So the GRLT agreed to acquire the property and through its stewardship establish the Langlais Sculpture Preserve, which is the second largest preserve under the GRLT’s control. The GRLT opened the Preserve to the public in 2015. Many of the artist’s largest sculptures are now on view there as a gift from the Kohler Foundation.

It was in 2013 that Naegel contacted Bates at the JML about acquiring some Langlais pieces for the library, thus adding the JML to the Langlais Art Trail. Naegel also had a larger vision for the art: “I love the idea of the linkage between Langlais and the natural environment. The message of creativity and speaking from nature is important. Just as the St. George River flows through this area, so does Langlais’ artistic voice. His work speaks to people on many levels, including children. It becomes a venue for learning all kinds of things related to the natural environment.”

Indeed, the children of St. George have heard Langlais’ artistic voice and responded to it through their own inspired creations. Over the past several years, 4th graders from the St. George School have participated in a program called “Leaps of Imagination” held at the JML. Like Langlais, they have created art from scraps of wood and other found objects. Many of these are on display at the JML along with the Langlais pieces. Sixth grader, Violet Ward was one of those students. “We were told to create an animal as realistic as we could with pieces of wood we had,” she recalls. Willow Miller, her classmate, adds, “His work is really cool! I wish he was still alive to talk to us [about his work].” Still, Langlais is always speaking to them through his art at the library. Library co-director Beckie Delaney, who works with the children, notes, “I love to tie the Langlais art in with the kids’ projects. From them they learn to work with discarded materials, which is an important lesson in creativity.”

Lynna Henderson, the acting chair of the library’s Board of Trustees, is hoping to raise community consciousness about the works. “We are so very proud of the four Langlais works,” she says. Sharon Moskowitz, co-director of the JML, agrees and feels that the art “is an important asset to the library. People are impressed that we have them.” Prominently displayed across from the library’s front desk, the four Langlais artworks await your visit to experience a safari into the imagination.

You may read more about the Langlais Art Trail at:

(For the past three years Katharine Cartwright, who is an accomplished watercolor artist, has served as The Dragon’s art columnist. We are grateful for her unflagging dedication to promoting awareness of St. George’s artistic life.)

PHOTOS: Betsy Welch

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The yin and yang of squirrels

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Eastern Grey Squirrel

After school recently, my son Leif and I came across an Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) racing up the side of a horse chestnut tree. It was a classic, frantic squirrel run—full of jumps, stares, and bounces as the squirrel seemed to be “freaked” by our presence. Almost as if it had never seen a human on this sidewalk that has been next to that particular tree for several decades at least. Squirrels just love to freak.

We stopped in time to see a second squirrel sticking its head out of a cavity opening lower in the tree and realized this was a housing unit for squirrels. Leif expressed his adoration for the fluffy rodents at this point, as I was thinking, “I, for one, care less for them.” There may be no other animal group that manages to be as under-appreciated and completely overrated at the same time as the squirrels (Corvids may be a close second!). Squirrels—rodents that please as they annoy.

Leif is his own person, of course, and while it was tempting to whip out the old “No son of mine is going to be a squirrel-hugger!!!” attitude, he is free to appreciate whatever rodent he chooses to. We did chat about “what exactly” he liked about the critters, and beyond aesthetic and intrinsic appreciation—which is more than enough to “like” a squirrel on Instagram—we realized we didn’t really know too much about them. It was time to look some scat up!

When we got home Leif started the Grey Squirrel research and quickly found some interesting facts about the species. Members of the order Rodentia, and more specifically the family Sciuridae—Eastern Grey Squirrels are native to eastern North America—from Florida and Texas through southern Manitoba and New Brunswick. Grey Squirrel bodies can be up to a foot long, the bushy tail can add almost another foot in length, and in the wild—away from bird feeders—they average about a pound in weight. Typically grey in color, populations in urban areas where predation is low will often have dark individuals of a “melanistic form.” These black squirrels are loaded with “melanin” and show a higher tolerance for cold temps when compared to the common grey form. We had seen the melanistic form of the Western Grey Squirrel in California last summer, so the thought of seeing a black Eastern Grey Squirrel was pretty exciting.

Leif was surprised to find that people still hunt Grey Squirrels for food, even though “Eleven” cooked one up to eat, only to use it as a weapon, in season two of “Stranger Things.” The info on eating squirrels came with a warning—“Do not eat Grey Squirrel brains.” Apparently Grey Squirrels can transmit Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal degenerative brain disorder for humans. And while we would never wish this disease onto anyone, we found the fact that a dead squirrel can seek revenge with its brain pretty cool. Another reason not to eat squirrel brains.

Leif continued to read about Grey Squirrels caching acorns each winter and how many of these stashed nuts are never retrieved. The whole “forests being planted by forgetful squirrels” was being alluded to, which is a fun perspective on the forests in general.

And while Eastern Grey Squirrels can be beneficial for woods in these parts, this species has been introduced around the globe—from South Africa to Italy to the Hawaiian islands—and is considered an “invasive” pest at several of these landing spots. Eastern Greys were brought to Britain in the 1870s as fashionable additions to estates. That’s right, in 1870s Britain increasing rodent numbers on your property was seen as an upgrade and something to be proud of. The squirrels spread rapidly from these estates and across England and into Wales and Scotland, almost entirely displacing native Red Squirrel populations.

Leif points out a squirrel housing unit

In my experience, it’s New Englanders with bird-feeding systems who are more likely to hold a grudge against Grey Squirrels than anyone else (squirrels stealing bird food, how rude!). I developed my dislike of squirrels through interactions with the American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Many a serene moment has been dislodged and re-directionalized by a Red Squirrel screaming alarm at my presence. I never find their bones in pellets or their remains below a nest of a predator, so I can’t even write off their annoying traits with a “they-are-an-important-part-of-the-food-chain” talk. The best I can come up with, and I have tried, is that they tidy up the woods a little. Each fall local Red Squirrels have made piles of spruce cones in the woods. The cones will soon be cached in between tree roots and under logs for future meals. When the best thing you can say about an animal is that once a year it “cleans” the forest, you know they take up little space in your heart. Sorry Red Squirrels, but not sorry.

I try hard to let Leif make up his own mind about what he likes be it movies, music, nature or whatever. Although they are correct, I keep my negative judgments to myself when he shows interest in something I am not a particular a fan of. Our talk about squirrels was one of the hardest tests of this “perspective control,” but in the end he is, of course, free to like them if he wants. Maybe our views aren’t complimentary enough to be yin and yang, but it’s always great to see how his mind works. I think that means I may be appreciating squirrels in a way. Darn.

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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A memorable visit with author Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord and Lily Thissell

by Anya Felton

Cynthia Lord is an award-winning Newberry Medal author who lives in Maine. She has written five novels for pre-teens which include Rules, Touchblue, Because of the Rabbit, a Handful of Stars, and Half a Chance. She has also written many more books for young children. Rules has gotten more awards than any of them and is her bestselling novel.

This fall this amazing author came to our school again. She had come here for the first time in 2011, five years after Rules came out. We were all so excited to get to meet her and learn some of her techniques. She talked about how many of her books had events that had actually happened in her life. For example, in Rules there is a boy with autism and her own son has autism. She talked about how she used real places and turned them into fictional places where her characters can go. She talked about how she sometimes didn’t give the characters what they wanted at the end. She gave them what they needed.

After she talked with us, two 6th graders showed her their Little Free Library that they had made last year in 5th grade with their teacher Mrs. Christine Miller.

Then, two 7th graders took her down the path to the town Library where they showed her around JML. After she got back, she had a pizza lunch with some of the 8th graders. These 8th graders had read her books and made projects about them. The 8th graders showed her their work. Some had made a Monopoly game from the events and places in Touchblue; and Leilani Myers, Isla Michell and Chase Jansen even gave her their project—a 3-D cutout of a scene from A Handful of Stars. Cynthia was very happy and touched by these thoughtful hand-made projects about her work.

When she got back home she posted about us publicly on Facebook: “Yesterday I went back to St. George School in Tenants Harbor, Maine. I was very touched that the school had put time in my schedule for the kids to show me the Little Free Library down at the Town Landing that they had built and to give me a tour of their public library (new since my last visit). I love how strongly the kids are connected to their community.”

After Cynthia left we wrote little notes to send to her. They included comments like “amazed and inspired” and lessons learned—things like [I learned] “that you need to be passionate and patient to be a writer” and that it takes a long time and lots of revisions to write a book.

All of us really feel that this was a memorable learning experience and we had an amazing time asking questions about Cynthia’s work and learning about her life before she was an author.

(Felton is a 7th-grade student at the St. George School.)

PHOTO: Sonja Schmanska

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Learning to see

St. George School students practice drawing skills with Port Clyde artist Sandra Dickson as part of “The Young Artists Program.”

by Julie Ryan and Natalie Gill

Over the past several years at the St. George School we have developed an after-school activity called “The Young Artists Program.” This extra-curricular program consists of serious, creative students who are interested in working with professional, local artists who teach the students skills in drawing, painting or clay work. This program is not just another art class, as it is designed to give students the opportunity to delve deep into a focused medium and explore it while working with a professional artist.

This school year, the Georges River Education Foundation (GREF) has donated money to our school so that we could hire a professional portrait artist—Sandra Dickson—to work with middle-level students who are serious about learning how to draw faces. She is working with us to help us learn “to see.” Drawing teaches people to observe beyond what they know, to slow things down. She helps students see the light and dark parts of a face and recognize shapes. The students love to see the difference between their first drawings during the four-week class compared to their last drawings. It really helps to feel encouraged when you can see how much you have improved!

This class has been enabling students to build confidence, strengthen learning skills and become less afraid to make mistakes because mistakes can help students learn.

Thank you GREF for your generous donation and thank you Sandra for working with our creative, talented students here at the St. George school!

(Ryan teaches art at the St. George School, where Gill is a 7th-grade student.)

PHOTO: Sonja Schmanska

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Remembering Jack McDonough

John J. (Jack) McDonough, M.D., of Tenants Harbor died November 7 with the love of his life, his wife Barbara Aras, by his side. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jack pursued a distinguished career as a surgeon specializing in hand and microvascular surgery, most of it at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and in a private practice he founded with fellow surgeons Peter Stern and Thomas Kiefhaber.

In later life Jack, a keen sailor, considered Tenants Harbor his chosen home. Jack’s passion for history, especially of the Civil War, led him to also pursue a study of the history of the St. George peninsula. He was an enthusiastic volunteer at the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum, where he loved sharing the lighthouse’s history with visitors from all over the world. He was also a loyal volunteer at the Jackson Memorial Library.

Following his wishes, there will be no service. Jack was an ardent supporter of local education, especially that provided by the St. George School. Donations in his memory can be made to: St. George MSU Building Fund, 65 Main Street, PO Box 153, Tenants Harbor, Maine 04860.

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Two new preserves to enjoy

Those present for a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new Meadowbrook Preserve to the public on November 10 got a chance to walk the 0.7-mile trail and enjoy the scenic views of forest and marshland it affords.

by Amanda Devine

There are two new preserves in town that help advance not just conservation on the St. George peninsula, protecting important habitat as well as scenic views, but also offer new opportunities for hikers, birdwatchers, dog walkers, hunters, students and educators, or anyone simply looking for a quiet place to connect with the natural world. Working together, the Town of St. George, the Georges River Land Trust, and Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) put together their resources and expertise to create these opportunities for the community.

The Bamford Preserve on Long Cove has been several years in the making. In June of 2015, MCHT, which also owns High Island in Tenants Harbor, took ownership of 36 acres on both sides of Long Cove Road. The land had been owned by the Bamford family for multiple generations, and no one in the family wanted to see it developed.  With funding from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program and through a generous bargain sale from the former owners, MCHT was able to permanently conserve the preserve’s diverse forests, wetlands, and shorefront.

Creating public access was another story, however. In 2017, the Town of St. George transferred a small but significant adjacent parcel to MCHT. This quarter-acre lot with frontage on Long Cove Road was home to the so-called “Woodcrafter’s Building,” which underwent several incarnations before falling into disrepair. The town came into possession of the land through tax delinquency, and when MCHT acquired the Bamford lands, it seemed a natural fit for this property to serve as a future trailhead.  Working with George C. Hall the following year, the MCHT demolished the building (already partially collapsed thanks to snow-loading and neglect), cleaned up the site, and in early 2019 created a four-car parking area with funding from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. MCHT staff and local volunteers have since planted the old building footprint in a mix of native shrubs and trees, hoping to improve the view as well as create better bird and pollinator habitat. They also revamped an old woods road into a 0.3-mile trail to the shore where a few (well, more than a few) hours spent with chainsaws, clearing saws, and a brush-hog have turned an overgrown tangle of invasive plants and wild apple trees into a welcoming meadow complete with a picnic table and shore access.  MCHT staff especially recommend visiting in mid-September, when the blackberries are ripe and the mosquitoes a little less fierce. MCHT welcomes St. George and especially Long Cove residents to enjoy this new neighborhood preserve. It’s a great place for an easy but highly scenic walk.

On the other side of town is another new preserve, this one owned by the Town of St. George. The Meadow Brook Preserve consists of 22 acres of highly scenic forest and marshland on the southeastern side of Turkey Cove Road, just west of the Transfer Station. Thanks to the efforts of the St. George Conservation Commission and the Georges River Land Trust—and with funding from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and matching town funds—there is now a three-car parking area and a 0.7-mile trail that leads hikers through the woods and to the brook for which the preserve is named.

MCHT originally acquired this property with funding from the Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program and then deeded it to the town. To ensure its permanent conservation, the Georges River Land Trust holds a conservation easement on the land, and also assists the town with management. Over the past year the St. George Conservation Commission met with abutters and local school teachers to solicit their input as to the preserve’s development. After many exploratory walks covering all seasons a final trail route was determined. This past summer and early fall Conservation Commission members, Georges River Land Trust staff and dedicated volunteers completed work on the trail construction. This included determining the final path, clearing brush and downed trees along the path and painting blazes along the trail. The kiosk was also constructed and installed.

The Town of St. George, MCHT, and the Georges River Land Trust welcome you to explore these special places. In the spirit of “leave no trace,” please be prepared to carry out all waste (including pet waste) when visiting the properties, keep pets under control, share the trail, and don’t forget your bug spray from early summer through fall.

(Devine is a Regional Stewardship Manager at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.)

PHOTO: Dan Verillo

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November poems

The trees stand still
As dead as sticks
Their bark is pale and grey
No leaves are left on their limbs after the cold winds before
Lifeless for now
Waiting for Spring to come

The geese fly high
Their white bellies and black beaks are all that you can see
They honk and they go
Yelling at each other
Above the wind
Screaming out directions
Leaving the cold behind

The ground is crisp with crumbling brown leaves
Everything is covered with prickly white frost
As cold as death
It freezes your feet
Yet it melts in your hands

The sun is dimming
The air is cold
Not a sound in the air
Not a color in the world
November is here

—Anya Felton

November haiku
November is a
Bridge to a different world
From brightness to bleak

—Natalie Gill

Leaves are gone
But some are still
Bold colors
Multi-colored grass
Thin jackets
Pink cheeks
Chilly breeze
Hair blowing in the wind
Cloudy skies
The thought of rain
The idea of snow

—Caroline Matthews

The trees are losing their leaves
And the birds are leaving their nests
Once they arrive in the south
They will have earned a long rest
The trees are tired
Fall makes them grow old
As the days get shorter
And the wind gets cold
As winter comes closer
The trees say good bye
And then say good night
Before going to sleep
In their blanket of white.

— Julian Davis

The poets are in the 7th grade at St. George School.

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The nature never stopped

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

It’s been an interesting stretch of weather this fall. Rains, winds and snow(!) have been creating havoc for outdoor-work schedules (namely mine) and gave the St. George School students two of the warmest “snow” days I’ve ever heard of.

A silver lining that came with these weather events was the local deciduous trees—maples, oaks, birches, etc.—losing their leaves. Seemingly overnight, trees that had been loaded with yellows, reds and oranges quickly became bare, with fully exposed trunks. These “dropping-of-the-leaves” events made the world a little safer, however, as the pretty colors can be distracting to humans at times when they should be focused—like when driving. It’s also now a bit easier to scan the forest canopy for owls and other critters as things aren’t so cluttered up there. But the biggest bonus of this year’s dramatic leaf dropping has probably been the unveiling of the Winterberry.

Local Winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillate) have spent most of 2019 quietly doing “natural things”—like growing and losing their small three-inch leaves and producing an impressive amount of tiny white flowers. But once surrounding trees and shrubs lost their leaves this fall it became close to impossible not to notice the loaded, red fruits of the Winterberry shrubs lining Route 131 at stretches. It’s a “Winterberry fall”—my favorite season to travel that road.

A shrub in the Holly family (Aquifoliaceae), Winterberry is creatively named for its bright red fruits and for the season into which said berries frequently remain on the plant. And while the Winterberry flowers are pollinated each spring, it’s not every year that the shrubs are covered and almost screaming with red berries. There are Winterberries every fall, but not every fall is a “Winterberry fall.”

How many migrating songbirds and overwintering corvids will tap into this fruity resource, fueling wings and life in an effort to sustain the never ending quest for nourishment? How many raccoons will plop themselves in the middle of a shrub and eat every red berry they can reach? How many Winterberry seeds will be deposited, fertilized, and eventually fruitful themselves with the “help” of animals? How long will that red last before critters pick them clean? So many questions. It will be fun to get some answers, while driving safely of course.

Of course, Winterberries are not just to be found along Route 131. On a recent Sunday I was on the Les Hyde Nature Trail by the library and school, sitting on a bench that overlooks the marsh. Winds were calm and the view was comforting as I sat there decked out in orange (a good habit for November). I was looking for anything perched on a limb but all I could see were the Winterberry shrubs across the water over by the beaver dam. Clear as day and all lit up red, from my perspective they were the story of the marsh as the sky started to darken at what felt like an obscenely early hour.

And it was the story until I spotted an oddly-shaped, non-duck critter swimming in the waters between the bench and the Winterberry. A swimming red fox with its fluffy tail pointed and almost entirely out of the water—what a sight! Never seen a fox swim before and I was glad I had been looking in that direction when it doggy-paddled by. It looked like a small reddish boat being pulled backwards. From one shade of red to another, or what I like to call “orange without the yellow.”

Before long (and before darkness) a muskrat swam through the scene as close to the bench as possible. With its thin, scaley tail mostly submerged, the muskrat offered a nice contrast in swimming form to the red fox, which had exited the water in full view. One view led to another, and pretty soon the story was the marsh itself. The focus and presentation kept changing, but the nature never stopped.

PHOTO: Kirk Gentalen

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A new headquarters for the St. George Historical Society

The trustees of the St. George Historical Society look forward to a “soft opening” of its new headquarters on Saturday, November 30th. Please come visit us from 10am to 4pm and see what we have done and what we plan on doing at 38 Main Street.

With this property, the Historical Society has four locations from which to promote and preserve the history of this fantastic town. The Andrew Robinson Homestead at Wiley’s Corner focuses on the village of Wiley’s Corner, the Robinson family of St. George, the history of farming in St. George and the Fort Point State Park. Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum in Port Clyde focuses on lighthouses, maritime history of the town, and the village of Port Clyde. The Schoolhouse Museum next to the Town Office focuses on the schoolhouses and education of St. George students. The property at 38 Main Street, that will be known as The Old Library Museum, will include a reference library, a home office for the Society, storage area for some of its collection, plus lots of display areas that we plan to rotate on a regular basis. The reference library includes books on local, regional and state history, plus books on local, regional, state and New England maritime history. It will also include books on local and regional genealogy to assist people in tracing their family trees. There has also been mention of a section of the library dedicated to local cookbooks.

The Old Library Museum will also have permanent displays for Lillius Gilchrest Grace and Mary Elinor Jackson. Lillius Gilchrest Grace was born in St. George, the daughter of a sea captain. She traveled the world and had a very interesting life, but never forgot her friends and family in St. George. Mary Elinor Jackson was also the daughter of a sea captain. She was very interested in education, promoting reading and learning for the people of St. George.

Mary Elinor Jackson

Mary Elinor Jackson saw the Age of Sail at its peak, as well as watched its decline. Her family’s fortune was soon depleted as times changed and railways replaced sailing ships. Miss Jackson and her brother lived in a house down behind what is now Tenants Harbor General Store. Upon her death in 1933, the house and small piece of land upon which it sat was left to her niece and nephew, who sold it to Mary Elinor’s friend Nellie MacKenzie. As a tribute to Miss Jackson, Nellie MacKenzie, Eleanor Aldrich and others worked to get the house moved to Main Street, where the four Long sisters donated a piece of property at the corner of Main Street and Water Street, and a lending library in memory of Mary Elinor Jackson was created in 1935.

Nearing its 50th anniversary the Jackson Memorial Library (JML) was in need of more room to meet the needs of a modern day library. In the later part of 1987 the library saw an addition, known as the Annex, added to the original structure. However, a fire in January 1988 caused extensive damage, but through a great amount of community support the necessary repairs were made and by the summer of 1988 the JML was reopened.

As the JML approached its 75th anniversary, the character of public libraries had evolved and were more than just a lending library—more room was needed. A building committee was formed and plans were developed to build a new library across the street at the corner of Main Street and Juniper Street. As the building plans were being finalized in 2012, the Lillius Gilchrest Grace Institute (that had built a youth center next to the St. George School) decided to make a gift of its building and property to the JML for its new location. Shortly thereafter the move was made.

With 38 Main Street being vacant, the Select Board decided to lease the property to Anne Klapfish for her retail shop known as Stonefish. With her untimely death in the summer of 2019, the building was once again going to be vacant. While the Select Board were considering their options of what to do with the property, the trustees of the St. George Historical Society approached the Board with a proposal to lease it, and they agreed.

—John Falla (Falla is president of the St. George Historical Society.)

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‘Yuletide in St. George’— a uniquely local kickoff to the holiday season

This Thanksgiving weekend, as big box stores around the country promote Black Friday deals and big discounts, St. George shops, restaurants, galleries and organizations will open their doors to welcome local families and visitors to “Yuletide in St. George,” our uniquely different, community-wide celebration of the holiday season. From the town line to the tip of our peninsula in Port Clyde, red “Yuletide” lawn signs will identify the 20 locations participating in this year’s holiday kickoff event. And, by Thanksgiving morning, bunches of evergreens with bright red bows, created by Girl Scout Troop 1831, will decorate streetlights in our village centers to welcome visitors to our community.

Ancho Honey, at the corner of Wallston and Port Clyde Roads, will have lunch available on Friday and Saturday afternoons. On Saturday only, the East Wind is serving brunch in the Quarry Tavern; the library has scheduled a book signing, book sale and soup-and-bread lunch; and the St. George Historical Society is hosting a “soft opening” of their new space in the Old Library Museum.

Craft fair lovers, please note that the Ocean View Grange Christmas Craft Fair and Luncheon, held on Thanksgiving Saturday for the last 15 years, has moved to the Black Harpoon. Donna Cline’s Old Moose Crafts Fair has also moved, from its 2018 location at the Odd Fellows Hall to the American Legion in Tenants Harbor. Girl Scout Troop 1831 is providing breakfast and lunch treats at the Legion on Saturday.

Though originally conceived as a retail-focused event to benefit the town’s shop owners, Yuletide in St. George has grown to become more than just a two-day shopping weekend. This year’s celebration of the holiday season begins with a Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday afternoon, November 24, and includes community-wide events throughout December, including the arrival of Santa in Port Clyde on Friday evening, December 6, and his journey via fire truck to the Town Office in Tenants Harbor where the second annual “Light up the Knight” and lighting of St. George’s holiday tree will take place. Anyone who brings a non-perishable food item or unwrapped new toy to the Town Office by 6:30 pm on Friday evening, Dec. 6, will have their name entered in a drawing to be the lucky person who throws the switch to “Light up the Knight.”

St. George Business Alliance (SGBA) members, Yuletide sponsors, and all the local organizations participating in this year’s holiday events—including the St. George Town Office, the St. George Fire Department, the St. George Community Development Corporation (CDC), the St. George School, the Jackson Memorial Library, the St. George Historical Society and the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum—wish neighbors, friends and family members a joyous holiday season.

Yuletide in St. George event maps will be available at participating locations and online at the SGBA’s website (, or download it here.

(Limmen is a member of the SGBA Yuletide in St. George organizing committee.)

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Taking a first step to understand—and plan for—the impact of sea level rise in St. George

Sea level rise threatens St. George roadways such as this section of Route 131 in Martinsville.

On November 14th members of the St. George community will have an opportunity to hear from representatives from the Island Institute, The Nature Conservancy, the Vinalhaven Sea-Level Rise Committee, and the Midcoast Economic Development District about the possible impact of sea level rise on municipal infrastructure and services. “I hope people will take this threat seriously,” says St. George Town Manager Tim Polky. “The first step is to raise awareness, and then figure out down the road what’s needed to address the issues.”

With its 125 miles of shoreline, sea level rise poses a number of pressing questions for St. George. What are reasonable predictions for how much sea level will rise in the next 20 years? What can we do as a community to protect our municipal infrastructure, ensure first responders can access all residents, and shore up impacted commercial and personal property?

Global sea level has risen by about eight inches since record keeping began in 1880, according to the 2017 U.S. National Climate Change Assessment. However, local sea level rise is accelerating due to two global factors. The first is the warming ocean, because water takes up more space as it warms. This increased volume of water in the Gulf of Maine is the main factor driving the anticipated higher sea levels in St. George.

The second factor adding to more water in our oceans is melting land-based ice sheets and glaciers. Conservation Commission member Dan Verillo says: “We believe that sea level rise is an aspect of climate change that will have an impact in our immediate future, that is, in less than 20 years. Other aspects of climate change are just as important, but sea level rise is not disputed any more. Data suggests that a rise of two feet cannot be avoided even if the world immediately does everything the Paris Agreement demands. Therefore, St. George should prepare for the inevitable.”

A publication by the Island Institute, “Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding,” states: “On average, sea levels are projected to rise another one to four feet globally by 2100, but sea level change will vary regionally (2017 U.S. National Climate Change Assessment). The Gulf of Maine is especially susceptible to fluctuations in sea level due to changes in the strength of the Gulf Stream and seasonal wind patterns. Sea levels in the Gulf of Maine are projected to rise faster than the global average.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), higher sea levels also mean more frequent high-tide flooding, especially due to stronger storms that are happening more often. This high-tide flooding, also called “nuisance flooding,” temporarily leads to road closures as well as overwhelmed storm drains and erosion of roadbeds. For this reason, Polky notes, St. George’s road maintenance plan is already taking future flooding into account.

There are predictions that the sea level in St. George will rise one to two feet by 2040. Most experts agree that by 2100, a year today’s kindergartners will see, at least a four-foot sea level rise in St. George is the most likely outcome. Polky and other town officials expect sea level rise could adversely affect the town’s municipal infrastructure, delivery of emergency services, planning ordinances, natural resources, tax base and local economy.

For the town’s Planning Board, for instance, rising sea level calls into question how best to apply the state-mandated shoreland zoning ordinance both in terms of new construction and in terms of existing structures that begin to enter the zone. In addition, says Planning Board chair Anne Cox, the number of shoreline stabilization projects being proposed seems to be increasing.

“As property owners have experienced higher tides, and storm-driven tides, their land has eroded,” she says. “We on the Planning Board have seen quite a few applications to stabilize the shore by adding some sort of rock “armor.” Sometimes these applications have included plans for re-vegetating behind the rock with mat-forming native plants to help hold the shoreline. I want to learn about the efficacy of these different stabilization projects. For example, I have questions about the effect of one section of shore being armored on neighboring unprotected areas. Does the addition of rock in one area increase the erosion of a neighboring area? Also, we have recently seen one stabilization project being proposed to address a stabilization effort that was inadequate after just seven years. So do these stabilization projects even work with rising sea levels?”

The likely impact of sea level rise and more frequent flooding on the local economy and the town’s budget and tax base is also a particularly thorny topic. First, marine-based businesses, which are a significant part of the town’s economy, could experience significant losses and capital costs. Second, sea level rise may seriously impact private property values—homes on the water, in particular, could lose value as the floodplain encroaches and they are forced to carry expensive flood insurance. Richard Cohen, who is on the St. George Budget Committee, asks, “What’s going to happen to the tax base when homes lose value? We have to look forward 30 years right now.”

The community meeting on sea level rise and its potential impact on municipal infrastructure and services that will be held at the town office on November 14 at 7pm, is intended to be a first step in taking that look into the future. The agenda for this meeting includes presentations by Susie Arnold of The Island Institute on the science of sea level rise and Jeremy Bell of The Nature Conservancy on computer tools for predicting how the St. George coastline will be impacted. Highlights and challenges from other communities tackling sea level rise will be presented by Gabe McPhail, Community Development and Engagement Coordinator for the Town of Vinalhaven and Bill Najpauer from the Midcoast Economic Development District. This meeting is supported by the Budget Committee, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Select Board, St. George Municipal School District, St. George Community Development Corporation, St. George Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Association, and the Island Institute and The Nature Conservancy.


Quoted paper from Island Institute: Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding The Basics for Maine Communities Pager – Sea Level Rise.pdf

Knox County Mitigation Plan

Is Sea Level Rising?

NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer

PHOTO: Anne Cox

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