This is the year.
It is time to revive the decaying gazebo in Lewiston’s Kennedy Park.
The city has removed the gazebo stairs and boarded up access to its entrance. So, it now stands abandoned, unusable and grossly unattractive.
There are multiple signs along its six sides, in English and Somali, warning not to trespass and “please stay off the gazebo.”
We can see it but we can’t use it. And if we don’t do something about it, the thing will rot in place.
Complete restoration would be enormously expensive, and replacing it entirely dismisses a piece of the city’s history. A combination of restoration and replacement makes sense, especially since the city has done it before.
The first bandstand in that park, according to Androscoggin Historical Society archives, was built in 1868. It was moved to a playground on Lincoln Street in 1925, and a new gazebo was constructed in its place in the park that summer.
That bandstand was replaced in 1972 by the current gazebo. According to Lewiston Daily Sun archives, before the 1972 restoration “the structure was almost falling apart.”
Like it is now.
The only section of the original gazebo carried over in its reconstruction was the copper roof, with its gingerbread trim, and the wooden pillar supports.
With some effort, that roof might be restored to cover a third structure, which would maintain the shape and scale of the bandstand, but even the current roof is not identical to the original. The original gazebo had a small cupola, but there is a spire on the replacement structure.
The railing on the 1925 bandstand was wooden, replaced in 1972 with a metal decorative rail that had been in the third-floor auditorium of City Hall before that floor was renovated for office space. Preserving that railing makes sense, but the remainder of the structure must be replaced.
If so, it must also be made handicap-accessible by law, which means it may have to be reconstructed at ground level to avoid the costs of installing elevators and ramps. It wouldn’t have the same presence of height, but perhaps the area immediately around the gazebo could be filled in to slope the ground, elevating its presence.
Over the years, the park bandstand has been the focus of political speeches, peace rallies, religious ministries, community gatherings and holiday celebrations.
In 1996, those who attended the National Night Out might remember police officers performing a song-and-dance routine at the gazebo to the delight of parents and children.
Two years later, at the city’s first Lewiston Pride Day, Lillian O’Brien stood on the Kennedy Park gazebo and enthusiastically announced that she was proud to live in Lewiston. “Let’s have a round of applause for all of you who came here today. I’m glad to see you!”
Where’s the pride in letting the gazebo decay?
Much smaller communities in Farmington and Paris maintain charming gazebos that serve as regular forums for concerts, rallies, picnics and more.
How can Lewiston call itself an All-America City without a gazebo, the mark of a public meeting place in the city’s flagship park?
This year, that must change.
In the 1972 reconstruction, the Model Cities Agency paid for materials and the city’s public works crews did the work. The same kind of private-public arrangement can be mimicked today. Now.