Visitors and residents interested in the social capital and historical value of the cities and towns that make up the central Maine region, will find a wealth of information in the following organizations and locations. 

Androscoggin Historical Society

Did you know that there was once a toll to cross the bridge between Lewiston and Auburn? The toll varied depending on the mode of transportation and ranged from a single passenger crossing on foot for one cent, to 15 cents for “chariot & pleasure carriages drawn by 2 horses.”

The original sign with a schedule of all tolls, and other treasures each telling a story of life in Lewiston and Auburn many years ago, can be found at the Androscoggin Historical Society in Auburn.

According to AHS President Betty Young, the museum is home to a large collection of news clippings, letters and diaries of the early settlers of Androscoggin County. It also houses many maps, genealogies, town histories and city directories from the mid 1850s listing everyone who was living in the twin cities, as well as local artifacts such as dental and shoemaking equipment, police and fire regalia and civil war artifacts.

The museum is located on the third floor of the Androscoggin County Courthouse and is open from 1-4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 1-4 p.m. on Friday. Admission is free.

Beginning in September, look for their field trip and lecture series which will take you out and about on guided explorations of local cemeteries, introduce you to local mourning customs in Victorian times and cover other interesting locations and topics.

The Knight House

Built in 1796, the Knight House is the oldest frame building in downtown Auburn, said Young. Located along a popular walking trail in West Pitch Park, near the Great Falls, “It is pretty much in its original condition and furnished with late-19th century furniture, with a shed containing implements for ice harvesting, so it’s an interesting peek back in time.”

Adjacent to the Knight House, visitors can experience the Downing Shoe Shop with its collection of shoemaking equipment and a portion of a map with a bird’s eye view of Lewiston and Auburn.

Tours of the Knight House are free of charge by appointment only, by calling or visiting the Androscoggin Historical Society.

A walking tour of historic Lewiston

Although some of the structures listed in “Historic Lewiston: A self-guided tour of our history, architecture and culture” no longer exist, many of the 100-plus structures listed therein have been restored and/or repurposed. This self-paced tour can be done in a day or over the course of many days and affords the visitor an opportunity to experience the many styles of local architecture and to learn about the plethora of cultural and other events that filled these halls as early as the mid 1800s.

This guide, which also includes “A Brief History of Lewiston,” is available at the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, 415 Lisbon Street, Lewiston.

Guided tours, led by a representative of Museum L-A and offered through Lewiston Adult Education, are scheduled several times each year.

The Homestead Trail

Located along the banks of the Androscoggin River, in the town of Turner, the 2.6- to 4.5-mile Homestead Trail is a part of the extensive trail system at the 2,675-acre Androscoggin Riverlands State Park.

According to Jonathan LaBonte, executive director of the Androscoggin Land Trust, “The most interesting part of any hike on the Homestead Trail is to envision how this area once was, picturing a thriving, small village made up of farms, small homes and a school house. [In] building the Lewiston-Auburn many of us see day to day, this village was destroyed to make way for Gulf Island Dam, [making] the Homestead Trail not only a place to hike while enjoying the views of the river or watching wildlife, but a place to reflect a bit on the history of a community.”

Trail maps and other information regarding the Homestead Trail and other trails that wind their way through the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park, as well as directions to the Park, are available at the Chamber of Commerce or by contacting the Androscoggin Land Trust.

Poland Spring Preservation Society and Park

The Poland Spring Preservation Park in Poland has nearly four miles of walking trails and, according to Jason Libby, executive director of the Poland Spring Preservation Society and Park, “The Park is the site of the original source of Poland Spring Water.” Enjoy the beauty of nature and learn about the history of Poland Spring Water by visiting the museum located in the original bottling facility that has been restored to its original grandeur. The walking trails are open daily and museum hours are 9 a.m. 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Admission is free.

The Maine State Building and the All Souls Chapel, on the grounds of the Poland Spring Resort, are both listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Built in 1893 for the Chicago World’s Fair – also known as the Columbian Exposition – the Maine State Building houses a collection of artifacts from the Fair, as well as art and other memorabilia and objects related to Poland Spring’s past, as well as the Maine Golf Hall of Fame exhibit, according to Libby. Open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, there is a very small admission fee to tour this exquisite piece of architecture.

Construction of the All Souls Chapel was completed in 1912 and, according to the Preservation Society’s Concert Series brochure, “continues to be the scene of countless weddings, as well as the PSPS Summer Concert Series.”

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village

Originally founded in 1747 in Manchester, England, the Shakers began building their community at Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine in 1783.

According to Michael Graham, director of the Museum, Library and Herb department at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, “What makes Sabbathday Lake particularly unique [is that it is] the only active Shaker community in the United States with an unbroken continuum of Shaker life and Shaker heritage since 1783.”

With 43 sheep, bees and Scottish Highland cattle, as well as herb and vegetable gardens, farming and agriculture are important aspects of Shaker life today, just as they were more than 200 years ago. Tractor-drawn wagon rides and guided tours of the historic buildings at the Shaker Village provide visitors with a view of the current daily operation of this active farm, and another opportunity to step back in time. Although many activities at the Shaker Village are free, there is a small fee for guided tours.

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