AUBURN — As Lewiston-Auburn historian John Henderson puts it, our community has an economic challenge in front of us.

The twin cities are known and seen as New England mill towns, and often, Henderson said, that is it.

Henderson spoke to the Woman’s Literary Union on Sunday afternoon at Foss Mansion to give his take on the issue in a talk called “Changing Faces: Using Our History to Promote L-A.”

His talk, part of the promotion of Auburn’s 150th anniversary, was about the outdated mill town image and how to market the cities in new ways.

“The people who worked the mills had to be tough, it was hard work,” he said. “We are definitely a mill town, but we are so much more than that. And we need to be tuned in to that.”

The priority, he said, need be increasing interest in the area through brand identity and brand image.

“The product, in this case, is a place, it’s Lewiston-Auburn,” he said.

He outlined two possibilities to be used to improve the cities’ self-image and how others see it.

His first idea is what he called a “tactical idea” of celebrating outstanding people who have come from here.

The first of his examples was Bill Carrigan, a Lewiston native who went on to play for and later manage the Boston Red Sox. He helped take the team to two world series championships in 1914 and 1915.

He returned to Maine and became the president of People’s Savings Bank.

Henderson questioned why there is no dedication to Carrigan anywhere in Lewiston.

“Why is there not a baseball field named after him? Or a statue of him,” he questioned.

Henderson suggested that reminding people who came from this area would be a good way to use the cities’ collective history as a selling point.

Another of his examples was Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, who was born in Lewiston.

And, lastly, he spoke about author and journalist Holman Day, who was once the managing editor of the Lewiston Daily Sun.

Day was born in Vassalboro but settled down in Auburn in the historic Holman Day House at the bottom of Goff Hill.

Henderson’s second idea is to implement a history course, “a living tradition of our cities.”

His vision is for the cities to collaborate through different organizations including both the Auburn and Lewiston Public Libraries, the Androscoggin Historical Society, Museum L-A, and the Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center.

“Each organization has its own area of expertise,” he said.

The idea, he said, is to put this course on every year, for ten weeks, one time a week.

Henderson is a local independent historian who currently teaches at Edward Little High School. 

John Henderson gives a presentation Sunday at the Foss Mansion in Auburn on how we can use our history to change the area’s image. Henderson was addressing the Woman’s Literary Union. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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