CAMDEN — The Curtis family name is well known in midcoast Maine for the significant contributions they made to the Camden area. Historian Thomas J. Wieckowski will give an online presentation at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, presented by Camden Public Library, that will provide a broader look at the famous family and focus on their extensive activities in the Philadelphia area. Email [email protected] to request a Zoom link to attend.

The Curtis estate, “Lyndon.” Courtesy photo from Thomas J. Wieckowski

Cyrus H. K. Curtis was one of the richest men of the Gilded Age. He was born in Portland and began a true rags-to-riches story. He summered in Camden for some 40 years, where he became one of the town’s benefactors with an enormous and permanent impact on the region. John Williams reports in his “History of Camden, Maine” that in 1933, “Camden lost one its greatest benefactors in the death of Cyrus H. K. Curtis. Out of respect for Mr. Curtis, all flags in Camden were flown at half-mast for a period of four days.”

Among his gifts to Camden were the Yacht Club, organs for the Congregational and Episcopal churches, major contributions to the library, the Community Hospital, the YMCA and the Village Green. When the Megunticook Bank failed, it was through the generosity of Curtis and others that none of the depositors sustained financial losses. Curtis Island was named in honor of Cyrus Curtis shortly after his death (it was previously called Negro Island).

The presentation will illustrate the historical link between Camden and Philadelphia and will be an opportunity to become better acquainted with the enterprises of the family at their home in Philadelphia. It will highlight the story behind what is known today as the Curtis Arboretum. Wieckowski will trace the history of Curtis Arboretum and its two most prominent owners as it progressed from the colonial agrarian age, through the Gilded Age, and into the 21st century as a verdant haven for the residents of a gracious Philadelphia suburb.

Wieckowski is vice president of the Old York Road Historical Society and vice chairman of the Cheltenham Township Historical Commission. He received his BS at Villanova University and PhD from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He is retired from Drexel University in Philadelphia where he was associate dean of the College of Business. He devotes his time to his lifelong hobby of historical research and writing, and is the author of several books on Philadelphia history.

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