Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Maine Street Monday (oops a day late)--Skowhegan


Skowhegan is the county seat of Somerset County and about an hour north of my home. The district court there is within my work radius and so this morning I was on the road early for an 8:00 docket call. Skowhegan with a population of around 8,000 people is the largest town where I regularly practice.

Skowhegan is located on the Kennebec River and was a favorite fishing spot for the local Abenaki Indians. Skowhegan means watching place.
Eventually the Abenackis gave way to the settlers and industrialists and the powerful Kennebec River went from providing fish to providing energy to power textile mills, lumber mills and paper mills. Now, the mills are mostly idle and much of the population has disappeared as the Abenackis did a century before.

Some of my favorite fun facts about Skowhegan (other than the fun of saying the word) include that it was the home of Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman U.S. Senator and that it hosts the Skowhegan Fair, the country's longest continuously running state fair.

In 2001, Robert Russo won a Pullitzer Prize for writing the novel Empire Falls. The town of Empire Falls was fictional but Skowhegan was used for the setting when HBO filmed the miniseries in 2005.

With all the politicians trying to distance themselves from Wall Street and attach themselves to Main Street, I have decided that for a while anyway (until I get bored with it), I will feature Maine Main Streets on Mondays.

13 comments:

Carey's Corner said...

Have you eaten at the Empire Grill?
Is the Indian Head marquee a reference to the former Abenaki residents?

Weather Boy said...

The highlight of the Empire Falls adaptation to television was Ed Harris' character sitting in his car at the local ice cream shop (I believe the one by the bridge as you enter town) with an Uncle Henry's on the dash. A good local flavor touch by the director in an otherwise unremarkable adaptation.

Read the entirely deserving novel instead. Richard Russo is one of my absolute favorites: I find myself laughing and crying in the same paragraph regularly. Nobody's Fool is absolutely brilliant.

Oh, and Empire Falls is nothing like Skowhegan. I'd peg it as a cross between Waterville and Camden. Hard-nosed, but with its gentry.

The Texican said...

Is it really Tuesday already? I guess it is. NCIS is just over. Interesting small town snapshot. I enjoy riding through small towns. Most larger highways bypass the real heart of these little burgs. Pappy

Kallen305 said...

I too love the pictures of small towns. I really like the picture of the Empire Grill. It looks like the type of place to go for a really good breakfast. Small town America at its best.

Beth said...

Carey, I actually haven't. I usually go to town, do my work and head to the next event on my schedule. I do like a diner breakfast, though, and should check it out.

Weatherboy, I think you are right about that ice cream shop and you don't get more Maine than Uncle Henry's. You are right about Empire Falls not being Skowhegan--I have rarely noticed local gentry in my district court appearances.

Texican, the funny thing is that the most major highway we have in western Maine--U.S. Route 2 goes straight through town--that's Main Street.

Kallen, yes I'm going to go get a breakfast there one of these days. It's just a little too far to go without a reason and a little too close to stop on the way somewhere else and when I go for my weekly court appearances I am not in the mood for a yummy casual slow country breakfast. But, I should make a point to do it one weekend.

Jayne said...

I love the look of towns like this. Makes you want to just park the car, and stroll around a bit to see what you might find. :c)

SJ said...

Did you know that Margaret Chase Smith was not only an amazing Senator and a female, she also designed pocketbooks? My Mom and I have come across a few in our years of antiques.

NCmountainwoman said...

Hooray for small towns. I'm looking forward to more of them.

beckie said...

Beth, you should be on the tourist board for Maine. Such interesting and fun facts. makes one want to go. Actually, I love small towns. To borrow a line, 'where everybody knows your name'. Can't wait til next week's installment. Snow yet?

RuthieJ said...

I'm enjoying these posts Beth. It's amazing that your little towns in Maine look remarkably similar to some of our little towns here in Minnesota.

Barb Hartsook said...

Maine Main Streets on Mondays sounds like a book title to me. Not just the geography and history lessons, but sprinkled with your legal experiences in these small towns. We live in a village, where two (minor) state routes junction, and it has the feel of a small, quaint Northeastern town. I can feel nostalgic just driving to the grocery store. :)

Weather Boy said...

It used to be neat driving by Margaret Chase Smith's house and seeing her out in her solarium, usually entertaining guests. I always wanted to stop in and say thank you to her for what she did. (Just ask Joe McCarthy.)

There aren't many like her left.

Kathiesbirds said...

How well I know this place! We stay here when we visit Maine. I've been to the Skowhegan fair numerous times myself. Parts of Empire Falls were filmed in Norridgewock also, especially the bridge scene. That bridge is now being demolished and a new one erected in its place.