Jail-Turned-Library in Paris Hill, Maine.


I was 9 years old the year we visited Aunt Mart and Uncle Elmar in historic Paris Hill, Maine.  In a childhood full of cool summer memories, this trip is a clear stand-out.

Everything seemed like a movie–the enormous forest behind the house, riding around town in a golf cart, Uncle Elmar’s brilliant household inventions and that library. I’d never seen anything like it.

Hamlin Memorial Library and Museum

Built in 1822, this granite structure’s first life served those serving time.  This fascinated me as only a jail-turned-library could.  I remember walking in, feeling claustrophobic, wondering what manner of delinquency gets you thrown in here.  Richly knotted wooden shelving supported the teeming books.  Under glass casing, artifacts from Paris Hill’s early history–quilts, black and white photos–rested humbly.  But what struck me most was the silence.  It seemed like air stood still, ominous, watching you. Succinctly, this place was cool as sh*t.

The library, having opened in 1902, has long outlived the jail.  She’s still in operation today, guided by the original deed’s stipulations.  This was Dr. Augustus C. Hamlin‘s vision, nephew of Lincoln’s VP, Honorable Hannibal H. Hamlin.  I’m sure Dr. Hamlin would be pleased with his library’s current incarnation–Wi-Fi is available, an eLibrary is remotely accessible and, yes, they’re on Facebook.

This childhood memory is made richer by the experiences surrounding our visit.  My brother and I were given free reign to explore, he more so than me, when he drove a golf ball from Courthouse Square, across the street, through the 2nd floor window of our host’s picturesque colonial.  We thought we were dead, but the unflappable Uncle Elmar dismissed this incident without a word.  We were kids, and kids get into trouble. He understood.

Behind the house, we spent hours in what seemed like an endless expanse of woods. We made homemade bow and arrows that really worked.  Unfortunate for some we were skilled bowsmen–countless bullfrogs lost their lives that summer.

And Uncle Elmar fed my love of words.  He introduced me to the palindrome, as in “Madam I’m Adam.”  I was fascinated.  He threw in onomatopoeiabang–over Bran Flakes one morning.  Bran Flakes and Uncle Elmar… I almost forgot that one.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Potpourri and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Jail-Turned-Library in Paris Hill, Maine.

  1. We spent the summer in Maine in ’92, Dream Team year. My brother-in-law entertained the kids every night by making wagers on the basketball games — it was during the Olympics — and during the day they spent a lot of time in the garage shaving down saplings to make walking sticks. I still have one of them.

  2. tori nelson says:

    Uncle Elmar sounds like a cool dude 🙂 And that jail library, well, I’ve never seen anything like it!

  3. Excellent. This was very well written: “Built in 1822, this granite structure’s first life served those serving time. This fascinated me as only a jail-turned-library could. I remember walking in, feeling claustrophobic, wondering what manner of delinquency gets you thrown in here. Richly knotted wooden shelving supported the teeming books. Under glass casing, artifacts from Paris Hill’s early history–quilts, black and white photos–rested humbly. But what struck me most was the silence. It seemed like air stood still, ominous, watching you.” In my opinion, a better paragraph without the “succinctly” addition. You’ve set the mood perfectly. No need to sum it up. Your reader, me in this case, can do that. All joy in great writing. HF

  4. What a neat old building – and very creative way to preserve it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s