ELLSWORTH — George Nixon Black Jr. has been dead for almost 90 years, but the legacy he left behind for citizens of Ellsworth and Hancock County lives on.
For that reason, the City Council Monday night presented a resolution proclaiming July 11 — his birthday — as “George Nixon Black Jr. Day” in Ellsworth.
The resolution honors Black’s “particular gifts and contributions” to the city, and comes in a year of multiple milestone anniversaries.
Black was born in Ellsworth in 1842, meaning 2017 would be his 175th birthday. He was the last of three generations of his family to live in the brick Black Mansion at what is now Woodlawn, and he summered there after he moved to Boston as an adult.
In 1897, 120 years ago, Black gave the remodeled Tisdale House — which was built 200 years ago, in 1817 — to the city with the condition that it would be “always used for a public library.”
Upon his death in 1928, Black willed the Woodlawn estate to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations. That group has maintained the property for public use since 1929.
Joshua Campbell Torrance, Woodlawn’s executive director, approached Councilor Gary Fortier about sponsoring such as resolution. Torrance said he sees the council’s recognition of Black as “long overdue” and “totally appropriate.”
“It’s just a great way to honor his contributions to his native city and to honor him as a person,” Torrance said.
Torrance said Black’s gifts of the Tisdale House and Woodlawn for public use and enjoyment have had “a pretty profound impact” on cultural, intellectual and recreational life in Ellsworth and Hancock County.
“What would Ellsworth be like if we didn’t have the library?” Torrance asked. “What would Ellsworth be like if we didn’t have Woodlawn?”
Torrance said Black’s gifts are “testament to how much he cared about his city,” and a testament to his foresight, as well.
Torrance, Ellsworth Public Library Director Amy Wisehart and Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations President Terry Carlisle attended Monday night’s City Council meeting and accepted a copy of the resolution from Council Chairman John Phillips.
The council’s resolution concludes by inviting Ellsworth residents “to enjoy the gifts of George Nixon Black Jr. by visiting the Ellsworth Public Library and the Woodlawn Estate.”
Both places, along with City Hall, will be holding special events to observe the special day. At 10 a.m., there will be a public cake-cutting ceremony at City Hall to “celebrate the generous gifts” that Black left.
At the library, each patron who checks out a book on July 11 will get a free pass to tour Woodlawn. There will also be lemonade available starting at 10 a.m. and a drop-in kids crafts event all day long.
At Woodlawn, visitors will get a special Black House cookie made by Flexit Café and Bakery. The cookies will be made from a historic recipe created by Woodlawn’s last live-in caretaker, Irma Eliason.