I read with interest the article about the Belfast organizer’s recent talk sharing tips on rejuvenating Ellsworth. As a person who moved here 18 years ago from Los Angeles and has raised a family, maintained a successful consulting business and renovated one of the older historic homes here, I have a few ideas to share as well.
First, Ellsworth’s old guard families (you know who you are) might consider being more welcoming and receptive to outsiders or more to the point, people “from away,” especially those such as myself who have contributed significantly to the local economy and also regentrification of a property in the historic district that is adjacent to downtown Ellsworth that no local would dare to undertake, as it was five years on the market before we bought it and started fixing it up.
Unlike some people from away, we never came here to shake up the status quo, and I have remained fairly autonomous when it comes to community affairs, however I do recognize Ellsworth’s unrealized potential as being a fun destination, energized by healthy businesses down on Main Street.
Case in point: a friend and I attended a lecture hosted by the historical society on “Ellsworth’s Outrage” about the tar and feathering of the Jesuit priest John Bapst in the mid-1800s. Father Bapst happened to have been rescued by members of the Jarvis family, who built my home in the early 1800s, and they harbored him here until he could be safely removed from town to the more religiously tolerant city of Bangor.
Following the lecture, I introduced myself to a member of the historical society, along with my friend, Jane Goodrich, whose book on George Nixon Black will be published next spring. She proceeded to tell me that my home would forever be known by the previous owners’ name, even though they practically destroyed the place. She went on to say that Woodlawn would always be known as the Black Mansion. Not even a nod to Jarvis, who was part of the subject of the lecture on Ellsworth’s illustrious history!
Second, Ellsworth’s greatest potential lies in its stunning waterfront, which is presently taken up by an unsightly construction company that is composed of ugly concrete and a march of massive red, exhaust belching and noise grinding construction vehicles. Several years ago, a proposal to turn this hidden gem into a beautiful green space park with walking paths, benches, trees and the potential for musical events was shot down by none other than Ellsworth’s old guard. Instead millions were spent on a park that is essentially off the beaten track and which is largely empty any time that I drive past. It was designed as a kids park, not for attracting tourists and locals who aren’t inclined to climb a jungle gym, and it’s not a beautiful vista taking in the glorious Union River.
In short, Ellsworth needs a master plan that is implemented by open-minded, progressive visionaries who can infuse energy into this place of backwardness and ennui; otherwise it will continue to be nothing more than a destination for grocery shoppers and folks seeking an oil change or picking items up from Walmart, a darned good meal at Finn’s, Serendib, the Mex or the Cellar notwithstanding.
Ellsworth’s old guard is no more receptive or welcoming to outsiders now than they were when John Bapst rolled into town more than 150 years ago. That’s why it continues to languish.