Page 41 - WCM 2021 Winter
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As the demand for business and industry increased,
the town expanded into what is now the downtown district. With the arrival of the railroad came the ability to move people and goods across vast distances, allowing for even greater growth and expansion. With limitations of the Sandy River/Narrow Gauge railroad servicing West Farmington, further expansion was inevitable. After many months of planning, hard labor and setbacks, the first Maine Central Railroad Com- pany train rolled into Farmington Station in December of 1870. According to the Maine Memory Network website, “The new depot was packed to its utmost ca- pacity [with over 500 men, women and children], and when the train stopped, a deafening cheer [of] ‘hip, hip, hurrah!’ saluted the passengers. ...” Local people took great pride in the new depot, which remains intact to this day: “The railroad depots in this village are as neat, pretty and convenient structures as can be found in the State. ... They are an ornament to the village. ...”
Although the arrival of the train afforded greater access to the outside world, in 1866, it cost the com- munity dearly. When a spark from a passing locomo- tive ignited a nearby barn, “a sweeping conflagration” ( broke out in the area of Pleasant Street and quickly spread to Main, Depot and Broad- way streets, leveling many homes and stores in its
wake. Dozens of wooden structures were burned. In just 12 hours, Farmington had lost 33 houses, 19 stores, 3 churches, 2 hotels, the county jail, and the post office, among others.
While the fire exacted a huge toll on the commu- nity, in the two years following, much of the cur-
rent downtown area had been rebuilt. According to Richard Mallet’s, The Last 100 Years: A Glimpse of the Farmington We Have Known, “By 1888, Farmington was being compared to the Phoenix bird that became immortal by renewing itself from its own ashes.” The Maine Memory Network writes, “The tremendous fire proved to be a blessing. ... Many of the buildings erected proved to be more beautiful and functional than those destroyed in the fire. Today, much of the downtown and many architectural gems exist because of this devastating fire.”
Many of those “architectural gems” still stand today, offering a vast array of shops, public venues and eater- ies, and lending themselves to Farmington’s charming and distinctive appeal. Visitors are sure to be enticed by everything from fine chocolates and flowers, to vin- tage clothing and books. Old-fashioned barber shops, quaint coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, theaters, local gemstones, and artists cooperatives add to the mix. In addition to the delights offered by the various
Said to rival the beauty and grandeur of any train depot in the state, the Farmington depot still stands today.
 Courtesy Bruce Davison

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