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   Above: Elaborate paneled brick and stonework adorn this stunning Italianate brick building.
Below: Remarkably, these original wooden structures along the south side of Broadway were unharmed by the great fire of 1888.
In the 1800s, the second floor of the Farmington Renys building was actually a Music Hall. Accord- ing to a hand-written note displayed on the store’s counter, two stores, “James H. Waugh (cannery) on the left, and H.H. Rice, Dry and Fancy Goods on the right” were originally located on either side of the Music Hall entrance. The letter goes on to say that there were often silent films shown in the hall with musical accompaniment; some were shown with an orchestra for dancing. Author and historian, Richard Mallett writes in his book, The Last 100 Years; A Glimpse of the Farmington We Have Known, “Before the popularity of movies, Music Hall was the scene of a succession of plays, musical comedies and operettas. ... There was always an annual minstrel show star- ring Wheeler’s band,” named for band leader Charles Wheeler of fishing rod fame.
Most noteworthy was the Music Hall performance
by internationally renowned soprano and Farming- ton native, “Dame” Lillian Nordica. According to Mallett, Nordica performed on just three occasions
in Farmington, the first in the spring of 1878 in the Methodist Church. Her second concert was per- formed in 1882 “in the newly built Music Hall Build- ing.” She reportedly gave the proceeds of her concert to the town to purchase streetlights. Her final Farm- ington performance was a free concert performed be- fore a packed house in Merrill Hall at the Farmington Normal School (now University of Maine Farming- ton) in 1911, just three years before she died. Nordica filled the 950-seat auditorium, with spectators spilling out into the halls and onto the grounds to hear her sing. After the show, Dame Nordica patiently greeted every person who had turned out to see her. Mallett writes, “Her freedom from artificiality, her unfailing kindness, and genuine desire to make everyone happy was felt by all.” According to Wikipedia, it is rumored that Lady Nordica’s ghost still roams the auditorium that was given to the university in her name, and if you ask, some of the locals will tell you that if you listen closely, you can still hear her singing.
From Farmington’s earliest pioneer settlers, to Maine’s first woman governor, Farmington has produced doz- ens of noteworthy citizens whose hard work, home- town pride, integrity, determination and grit have shaped the Farmington of today. Their strong sense of connection to their heritage, and their clear vision of the future, has allowed them to grow and adapt while preserving the historic feel of the town, making it an alluring destination that is well worth the journey. ✶
    Arts, Entertainment, Adventure and More in Western Maine
Christine Baptista Christine Baptista

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