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Strathglass Park is an early-twentieth-century planned industrial town in Rumford, Maine, built in 1901–1902 by the Oxford Paper Company. Recognizing the industrial potential of the Androscoggin River at Rumford (where the river falls 165 feet), Hugh Chisolm and his associate Waldo Pettingill purchased huge tracts of riverfront land for papermaking in the 1880s. What was once a remote, sparsely settled village grew rapidly with the establishment of the mill, precipitating a dire housing shortage. Chisolm, however, rejected the tradition of company-built tenement housing. Nor did he favor the company-controlled “model” housing of George Pullman’s town in Illinois—the site of a violent workers’ strike in 1894. He linked good housing to loyal, contented, and productive workers. After first founding the Rumford Realty Company, which initially erected temporary boarding houses, Chisolm toured America and Europe for inspiration and hired noted New York architect Cass H. Gilbert in 1910 to design workers’ housing.
What emerged on a site opposite his new paper mill was a carefully designed, compact village of fifty-one double (duplex) houses situated in a park-like setting and arranged in four neighborhoods intersected by four streets. The town was named after Chisholm’s ancestral home near the Strathglass River in Scotland, and the streets bore Scottish names: Urguhart, Lichness, Erchles, and Clachan Place. The plan produced 100 lots with each duplex occupied two lots.
To avoid the stultifying uniformity of company housing, Gilbert designed seven different brick facades, all having basically the same interior accommodations. Fifty of the brick duplexes survive; one burned. Thirteen of Gilbert’s buildings featured a brick version of Shingle Style architecture. Eleven bear Tudor Revival features, such as double-turreted rooflines. Nine possessed Dutch Colonial features; one with a single Dutch gable and eight with a double Dutch gable. All of the duplex houses boasted modern conveniences such as steam heat, electricity, modern plumbing, and laundry facilities. They also had ivy-covered front entrances and carefully landscaped sloping front lawns and tree-shaded sidewalks. Neighborhood amenities included a casino with billiard and pool rooms and a hall for theater productions. Surrounding the complex of 102 dwelling units was an impressive granite stone wall with a magnificent granite gateway.
Quality marked every aspect of Strathglass Park, from its brickwork, to the hollow insulated party walls, to the multicolored slate roofing, full basements, and the Pennsylvania granite. At $9 monthly rents and $1 a month utilities fee, the cost of living in Strathglass was very reasonable. Unlike industrial housing elsewhere, residence in Strathglass was not mandatory. When the mill closed in 1948, residents were offered the option to buy the houses at a cost of $3,400–$4,900 each. In the wake of the closure, the town endured financial hardship and Strathglass Park suffered neglect. Indeed, by the late 1960s it was listed as one of Maine’s endangered historical properties. With the formation of a property owners’ association and its designation on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the town has since enjoyed a revitalization.
Burns, Elliott E. “Bud”. A History of Rumford, Maine 1972-2000. Topeka, KS: Josten’s Printing and Publishing, 2000.
Leane, John J. and Elliott E. “Bud” Burns. The Oxford Story, A History of the Oxford Paper Company, 1847–1958. Rumford, ME: Oxford Paper Company, 1958.
Leane, John J. A History of Rumford, Maine 1774–1972. Rumford, ME: Rumford Publishing, 1972.
Shettleworth, Earle G. and Frank A. Beard, “Strathglass Park District,” Oxford County, Maine. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1974. National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.
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