Westport Island History Center grand opening, open house Oct. 25

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 7:15am

    The grand opening of the Westport Island History Center at Wright Landing is Sunday, Oct 25. At 10 a.m., we’ll have a ribbon cutting and the dedication of a plaque recognizing the work that has gone into creating the Center, with the building open for visitors until 3 p.m.

    The Westport Island History Committee and Friends of Westport Island History have prepared two special attractions for this event. The first is an exhibit in the History Center entitled “Westport Island in Times of Pandemic, Epidemics & Outbreaks.” As we navigate the year of COVID-19, it may seem to many that we’re breaking new ground. But Islanders in the past lived through similar times.

    5,000 Mainers died in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. In the fight to stop its spread, like today, schools, movie houses, government buildings and events were temporarily shut down. In the early to mid 19th century, Westport Islanders afflicted with cholera and smallpox, major infectious disease killers at that time, were isolated and quarantined away from their families and neighbors at nearby “Hospital Island.” In the early to mid 20th century, Islanders afflicted with tuberculosis were sent to the Central Maine Sanatorium in Fairfield,magain to keep them away from family and loved ones.

    The Pandemic exhibit will also present a display of “Postcards from the Front,” mementos sent in by Island friends and neighbors responding to life in the time of COVID-19. The exhibit is dedicated to our Local Health Officers and all our health workers for their service. The Pandemic exhibit will be open until 3 p.m. for socially distanced viewing. Appointments may be made for private viewings for small groups after the open house by contacting Gaye Wagner, gdwagner1@gmail.com or Joan Bradford, masonjoan58@gmail.com. Limited visiting hours will be announced for the History Center through the fall and winter.

    A second attraction opening Oct. 25 is the Westport Island History Trail. With support from Maine’s Bicentennial Commission, the Westport Island History Committee has created a driving tour through the Island’s history.

    Eleven interpretive signs have been placed at 10 historical sites, in an approximately 20-mile loop that also shows off some of the best vistas on the Island. Each sign describes what went on there, gives a timeline, and shows historic photos. A scannable QR code allows quick access to more detailed information. A Trail Guide will be available on the town website and at the History Center and town office.

    To kick off the trail, docents from the History Committee will lead caravans of cars from Wright Landing around the Trail. The first caravan will leave at 10:30 a.m., the second at 1:30 p.m. Copies of the Trail Guide will be available.

    For more information, please email WIHistoryCommittee@gmail.com or call Jeff Tarbox at 776-2015.