I've been spending time In Brunswick this fall, working out of the library at Bowdoin College. The first cotton mill in Maine was in Brunswick. The textile industry produced much of the wealth that went into these mostly nineteenth-century houses on Federal Street, Cleaveland Street, and Park Row. Bowdoin College is a big factor in the town's history, and I plan a separate post on the campus architecture.
That's the old mill complex, on the Androscoggin River, at the end of Maine Street. The problem with most main streets in Maine---or Maine Streets--is too much traffic. The road ends up feeling like a highway, and pedestrians are intimidated--it just doesn't feel good to be there. Brunswick's downtown is livelier than most but it still doesn't compare to the urban bustle you'd find in a town this size in Western Europe, where planning tends to manage traffic better, and keeping towns alive as civic space is a widely-shared value.
The fact that Maine Street is lined with three-storey 19th century commercial buildings is a problem that Main Streets all across America have to deal with. How to use those buildings in the 21st century, when people don't want to walk up flights of stairs to visit say, the dentist, or a lawyer. And of course parking's an issue, especially in a country where so many people are so overweight that they can't imagine walking a block or two. It's a sad fact that the only walking of any sort most people do is in...a mall.
Maine Street doesn't have the exhuberance built into Main Streets of prosperous Kansas towns in the late nineteenth century--check this post on Ottawa, Kansas. The19th office spaces above those storefronts is hard to adapt to the way we live now. Downtowns need a mix of new lively modern architecture with the older street front for civic life to prosper in our 19th century townscapes. They can't all be "Arts Districts" and tourist zones. Candle shops do not a downtown make.
|early 19th c. Federalist|
|This is the house where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin.|
|I like these row houses, late 19th c. Rare in Maine, outside Portland's West End|
|19th c. multi-units, probably housing for factory "hands" then, students now.|
|With standardized lumber--4x4s and 2x4s, it was easy and relatively cheap to expand Maine houses.|
|Those Federalist (Georgian in UK and Ireland) fanlights...listen to Van Morrison "Cleaning Windows"!|
|ex-fanlight. Too bad.|