Lewiston–Auburn is an hour from Portland, an hour from Augusta, an hour from the spectacular Maine coast, several hours from the spectacular Maine mountains, and bang in the middle of spectacular Maine woods and fields. I’m here in the deadest of the dead of winter, and my toes have been cold for a week no matter what I do. Read what follows accordingly.
The conjoined towns of Lewiston and Auburn form Maine’s second largest city, but at about 60,000 residents it’s still small. There’s a river running between Lewiston and Auburn, with old textile mills dominating the river on the Lewiston side. Downtown Lewiston is about three blocks of Main Street, which appears to be full of lawyers’ offices, a few government-related buildings, and a lot of places available to lease. There’s a comfortable public library whose windows are full of spinning racks holding a disturbing number of well-worn Stephen King paperbacks, and a Gun & Fine Cigars shop. Bates College is located up the hill from Main Street, and a branch of the University of Southern Maine is somewhere nearby. The rest of Lewiston is the small town New England I remember as a kid: split-levels and colonials in large, neat yards, with the occasional old farmhouse; local variety stores that have good sandwiches and candy and fifty varieties of things to drink, but little else; swaths of woods for exploring around clusters of dead-end streets; and, um, that’s it. On both ends of town there are mall-type strips with enormous CVSs and small Sears stores and more huge Chinese buffet restaurants than should be supportable by 60,000 people.
A lot of downtown Lewiston looks like it’s seen better days. Those better days were seen during the textile boom of the late 1800s until about 1970, when textile jobs started heading south or abroad. It’s turning around, though. The mills have been converted to office space and maybe other things, and the population of Lewiston–Auburn has increased in recent years.
I’ll write about Auburn when I’ve had a chance to look around over there.
From one week here, winter is harsh: bitterly cold and mostly dark and all slippery with snow and ice. People say spring and fall are beautiful, if nippy, and summer is full of black flies and humidity (and is mercifully short).
I’ll be building this page over the next six weeks. There’s not a heck of a lot else to do.
"Lewiston Facts and Trivia"
Lewiston was named a 2007 All-America City by the National Civic League.
Lewiston hosts the largest balloon festival in New England, the Great Falls Balloon Festival.
The largest bird sanctuary in New England, the Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary, is less than 10 minutes drive from downtown. About eighty species of birds live there at different times of the year.
The Farmer’s Almanac is printed in Lewiston.
According to Wikipedia, about 25% of people in Lewiston speak French at home. This is the result of an influx of French Canadians when textiles were big business.
Textiles aren’t big business anymore. These days Health Care, in the form of huge hospitals, is the biggest employer.
Which I guess makes it fitting that Patrick “Dr. McDreamy” Dempsey was born in Lewiston.
Someone has set up a MySpace page for Lewiston–Auburn, and seems to be adding info even as I write. (Note: there’s music that plays when you go to the page, and at the moment there’s no way to stop it.)(On the other hand, I didn’t know the proud and strong Québécois came to Lewiston to be what they are and to earn money to go back to Québec and buy a farm; maybe you can learn something too.)
Poland Spring, "what it means to be from Maine,” is just 12 miles away. (I can’t wait to see that – I’m hoping one of these weekends the roads will be passable. O-o-h, I get it…)