Ceremony at Lincoln Park Heralds Rehab Plan; Original Trees Traced

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Groundbreaking Ceremony at Lincoln Park This Afternoon.

Frank Reilly, co- founder of Friends of Lincoln Park and a retired movie actor,  with the great grandaughter of the Farmer Who Planted all the Trees at Lincoln Park and at Deering Oaks, at the Ceremony This Afternoon. Her Name is Julia  Varney Cheney!

“Parks are part of our history.  They tell us how life has played out through the years,” said Ethan Hipple, Director of the Parks & Recreation Department, this afternoon during his introductory remarks at the kick-off ceremony for the Rehabilitation Plan  to begin shortly.  It will take about eight to twelve weeks to complete. The Park will be closed during that time

Lincoln Park, founded in 1866, was created as a firewall against any future fires as a result of the disastrous Great Fire that happened on the Fourth of July 1866.   The original park was significantly larger than it currently is.

The Friends of Lincoln Park, co-founded by Frank and Sharon Reilly conducted a fundraising event to pay for the restoration of the original fountain.  It has spent the winter at the Georgetown studio of Jonathan Taggart, conservator. Taggart, who attended today’s event, said the work has been completed and he’s waiting for the city to tell him to deliver it to the Park.  Reilly said the fundraising effort has been successful and the $70,000. needed for the restoration has been collected.

The original to the Park metal fence surrounding the Park will be restored as well during the process.  Funds for that are included in the new CIP budget that the City Council approved last week.

According to an undated local newspaper account provided mhn.com by Mrs. Cheney, her great grandfather Elijah K. Varney developed an interest in trees and began planting them in Portland in 1856.  Following the Great Fire of 1866, many sections of Portland were left desolated.  Consequently, there was a strong demand for Mr. Varney’s trees.  Immediately following the Fire, Mr. Varney planted two elms tree on Smith Street.  Then in 1868, he supplied Lincoln Park with elms and a few maples.  The park, roughly 2 l/2 acres was purchased after the fire for $86,703.

While it is known that the Park was intended to be a firebreak as previously mentioned, there was a second purpose for the establishment of the Park.  According to the undated and unidentified newspaper account, the other purpose was to make “Portland a more healthful and pleasant place in which to live.  The area first was designated Phoenix Square, probably referring to the city’s rise from is ashes like the ancient legendary phoenix bird.”

Mr. Varney continued to plant many other trees in Portland and on several islands in Casco Bay.  They included Peaks, Cushings and Little Chebeague.  The largest number Mr. Varney planted in one year was 1,200.  At the time of the undated article, Mr. Varney’s home on Nash Road in East Windham was still standing.  At that location Mr. Varney maintained a 14-acre farm and a 250-acre woodlot until his death in 1915 at the age of 81 years old. Of the 250 acres, 76 acres had good tree-growing soil. according to the local newspaper article.

The thirty (30) or so supporters attending today’s ceremony were composed of politicians, members of the city’s Historic Preservation board. members of Greater Portland Landmarks and their directors Deb Andrews and Hillary Bassett.  City manager Jon Jennings also attended. A few neighbors from Munjoy Hill and Bayside attended as well.

District 1 City Councilor Belinda Raw in whose District the Park is located, did not attend the groundbreaking ceremony this afternoon.

Please visit post herein dated April 9, 2017 for more background information on the Park.

1 thought on “Ceremony at Lincoln Park Heralds Rehab Plan; Original Trees Traced

  1. This article was of particular interest to me as Elijah Kennard Varney was my great great grandfather. Julia Varney Cheney is my second cousin once removed.
    Thank you for publishing it. The next time we are inMaine we we will have to make a point of visiting Lincoln Park.
    Laurie Rogers Trlak
    Huntington, Indiana

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