The river with its ruffled blue
Divides the mighty hills in two,
Caresses many a dell.
Under a height that tosses back
The summer thunder from its track,
Lies home and Hallowell.
Ellen Hamlin Butler
These words begin the Prelude to Emma Huntington Nasson’s volume Old Hallowell on the Kennebec, published nearly one hundred years ago, nearly one hundred years after Europeans first made their homes on the river banks. The city is remarkable for its heart and soul, its art and education, its personalities and stature, all within a diminutive footprint. How can so small a village, its main thoroughfare – Water Street – not a mile long, with few inhabitants, and relativity speaking, limited commerce cast such a long shadow? It is the fiber of the individual, the backbone of citizenry, the love of learning, the irascibility of its personalities, the luck of the draw and the pluck of the people that make Maine’s smallest city the force it is.
From day one the citizens of Hallowell have looked to the past to power the future. That they pay the price for education and preservation is evident in its illustrious history of schools and academies, in the pride and maintenance of buildings both public and private, and in the institutions, religious, social, and civic. These Hallowell citizens have ensured the continued quality of life so important to those who live here. Make no mistake, Hallowell is not Eden. There are trials and tribulations a plenty, flaring tempers, strong wills and hard-held opinions shared freely and often without thought or care of repercussions. This is to be expected in a small community infused with energy, enthusiasm and genuine caring for family, friends, neighbors, community and country.
The stories of Hallowell, not unlike other Maine communities, are woven from the fortune of its location, the bounty of its natural resources and energy and the ingenuity of it citizens. Hallowell was a major transportation hub connecting highway, rail and river for centuries-long economic development. Its educational opportunities trained students in the classics and more practical skills of mathematics so necessary for navigating the world’s seas, making the city a substantial provider of ships captains and pilots. Educational institutions also spawned a flourishing publishing trade. Our granite industry provided materials to build grand structures across our country and its business leaders also provided the same guiding hand to state government.
“It was my good fortune to reside in Hallowell…. its reputation for integrity and veracity, good habits, intelligence industry, and civility was of a higher grade than of any other place within my knowledge.” Hon. William Allen, Norridgewock.