Sunday, April 14, 2024

Today we go to #21 Main Street, Porter near the corner of Bridge Street.

                                           The Kezar Falls Theater

This building was built by Dr. Edwin R. Chellis in 1884 as a public hall called the “Meionaon”.  According to the Oxford County Record Newspaper, it opened in January 1885 and its large open hardwood floor made it one of the best halls in the vicinity for roller skating, dancing and general purposes.  By January 1887 a good stage was added with a drop curtain and scenery.  In 1910 the Town of Porter purchased it from Dr. Chellis for a town hall.  From the 1920’s Porter High School used it for school events, dances and basketball games until the Garner Gym was established in 1940/41.  Roland Stanley operated the first movie theater here starting with silent films and then “talkies”.   It served the community as a venue for many types of entertainment over the years.

                                                                The Playhouse Theater circa 1946.

The Town of Porter continued to use it as a town hall until 1946 when Harry Welch of Gorham bought it from the town for $5,000 and started the “Playhouse Theater”. He allowed the town to continue holding Town Meetings here until 1978. 

Welch’s Discount Store Warehouse

Phillip and Dottie Welch bought the theater in 1962, after his father died, and ran the movie theater until 1971.  Phil then continued to use the building as a warehouse for Welch’s Discount Store until his death in 2011.

This is an interior view of the restored Kezar Falls Theater – 2024.

In 2012 Silas Hagerty purchased the building, renovated it inside and out and has brought it back to its original purpose as a theater.  Silas is a filmmaker and founder of “Smooth Feather Youth, Porter, Maine” a 501(c) (3) non-profit with the mission to empower youth through filmmaking.  One of the organization’s programs is an immersive film school experience, where students choose a topic, create an outline, cast actors, produce and edit a film – all within one week.   

(To learn more about Smooth Feather Youth visit their website.)

This very old building is thriving today thanks to Silas Hagerty.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Former Ridlon Drugstore Building in Kezar Falls

 Our focus this time is the former Ridlon Drugstore Building which has been at the center of Kezar Falls on the Porter side of the bridge since 1922.  

This building at #1 Bridge Street still stands between the former barber shop building that we featured last time and the bridge in Kezar Falls village.  Myron Ridlon purchased this property in 1922 and erected a two-story building with an apartment above.  In 1923 he relocated his pharmacy here after 13 years of business on nearby River Street and upgraded the store many times over the years. He not only dispensed prescriptions and over the counter medicines, but had a soda fountain counter, sold ice cream and had a few tables for the comfort of his patrons.  As drug stores do today, he also sold magazines, comic books, personal items, etc. and one could pick up a small gift if needed.  This was a popular drop-in spot for local residents, not just for medicines.  He carried on his business for 43 years.

This view of Ridlon’s Drug Store shows it as it looked circa 1925. The fountain on the left was removed when the triangle park was created in 1927.  On the right, the mill can be seen across the river. In this photo taken by George French circa. 1940, the drug store is on the right looking up Bridge St. from the bridge.

In this photo taken by George French circa. 1940, the drug store is on the right looking up Bridge St. from the bridge.

This interior view of the pharmacy with Myron Ridlon - druggist and Iva Cutting - clerk, is exactly as I remember it growing up here in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

The pharmacy never reopened after Myron’s passing November 29, 1966, but his nephew, Myron Locke, ran a variety store, soda fountain and snack bar here from 1967 to 1977.   Since then, there have been several small stores including a bakery and fabric shop. An addition was built with large windows facing the river for a beauty shop and there continued to be apartments on the second floor.  Most recently the building has had major renovations top to bottom making it entirely into what appears to be six apartments. 

This building is not quite as old as the previous buildings we have featured, but nevertheless, we are pleased to see it continues in the center of our little town.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Repurposed #3: Old Buildings in Kezar Falls



This building at #3 Bridge Street is next to the Ridlon Brothers Store featured in our last post.  It is currently an apartment building owned by John T. O’Donnell who has made renovations to improve the apartments for his tenants. It is a very old building in the center of Kezar Falls and has changed owners many times.

Joshua Elliott purchased the lot located on the east side of Bridge Street, between the Ridlon Brothers store and the bridge, from Samuel Ridlon for $150 in 1885.  He started the building in July.  On 7/18/1885 The Oxford County Record newspaper published the following: “Joshua Elliott has got the frame for his new building nearly up.  It will be 3 stories with a Mansard roof.”  See the building on the far right below.

Bridge Street showing, from left to right, the Malvern Hotel (now gone),

Ridlon Brothers Store and the Elliott Building.

The 1/15/1887 issue of The Oxford County Record newspaper stated “F.B. Davis has moved into the Elliott rent and opened a barber shop in the room formerly occupied by Rendall the jeweler.”

Fulton B. Davis – barber, circa 1910.

The Davis Barber Shop continued here for many years, carried on by his grandson Harry “Chick” Davis shown here in 1937.

This following view is of the Elliott Building taken circa 1934 with the Davis Barber Shop on the 1st floor, left side.  The third floor burned in 1984 and was rebuilt without it. It continued as an apartment building.  By the time that this picture was taken the Ridlon Drug Store had been built to the south between the Elliott Building and the bridge.

It is good to know that we still have quite a few of these original old buildings that form the center of Kezar Falls Village which are still in use today. 

Thursday, February 29, 2024


 The earliest information we have about this building, located on the corner of Bridge and River Street on the Porter side of the river, is shown on the 1880 map as E.T. Edgecomb’s store.  In 1904 this general store was purchased by brothers, Walter and Benjamin Ridlon, and they started a family business that would remain for nearly 58 years.  Walter’s son, Joe joined the business in 1929.  After Ben died in 1935 his widow, Josie, continued it until her death in 1943.  Walter’s wife Bertha died in 1953 and Walter died in 1954 leaving Joe to carry on the business.  

                                             Ridlon Bros. Store – Circa 1907.  L – R: Benjamin Ridlon, Walter’s wife Bertha (Gilpatrick) Ridlon – seated, Benjamin’s daughter Bernice Ridlon (later Mrs. Bertrand Huber), Benjamin’s wife Josephine (Mason) Ridlon, 3 unknown customers, Benjamin’s daughter Iva Ridlon (later Mrs. Chauncey Cutting) and Walter S. Ridlon.
It was an IGA grocery chain store for many years but eventually became a Nation Wide Store.  This interior view was taken by George French circa 1950.
The second story of the store burned in the 1950’s, but the ground floor was rebuilt and business continued.  Joe Ridlon retired and sold the business to Norman Ray in 1962.  
Norman Ray and Joseph Ridlon.

When Mr. Ray’s wife died shortly thereafter, the business was closed, and Joseph Ridlon sold the building in 1969 to John Burbank.  John converted the building and started a public laundry business.  It was next owned by Vieira LLC who remodeled the building in 2003 as the Village Laundry.  

The laundry continues to this day.  The current owners FSH of Porter, LLC remodeled it again recently and it operates as the Riverside Wash.

This is another success story where an old village business building continues to serve our community in the 21st century. 


Wednesday, February 14, 2024


Did last week’s post make you wonder about the 1st Village School?
The original K.F. Village Schoolhouse is one of the oldest buildings in Porter. It is said
to have been built and used as a schoolhouse on the Daniel Towle farm in Porter from
1829 – 1841. In 1842 the town of Porter moved it to its present location on the corner
of Chapel and School Street. It was the school for District #4 until 1889 when the new
Village School building was built on Main Street.
Village School Dist. #4 prior to 1889.

In December 1889 the building was purchased by the newly organized Advent
Christian Church (1887) and they remodeled it as a church.
Advent Christian Church - 1923

During the ministry of Rev. Lee Judkins (1969 – 1972) they left the Advent Church
Conference and changed the name to the Calvary Bible Church. By 1996 the church
membership had outgrown the building and, under the Rev. Barry Judd, made plans to
build a new church in So. Hiram. The first service in the new South Hiram church was
held on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005.

The old school/church building was sold and was renovated as a private residence and
is still located at #5 Chapel Street. The exterior looks much the same as this picture,
taken about 2004.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024



While visiting my dentist recently, I was thinking back to when I attended school in that building as a young child in 1943 – 1947.  Today it is the Ossipee River Dental office recently purchased by Dr. Christopher Parent at 38 Main St., Porter.  Although it looks pretty much the same outside, it looks very different inside due to the reconfiguration of the space as a dental office.                                               Jan Iler, PPHS Secretary

The new Village School 30 Main Street, Porter c. 1889

This building was built in 1889 as the Village School, replacing the original Village School building on School Street.  It cost nearly $3,000 to build and the Porter Town Report boasted it was the best in Oxford County.  It housed grades K (called Sub-primary) – 12 and continued as such until 1919 when overcrowding led to the building of Porter High School further down on Main Street.  In 1946 an arrangement was made so that the Parsonsfield students who lived in Kezar Falls Village and the students from Porter shared schools. Grades K – 3 were housed in the Village School Building, then called “Porter Primary”, and 4 – 7 went to the Milliken School on Federal Road on the Parsonsfield side of Kezar Falls Village.  Grade 8 students from Porter and Parsonsfield students that resided in the village went to Porter High School. By 1948 all the outlying schools in Porter were closed and students were transported to the village.

The Village School  c. 1905

The Village School/Porter Primary c. 1940’s

The Porter Primary school continued to be used until 1967 when the new Sacopee Valley High School was built.  At that time the grammar school students were split up and relocated between the red school house in So. Hiram, the old Porter High building and Milliken School until 1986 when the South Hiram Elementary (now Sacopee Elementary) was built. 

Porter Primary School – c. 1950’s & 1960’s

For a while the old village school building was used as a warehouse/research lab for ITT, Vulcan Electric.  It was purchased by Dr. J. Cons in 1985. He renovated it and established his dental office there.  When Dr. Cons gave up his practice it became the Sacopee Valley Family Dentistry office which continued until 2023 when Dr. Parent purchased the practice and renamed it “Ossipee Valley Dental.

Dr. Con’s Dental Office - 2001.

This is a great example of repurposing old historic buildings to better meet the needs in the community today.

 In the next few months, we will continue to look at other historic buildings that were an important part of our community’s past development.  Some have been repurposed while some have been demolished and have disappeared from the village scene.

Sunday, January 14, 2024


This has been an unusual winter with little snow during the month of December.  However, this was not the case in 1969.   If you are over 54 you may remember that was the year New England experienced a severe winter storm that left Maine with snowfall amounts exceeding 20 inches in many places. This nor'easter was slow moving and became known as the 100 Hour Storm with the storm lasting for 3 days.  According to NOAA the storm of 1969 had some very impressive snowfall totals.  This storm was ranked Category 2 on the Regional Snowfall Index.  Cities and towns were not prepared for the storm.

  Transportation was almost at a complete halt for days and many streets were not plowed for a week.  The Regional Snowfall Index rates the storm of 1969 with more snow than the devastating snowstorm of March 1993.  This might surprise some people who live in Maine now who have never heard of this storm.  While the February 1969, snowstorm is not as well-known as the March 1993 “Storm of the Century,” it affected many more people with heavy snow (greater than 30”) than any other storm since 1900.  Normally, snowfall is measured in inches except at Mt Washington where the snow was measured in feet that year and received over 8 feet of snow.   How did this storm affect our small towns?  Here's the headline from the Portland Press Herald on March 6, 1969...

Snow Damage $100,000 at Kezar Falls Girls' Camp

In 1969 there were reports of towns in Maine receiving 30 inches of snow.   Officials were broadcasting warnings to camp owners and summer residents of the possibility of roofs collapsing from the weight of heavy snow.  That is exactly what happened when the roof of the main lodge at Camp Hiawatha located in the towns of Hiram and Porter collapsed.  The main lodge housed the dining room, the kitchen and a recreational area. Musical instruments and athletic equipment were also stored there.  The second floor had bedrooms, sewing and ironing rooms.  The basement containing showers and a laundry room suffered little damage.  The damage to the lodge was estimated at $100,000.  David Crowley, resident of Hiram, remembers the roof collapse. He had come to Maine to help shovel the roof at Camp Robin Hood while his father went to Camp Hiawatha to oversee a crew shoveling off the buildings.  They had started clearing the snow from one end of the building when they stopped for lunch.  Suddenly while they were having lunch the lodge roof collapsed.  The snow was about 4 feet deep and it was wet and heavy.  At the time of the roof collapse the camp was owned and operated by Andrew Friedman and his two sons Major and Drew. The lodge was reconstructed and opened on time in the summer of 1969 with 100 girls registered for camp.

The Friedman’s had purchased Camp Hiawatha from Abraham Mandelstam who had established the camp in 1920.  Mandy as he was known by friends and family was from New York City.  He owned and operated two camps in Maine; Camp Hiawatha on Stanley Pond and Camp Wigwam in Harrison. The camp is now operated as the Maine Teen Camp, is coed and serves teenagers from the U.S. and around the world. 

Above, the lodge building before the collapse in 1969 and then after.