Boothbay Harbor joins 10 other Maine towns, including Wiscasset, in establishing its own Museum in the Streets (MITS). The approximately one-hour walk includes 24 informational signs around both sides of the harbor and three introductory signs with brochures at each end of the footbridge and at the municipal parking lot.
Planning board vice-chair Chris Swanson and Code Enforcement Officer Geoff Smith spearheaded the project last year and had help on information gathering and planning from planning board member Margaret Perritt and Boothbay Region Historical Society.
Said Swanson, “Geoff and I were talking about historical preservation and a couple of historical buildings that have seen the wrecker's ball. We said there's really nothing that kind of commemorates the historic structures or uses that we've had in town, so we thought what if we did something where we recognized buildings of historic significance?”
Just as Swanson and Smith figured they would need to organize designers, research materials and installation and price everything out, Smith happened upon Belfast’s MITS walk. When he showed Swanson a few pictures of the signs and the two looked up the program online, they said why reinvent the wheel?
“I said this was exactly the sort of thing we were looking for,” said Swanson. “We became more excited the more we saw and decided to … present to the board of selectmen. And they thought it was a great project.”
Swanson and Smith said the hardest part was picking historic structures and spots to include in the walk which originally had 24 panels planned on the west side of the harbor alone. To keep an east/west walk down to one hour, they said there were many hard decisions to make which cut notable areas like Oak and Pear streets, the cemeteries and everything beyond Kaler’s Restaurant.
“There are many other places that are deserving of recognition, other places that we thought would be great, but you just have to make a choice and sometimes the choices were difficult.”
The project was shaping up to conclude in about 10 months in April, but interruptions in production delayed it about two months.
Since the signs’ installations, several people have remarked on how enlightening the walk is, especially people who have been visiting the region for years and never knew the history was so deep and rich, said Swanson.
“It's another attraction for the town. It doesn't cost anything and you don’t have to commit to doing an entire walk … Yet, there would be enough for a second walk.”