Strathglass Park: Strategies for the Revitalization of a Rural Mill Town Community

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Graduate group
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C.P.H. Gilbert
industrial paternalism
Section 203(k)
Historic Preservation and Conservation
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Hendrickson, Heather Megan

Built in 1902 for Oxford Paper Company mill workers, Strathglass Park is one of the finest examples of twentieth century industrial worker housing still extant today. The rural town of Rumford Falls, Maine experienced a radical population boom during the last decade of the nineteenth century when the small agrarian village was transformed into a thriving industrial pulp-and-paper company town, resulting in a major housing shortage. Brainchild of Hugh J. Chisholm (1847-1912), founder of the Oxford Paper Company, Strathglass Park consisted of 51 red-brick architect-designed duplexes organized in a professionally planned park-like setting surrounded by a granite wall. The well-constructed, spacious, and modern company-owned duplexes were rented to mill workers at an affordable rate while the company also handled maintenance and repairs in the Park—which was kept in immaculate condition until the maintenance program ended in 1949. In 1967, the family-owned Oxford Paper Company was sold to the Ethyl Corporation which started the Park and the town on a downward economic trajectory. The unified landscape of Strathglass Park deteriorated until a revitalization movement was prompted in 1973 with the nomination of the Park to the National Register of Historic Places. Since that time, sporadic interventions have been attempted to revitalize the Park, with only temporary effects achieved. This thesis examines the origins of Strathglass Park and tracks its evolution within the context of Rumford Falls. It documents and critically analyzes past preservation interventions along with contemporary community sentiment to create a framework which is used to develop a preservation strategy to reactivate Strathglass Park as one of Rumford’s most distinctive community assets. Recommendations are proposed that address community and economic challenges through financing sources, policy modifications, and community programming—leveraging the architecturally significant Strathglass Park development to facilitate a larger neighborhood evolution.

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