Camden Amphitheatre & Public Library Receive National Historic Landmark Status
Thursday, March 14, 2013 6:12 AM
Camden Amphitheatre and Public Library,
Mary Louise Curtis Bok donated the land for the library and the amphitheatre, as well as Harbor Park, which is not inlcuded in the historic landmark designation. The library was built in 1928, on the highest point on Main Street. “It was Mary Bok’s genius to call in Fletcher Steele,” says Camden Library Director Nikki Maounis. The centerpiece of the library’s ground is the amphitheatre, designed by Fletcher Steele, one of America’s premier practitioners of 20th-century landscape design, and one of his few public projects. The library’s website describes Steele’s design as marrying “the ideals of the Renaissance Italian garden theater with the richness of Maine’s native landscape.”
The Camden Amphitheatre and Public Library is one of the few public projects of Fletcher Steele, one of America's premier practitioners of 20th-century landscape design. It is an outstanding representation of the contributions made by the landscape architecture profession, private benefactors, and national associations to develop public landscapes in the United States that celebrated natural regional beauty, scenic character, and rich cultural history.
On Monday, March 11, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis designated the Camden Amphitheatre and Public Library one of 13 new national historic landmarks. The paragraph above was included in the announcement.
Monday's designation was about five years in the making, said Camden Library Director Nikki Maounis on Monday. It was Dave Jackson's idea to apply for the designation, according to Maounis. Jackson, the library's parks director, was instrumental in the long, complex and exacting process, said Maounis, who likened it to a doctoral dissertation, because the committee evaluating the applications requires rigorous documentation of a site's real historic significance to the nation at large. The library had a small grant that allowed them to hire a researcher and writer to assist in the process. Last November, Maounis and Jackson went to Washington, D.C., to make their presentation to the committee.
"The national landmark designation will be invaluable to the library in our ongoing efforts to maintain and preserve this beautiful space for future generations. The designation puts the library on the map, quite literally. And that's a good thing for public libraries everywhere as well as for the Town of Camden," said Maounis.
National historic landmarks are nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. The program, established in 1935, is administered by the National Park Service on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. Currently there are 2,540 designated national historic landmarks, 43 of which are in Maine.
"These national historic landmark designations span more than two centuries of our country's history," Secretary Salazar said in his announcement. "Today's designations include significant sites that help tell the story of America and the contributions that all people from all walks of life have made as we strive for a more perfect union."
Along with the Camden Amphitheatre, one of the other sites named on Monday was the bridge in Selma, Alabama, that was the site of "Bloody Sunday," where, on March 7, 1965, law enforcement officials attacked civil rights marchers. The resulting national attention contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The other new national historic landmarks include Camp Nelson Historic and Archeological District, Jessamine County, Kentucky, one of the nation's largest recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers during the American Civil War; the residence and workspace of Dra. Concha Meléndez Ramírez, a prominent voice in the literary movement that shaped Puerto Rico's 20th-century national cultural identity; the Epic of American Civilization Murals at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, by José Clemente Orozco, whose murals challenged traditional ways of thinking about the development of Aztec and Anglo-American civilizations in North America; George T. Stagg Distillery, Franklin County, Kentucky, a rare, intact example of an operating distillery before, during and after Prohibition; the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut (the Stowe House in Brunswick was designated a national historic landmark in 1962); Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey, an exceptional example of a Negro league baseball stadium in 20th-century segregated America, which served as home field for teams such as the New York Black Yankees and the New York Cubans during a period when the institutionalized practice of "separate but equal" facilities was the accepted norm; Honey Springs Battlefield, McIntosh and Muskogee counties, Oklahoma, the site of the largest battle in Indian Territory in which Native Americans fought as members of both Union and Confederate armies; Old San Juan Historic District, San Juan, Puerto Rico, the oldest city within the United States and its territories; Pear Valley, Eastville, Virginia, a rare surviving example of the distinctive form of architecture that developed in the Chesapeake Bay region; Second Presbyterian Church, Chicago, Illinois, representing the visual and philosophical precepts of the turn of the century Arts and Crafts design movement; and Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York, one of the country's oldest artists' retreats.