Farmington, Maine has something that has long since disappeared from many rural towns – a thriving downtown. For a town of 7000 people, our little downtown is most impressive. Not only do we have a Reny’s- A Maine Adventure!, we have a bevy of independent retailers, selling everything from musical instruments to children’s outerwear, to handcrafted pottery and metalwork. There is a grocery store, restaurants, gift shops, barber shops – essentially everything that makes a downtown robust and welcoming, to both locals and visitors.
The downtown hasn’t changed a whole lot since I arrived on a sunny Labor Day Weekend in 1994 as a freshman at UMF (I know, I totally don’t look old enough, right?). Liquid Sunshine was at the opposite side of the downtown, where the Lions Club Thrift store is now located and the old movie theater was still the Movie Theater – Narrow Gauge Cinemas wouldn’t open for another two years or so. Calico Patch was still the prettiest little gift shop around, though the building itself sported an awful corrugated metal front, which has since been taken down. The Homestead was still the best place to get dinner.
Some of the improvements to the downtown over the past 20 years include the addition of Sugarwood Gallery on the corner of Broadway and High Street. I can’t recall what was there before the gallery opened. Now the space is filled with beautiful crafts and furniture from local artists and is a draw for passing tourists. The North Church is another fantastic addition to the downtown. The Farmington Historical Society took on the monumental task of renovating the old church, which hadn’t been used as a place of worship since the 1920s. Today, it is once again a functioning building with a gorgeously refurbished lower level that is perfect for catered functions and the upstairs audience chamber hosts a number of concerts throughout the year.
UMF, my alma mater, has undergone significant changes in the past two decades. While not changing the downtown specifically, the addition of the Emery Arts Center by Merrill Hall and the new Education Center on the corners of Lincoln and High Street, have changed the look of Farmington. As someone who appreciates architecture and local history, I admit I was sad to see some of the old buildings torn down to make way for the new. But that’s progress, right?
People who don’t have the privilege of living in or around Farmington, often dismiss it as way out in the middle of nowhere; if they think we’re out of the way, they obviously have never driven up to Flagstaff or Corburn Gore. I think my little town in the foothills of Maine is one of the best kept secrets of the Pine Tree State. It’s friendly, entertaining, affordable and offers the best of both country life and town life.
What do you love about your hometown?