Letter to the editor: PMA urged to retain building that housed Chamber of Commerce

I grew up in Portland in the 1950s, and the landmarks that come to my mind first are the outdoor sculptures by Franklin Simmons of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and “Our Lady of Victories”; the Lobsterman Memorial; monuments to John Ford, the USS Maine and the many curious statuaries at Evergreen Cemetery. Even “The Weight of Grief” (the nickname for Celeste Roberge’s “Rising Cairn”), outside the Portland Museum of Art near the copper beech, comes to mind.

Of the buildings I think give Portland its identity are the Old Baxter Library and the Greek edifice we called the Chamber of Commerce Building (formerly the Children’s Museum); the Longfellow House; the Duck House and Castle at Deering Oaks; First Parish Church and the Abyssinian Meeting House on Newbury; the Portland Observatory; and the Tate House at Stroudwater.

Portland City Hall spawned Merrill Auditorium without making such a fuss as the art museum has created with its proposed expansion plan. I have loved the Portland Museum of Art since I was a little girl and first saw “The Pearl Diver” there, but I would never name the I.M. Pei building among any that made such an impression on me as the ghost of Union Station.

I hope the PMA does not drown itself in a net of its own making by reasoning that it is a grand idea to replace a much-loved Greek temple with another prison-like facade.

More art – less empire building!

Martha Frink

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