The history of the four plaques in Ellis Park, York Beach, Maine
Michael A. Dow
St. Aspinquid Park was located on Route 1A, heading north out of York Beach Village, just past Atlantic Avenue on the right. Look for the new driveway and old stone pillars on the right side of the driveway and off Route 1A by 100 feet or so. Those stone pillars were part of the St. Aspinquid park entrance.
When the park was opened in 1898, Route 1A also had trolley tracks that ran along the road bed and the park was advertised in a park brochure as a “Trolley-side attraction.” According to the editor of the Atlantic Monthly as reported in 350 Years as York, the park “combined edifying displays of high art (i.e., the statues) with pavilions for vaudeville entertainment, woodland paths for strolling, a tea room and displays of animals and birds.”
During the opening of St. Aspinquid Park, in York Beach, four copper painted, sheet lead statues were unveiled. Henry Evens was the park owner and according to reports “dropped dead” in Boston on July 8, 1902, and the park closed shortly thereafter. Two of these statues saw later service in York Beach Village with The Goddess of Painting ending up in Ellis Park, opposite the Ocean House hotel. Another statue named The Goddess of liberty and Soldier’s Monument had mounted on its rectangular base, four bronze plaques listing a few local participants in the War of 1776, the War of 1812, and the War of 1861, and it ended up in Ellis Park as well.
According to the following July 3, 1922 Portsmouth Herald newspaper report, before or perhaps after being in Ellis Park, the aforementioned statue occupied a different spot in York Beach Village.
“The soldiers’ monument will be removed from the park to the lawn near the fire station where it will receive the attention of the women from the York Beach improvement Association. The assessors have arranged to rebuild the curbing and improve the surroundings.”
Referring to the article, we are not quite sure which park the statue was moved from – Ellis or St. Aspinquid. Regardless, this monument with the four plaques ended up in Ellis Park and seemed to have been moved within the park to different locations, according to contemporary post card photos.
By 1940 the statue was in poor condition so the plaques were removed and stored in the York Beach Fire House garage for many years and the derelict monument was moved to the York Beach dump. Scrap metal was eagerly sought for World War II so the statue was taken to a scrap yard in Portsmouth, NH and subsequently melted down for the war effort. This probably happened in 1942 as that was the year the scrap drives started.
In 1970 the York Beach Village Corporation reinstalled the plaques on a granite bolder near the bandstand at Ellis Park where they may be seen today.
Information excerpted from interviews with York historian Peter Moore, the Statuary and Monuments chapter of the book 350 Years as York and other sources.