Intersection North Lincoln Oak Grove
Bath, Maine 04530
The revival of Druid Park at Five Corners in Bath began in 2001, at a time when Patten Free Library was awarded a grant from the New Century Community Program, a staDruid Parktewide cultural initiative funded by the people of Maine, to produce a guide to the historical cemeteries in the city. Denise Larson, the manager of the Sagadahoc History and Genealogy Room at the library, found a reference to a park at the entry of Maple Grove Cemetery, the oldest town cemetery, established in 1816. The single paragraph read:
"The cemetery lawn, across North St. from the (Hyde) triangle, when first landscaped had some large boulders for gate and corner posts and was for some time called Druid Park. The boulders and the hedge once surrounding this plot have in recent years been removed."
-- The Edward Clarence Plummer History of Bath Maine, by Henry Wilson Owen, 1976
A search of the vault in the office of the Bath Cemetery and Parks Department revealed the original plan of Druid Park: several flower beds shaped like the sun, moon, and stars grouped around a central Druid Parkfeature. Further research brought to light newspaper articles and photos of what had actually been constructed on the site: a long, linear planting of hedges with a large specimen planting at the center.
By happenstance, the Bath Community Forestry Committee, which was formed in 1992, decided that the nondescript triangle of land in front of the cemetery and parks office needed a facelift. After some research, one of its members, Geraldine Coombs, suggested that the committee take on the challenge of bringing Druid Park back to life as a millennium garden to revitalize the traditional entryway to the city through the planting of trees, shrubs, and flowers. With Coombs as the catalyst, the Bath Forestry Trust funded the hiring of a Portland landscape architect, and his plans were implemented over a seven-year period. Smaller than the original park due to the construction of a city vault and the cemetery and parks office, but significant in its location, Druid Park was rededicated in 2008.
The Original Druid Park
Founded as the Second Parish of Georgetown and then incorporated as a separate town in 1781, Bath came into its own during the golden age of sail, 1820s-1860s, and was charted as a city in 1847. Rated fifth in U.S. ports for registered tonnage, Bath was poised for greatness in world shipbuilding andDruid Park merchant trade.
Mindful of Bath's status in Maine and in the world of commerce, a committee of citizens asked that city officials look for "a public promenade ... that the comfort and prosperity of the community would be extended thereby". The response was the eventual purchase of land for a city park and the development of the city's cemeteries into the garden style that was made popular by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, Maine. The transformation of all sites in Bath was led by John H. Ramsay, Bath's superintendent of cemeteries from 1883 to 1898, who was considered by the editor of Bath's leading newspaper to be a skillful landscape gardener and horticulturist.
Ramsay took on the beautification of the entrance to Maple Grove Cemetery by transforming a lawn into a small park with avenues of trees, long hedgerows and flower beds. This planted area originally was part of the two parcels purchased by Bath in 1806 to form the North Common at the junction with the major road to Brunswick, which is now Old Brunswick-Bath Road. The landscaped area with its hedges, plantings, and boulders for gate and corner posts was called Druid Park.
The name of the park is a curiosity that might be explained by Ramsay’s knowledge of the work of Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s leading landscape architect during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Olmsted and the members of his firm designed the roads, walkways, trees and plantings of numerous college campuses, park systems, and large municipal green spaces, including Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace around Boston.Druid Park
Olmsted or someone at his firm appeared to have an affinity for the Druid mystique of the era. One of the firm’s major accomplishments was an innovative suburb near Atlanta with a linear park design. The site is notable for its canopy of trees, including a grove of oaks. Olmsted’s firm suggested the name Druid Hills in 1904, and the area is now known as the Druid Hills Historic District. Another project designed by Olmsted’s firm was Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, which was laid out in 1898.
The original Druid Park in Bath was laid out between Oak Grove Avenue, leading to Oak Grove Cemetery and Maple Grove Avenue, thus reflecting the naming practices of Olmsted and his firm.
Conjecture is that the Modern Spiritualist Movement, which began in the 1850s and continues to this day in Maine at Temple Heights Spiritualist Camp in Northport, strongly influenced popular culture. Séances were held as parlor games at the turn of the nineteenth century, often including the use of a Ouija board, which was first manufactured in 1890 and patented in 1901. Newspapers carried sensational stories about the magician Harry Houdini and his debunking of fraudulent spiritual mediums during the early 1900s. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an immensely popular author at the time, was deeply involved in spiritualism and was himself a spiritualist medium. All these factors played into the aura of the era and most likely influenced the selection of the name Druid Park.
The New Druid Park
Earth berms and flower beds planted with perennials, annuals and low-growing yews have replaced the boulders and hedges at Druid Park, but the gardens still stand at the entrance to Oak Grove Druid ParkAvenue and Maple Grove Cemetery, welcoming visitors to the City of Ships, a place rich in history, beauty, pride in its past and hope for its future.
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Sources of this information include the National Park Service Web page on Atlanta (Druid Hills Historic District), an e-mail dated Sept. 17, 2008, from Alida Silverman of the Druid Hills Civic Association (www.druidhills.org), Temple Heights Spiritualist Camp Web site (www.templeheightscamp.org) and standard references, including Henry Owen’s The History of Bath Maine, which has been quoted in this report.