Robbinston School Tours Calais Riverfront

By Lura Jackson

On Friday, October 31st, forty students from the Robbinston School were given a partial tour of the Calais Riverfront by members of the St. Croix Historical Society. SCHS Vice President and retired teacher Jerry LaPointe conducted the tour, which started at the bottom of Barker Street.

“It's a good thing to know where you come from, whether you stay in an area or whether you leave it,” LaPointe told the students (who ranged in age from 1st to 8th grade) at the beginning of the walk. Many of the students had relatives in Calais, and some of them were eager to show off the knowledge that they already had of the historical walkway.

“Wasn't this a train track?” one girl asked. LaPointe acknowledged the fact, explaining that the trains in this area were among the first in the state and that they were initially used to transport wood from up the river to the sawmills in Calais rather than for passenger travel. 

“There was a lot of wood around here, and in the old days, everything was made out of wood,” LaPointe continued. Wood was used to make carriages, houses, ships, and even sidewalks, to name but a few of its purposes. “There was wood here that no one had ever cut.” 

LaPointe paused at the remains of one of the many wharves lining the riverfront to describe how busy the wharves used to be with ships that were loading and unloading and being repaired in drydocks. “I've heard it said that at one point there were so many ships in Calais and St. Stephen that you could walk all the way across the river on their decks,” he said. For nearly a hundred years, ships and clippers were built in Calais, the first of which was the Liberty in 1803.

In front of the library, LaPointe discussed how it had come into being as the result of a donation from James Shepherd Pike, who gave his wooden home for the purpose of a public library. In later years it was decided that more room was needed, and in 1893 construction finished on the present-day building at a cost of $10,000.

The tour progressed to where Main Street passed over the riverwalk, giving the students the opportunity to briefly mimic the whistle of a train in the tunnel before returning to the bus to prepare for the adventures of the evening.