Historical Society to Present Collection of Watercolor Paintings

One of the many watercolor paintings that will be shared digitally with attendees to a presentation by the St. Croix Historical Society is this one of a woodsy scene. The paintings are all by local journalist and artist Mary Caroline Pike Robbins (1842-1912).

By Lura Jackson


Calais has been the home of many talented artists over the past few centuries. In some cases, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing the work of such artists either in the form of original paintings or as prints or in digital form. In other cases, the work is either no longer around or it is no longer on public display, effectively removing it from our collective enjoyment. Such was the situation for the collection of Mary Caroline Pike Robbins (1842-1912), a national journalist and talented painter in her own right whose works have been kept in a box in the Genealogy room of the library. After a bit of investigation, the St. Croix Historical Society has unearthed the paintings and the story of this unusual woman. A presentation showcasing digital copies of the paintings and her background will be held on Monday, September 11th, at the Holmestead on Main Street.

“[The paintings] really are charming,” said Jerry LaPointe, vice president of the St. Croix Historical Society. LaPointe will be conducting the presentation on Robbins. “It’s a shame they remain in a box most of the time.”

As a journalist, Pike primarily wrote on art, landscapes, gardening and other related topics. She wrote for The Atlantic Monthly and other national magazines, and published a few books, including “The Rescue of an Old Place.” She held parks and landscapes in the highest regard, as evidenced in this quote from an 1897 issue of The Atlantic: “The parks and park systems are the most important artistic work which has been done in the United States.”

Many of Pike’s meticulously detailed and surprisingly vibrant watercolors are of local landmarks and areas. Others are of distant shores and European villages. For those images created prior to the common use of color photography – which nearly all were – it gave viewers of the era the opportunity to get an idea of how far away pieces appeared. For the local images, it enabled those without the benefit of modern prints and photographs to appreciate the seasons of nature throughout the year. 

To see some of Pike’s paintings in digital form, come to the Holmestead on Monday, September 11th. Refreshments will be served. There is no cost to attend the event and the public is welcomed. The society aims to host the entire collection of paintings in digital format online in the future for those who are unable to attend in person.