BREWER, Maine — Families shook snowflakes off their winter finery in the vestry of the church while across town a lone officer stood watch in the police station where rifles lined the walls and three empty cells patiently waited for lawbreakers.
In a cozy house on a quiet street in the imaginary town of Springheirville, Maine, a woman sat in front of her vanity preparing for a holiday party. Around the corner at the post office, packages were piled up waiting to be delivered.
The Christmas Village is on display this holiday season for the first time in at least three years in Brewer. It sprang from the mind and hands of Lois Springer.
The now deceased longtime Brewer resident designed and began building it more than four decades ago. For many years, she displayed it on her lawn. In 1970, 3,000 people reportedly stopped by during the holiday season.
It is being displayed on three Saturday afternoons in December by the Brewer Historical Society at the Clewley Museum on Wilson Street, Jean Lyford, a member of the museum’s board of directors, said Saturday.
“Is it a replica of a particular Maine town? No. It’s completely a thing of the imagination,” Springer said in a 1968 interview with the Bangor Daily News. “I wanted to do something a little different, and I thought of building a church and a creche. I like children and was interested in doing it for my grandchildren and the neighboring children. Then it sort of mushroomed.”
Benjamin Nason, a carpenter and neighbor of Springer’s in the late 1960s, gave her advice and helped in the construction of the first few building.
The village includes more than two dozen separate structures. The display includes a covered bridge, police station with cells, farm, stable, inn, bank, general store, railroad station, barbershop, church, bandstand, school and post office. There are so many buildings in the village, it doesn’t fit into one room of the museum.
Most have removable roofs and are lit so their detailed interiors, which include miniature people and items, can be viewed more easily. There are tiny rolls of quarters stacked in the vault at the bank and a wanted poster smaller than a postage stamp is attached to the wall of the police station. Itsy-bitsy cans, their labels barely legible, line the shelves of Tuttle and Andrew’s General Store.
Springer died in 1999, but her Christmas Village lives on in the Brewer Historical Museum.
The Christmas Village, Springheirville, will be on display from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays Dec. 4, 11 and 18 at the Clewley Museum, 199 Wilson St.