Legacy of heat plant, Loring base live on at Loring Heritage Museum

Posted Aug. 19, 2011, at 6:26 p.m.

LIMESTONE, Maine — While the Central Heat Plant of the former Loring Air Force Base withstood 290 pounds of explosives during its scheduled implosion late Saturday morning, its days are numbered as wrecking crews finish the demolition job.

But the memories and historic significance of the structure live on.

Volunteers with the Loring Military Heritage Center are making sure the memories of the heating plant, along with the rest of the former base, are preserved alongside a couple of physical pieces from the plant.

With proper forms and permission in hand, museum volunteers were able to salvage a couple of lights from the heating plant pre-implosion; those units were installed at the museum’s garage and now shed light on other relics from the former base.

“So some of the lights from the Central Heating Plant will still continue to burn because we have them [at the museum],” said Cuppy Johndro, secretary of the Loring Military Heritage Museum.

Volunteers were able to preserve some signs from inside the building as well as some paperwork.

To help accommodate the hundreds of spectators who came out to see the implosion on Aug. 13, museum volunteers held a barbecue that fed between 200 and 300 people; spectators already were waiting at the doors when the museum first opened at 9 that morning.

Much of the 64-year-old building remained standing after the dust settled from the explosions that went off about 11 a.m. While the topic of conversation post-explosion was speculation as to why the plant didn’t go down, more than a few were wondering if the plant really needed to come down.

“A lot of people are upset because they really wanted the base and its historical significance preserved,” Johndro said, adding that many wanted to see the heating plant placed on a historic register.

Questions and curiosity regarding the former industrial complex weren’t confined to the northern Maine region. The Loring Heritage Museum keeps in touch with many veterans and former base personnel from around the country through its new Web page, www.loringmilitaryheritagecenter.com, and has made more than 170 friends on Facebook. It seemed that everyone wanted to be kept in the loop about the implosion regardless of their geographic position.

“People from all over were asking, ‘What’s going on, please film it!’ because they wanted to see what’s left of the plant,” Johndro said on Saturday. “They’re going to be amazed to see that it didn’t go down.”

Finishing up where the implosion left off, demolition crews since have been stripping what remained of the plant down to its concrete slab, piece by piece, with the salvageable steel being sold and recycled as scrap metal.

But while these tangible remnants of the plant are leaving the former base by the ton, many “pieces” of Loring have found their way back home.

Individuals dropped off photos and memorabilia from the former base even on the day of the implosion to be preserved for future generations at the small museum located on the former base.

“The heritage and the legacy of the base will live on because of these people,” Johndro said. “We have people all the time dropping items off; if you have anything in your garage or attic, we’d be happy to come out and pick it up if you’re willing to donate it to the heritage center.”

For those who doubt the significance of their Loring items, Johndro tells this story:

A man found a photo album that was kept by his deceased father with photos of the former base. The man wanted other people to be able to view the photos his father took, so he donated the album to the museum.

“Another guy dropped by the next day and as it turned out, he served with that guy’s dad,” Johndro said.

It’s pretty common for an individual to drop by the museum and find a photo of themselves or a loved one hanging on the wall — tears are relatively commonplace during those times.

Additional information regarding the museum can be obtained by visiting http://loringmilitaryheritagecenter.com or through their Facebook account.

The museum always is looking for new members and volunteers. The group meets at 6 p.m. every second Tuesday of the month at the heritage center.

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