PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Mantle Lake Park is the latest site to be designated an historic point of interest in the Star City — one of about two dozen locations that now feature a plaque highlighting the spot’s importance in the city’s history.
“An historical marker was unveiled recently at Mantle Lake Park by the Presque Isle Historical Society,” said Kim Smith, treasurer/recording secretary for the Historical Society.
City officials were on hand for the unveiling, which took place at the water’s edge.
“There are close to 30 plaques citywide providing historic background information on various sites throughout the community, including the post office, City Hall and the library. The marker at the lake provides visitors with information on how and why the lake was created,” said George Howe, the city’s development specialist.
Howe said many people are unaware of the lake’s importance to the community and its residents when it was first created back in the 1800s.
“Many don’t realize it was built in the 1800s to serve as a water supply to the community and for fire protection purposes,” said Howe.
Smith said the marker details the history of the lake, from its beginning as a reservoir to fight fires in 1887 to its current use as a community park.
“The concept for the marker was a natural offshoot of the self-guided walking tour plaques placed around town in 2008-09 by a joint project between the city of Presque Isle and the Historical Society,” said Smith.
Smith, who regularly leads guided walking tours of historic downtown Presque Isle during warmer months, was attending a regular Rotary Club meeting when the subject of a new Mantle Lake project was being discussed. She said she is always trying to “convince Presque Isle residents to learn more about their hometown” and casually mentioned to her tablemates that Mantle Lake was not always a lake and not always a park. This stimulated discussion of Mantle Lake’s history and inspired Smith to propose to the Historical Society that they expand the markers beyond the immediate confines of downtown. The plaque is located at the site where the original dam ended.
The caption on the plaque reads as follows:
“After the ‘Big Fire’ of 1883 destroyed most of Main Street, the town of Presque Isle realized that buckets of water were insufficient to fight fires and pursued a program of fire protection. A plan was developed to build a reservoir. In 1887, a New York contractor was hired to construct the reservoir. A man-made lake was dug and filled with water from the Kennedy Brook one mile southeast from the center of town with an elevation of 80 feet to provide pressure. The lake, named Mantle Lake after the contractor, created a system of pipes that led from the lake to Main Street, also providing running water to a few homes and a primitive sewer system. In June 1953, the Lions Club built the first picnic pavilion. Eight more picnic pavilions were added in 1957. The tennis courts were completed and opened to the public in 1962.”
Smith hopes that this will be the start of several other plaques around the community as well.
“I’m not certain that local residents realize what a rich and interesting history we have for such a small, rural and geographically remote community. I am in hopes these plaques will encourage a real interest in our local history,” said Smith.
The Historical Society has several presentations available on topics of local history for schools and organizations.
For more information on the organization and its programs and services, visit www.pihistory.org, call 762-1151 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.