In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Bath's Historic Downtown

The Sagadahock House and The Sagadahoc Block

Text by Kyle Bonti, Kelsey Brick, Michael Lawrence, and Morgan Vigue
7th grade students at Bath Middle School
With images from the Patten Free Library

Sagadahock House, Bath, 1894
Sagadahock House, Bath, 1894

Item Contributed by
Patten Free Library

The Sagadahock House was built in 1849; this was the building before the current Sagadahoc Block located at 66-84 Front Street. The hotel was built by Captain John Patten, on Shaw's Point. According to the [pride of bath] article, the four story building, with 80 rooms, cost $75,000 to build. It was built of brick and granite with the architecture being Greek Revival. The Sagadahock House dominated the street because it was the largest building. Later in July of 1859, the columns on the front of the building were removed and Italianate brackets were added. All the hard work and thought put into the Sagadahock House would soon pay off.

John O. Shaw bill, Bath, 1882
John O. Shaw bill, Bath, 1882

Item Contributed by
Patten Free Library

As a result of constructing the building, businesses followed. On the first floor of the hotel there were at least four different businesses such as Smith's, A.G Page, and Shaw's. Also, an article from Bath Independent 1919 copy noted that the early businesses included a barber shop and The Lincoln National Bank. With the Sagadahock House getting all the attention, the focus was also going to the stores in the hotel. Smith's was a laundry facility and A.G. Page sold jewelry right next to it. All these businesses helped the hotel to become the biggest and most successful hotel in Maine for the year of 1849. In the later years of the hotel, there were a few different businesses, such as the J.L. Douglas clothing store, and John O. Shaw who sold stationary supplies, books and other random gifts (see receipt).

The key person that has a connection with the building was Captain John Patten. John Patten built the Sagadahock House. The Patten family were also shipbuilders and at one point had the largest fleet in the world under a family flag. He came into town and got the idea that he wanted to build the hotel. Soon after, he became the biggest taxpayer in Bath in 1849. John Patten was the President of The Portland and Kennebec Railroad. John Patten had the idea and was also was the main builder for this project of making the Sagadahock House. He later became mayor of Bath.

On an early Sunday morning of January 27, 1894, at the Sagadahock House, a fire arose. The fire started in a livery stable at the base of the chimney in the office. The fire could have been put out except for the break in the water line connecting from the New Meadow's River. The break in the line could have been fixed except the company was not willing to pay more than $100 to Mr. Samuel Purrington. A.S. Hall, superintendent of the water company, reported to the Bath Daily Times that he had to fix it in the shortest possible time. He immediately got on the 4:05 train and after some trouble went to Samuel Purrington. He then lent his diving suit to A.S. Hall. Hall went back to New Meadows and talked the engineer, Mr. A. B. Burditt, who was also a diver, and had him put the suit on. When Purrington talked to the Times he told a different story than Hall did. He said that he would go down into the water for $100 but the company was only offering $10. Mr. Burditt worked on the break Saturday night until he could hardly move anymore. He then waited as long as he needed for daylight then went back to work. They were in the process of putting the lead into the joint when the alarm went off and Hall started to see the columns of smoke coming over the city. They told the town that they would give as much water as they could. The gauge at New Meadows told them they had 75 pounds of pressure but in the town the gauge said 10 pounds of pressure, which was not nearly enough and the line broke again with an explosion.

Fire at Centre and Front streets, Bath, 1894
Fire at Centre and Front streets, Bath, 1894

Item Contributed by
Patten Free Library

As the fire spread down the block, the horses were all escorted out of the livery stables safely and only some of their equipment. All of their best equipment was taken by the flames. While they were doing that, the Brunswick Fire Department was on its way, soon to arrive at 10:00 AM. About an hour and a half later, at 11:20 AM, the special train with train engine number six and hose number three from Portland arrived. The Lewiston train should have been there a long time before both of the other trains except there was a delay with their flatbeds staying on the track. At noon, the Lewiston Train finally arrived, but with the three other fire departments at work it was partially controlled. What they did not know was that the fire was spreading very quickly throughout the block.

It had spread all the way from the stables to Percy's Store, busting through the windows. Going the other way, down Centre Street, the fire was spreading towards the City Hall, threatening to burn it down with the extreme flames. As it headed to more stores, people were helping to save the goods but some of it was taken away by the flames. At the same time, they were shutting everything down on the street. The fire, leaping the street, caught on the wooden building across Front Street. Gas tanks exploded and walls fell every couple of minutes, causing screams from the crowd. Soon the Brunswick Hand Tubs were there to help. The fire destroyed everything all the way North to Hoopers Grocery Store. Windows were broken and gas tanks exploded causing screams from the crowd. Every couple of minutes a new wall would fall and scatter the firefighters. The granite wall, (part of the Granite Block) was there, although it was endangering the fire fighters below. Soon they tied a rope to it and had the citizens of Bath help them pull it down, blocking the whole street off. The next afternoon the Mayor ordered a fancy lunch for all the firefighters that were there to help. After all this happened, businesses went looking for a new place to run their shops and businesses.

Front Street, Bath, ca. 1903
Front Street, Bath, ca. 1903

Item Contributed by
Patten Free Library

A few months after the fire, the new buildings, now known as the Sagadahoc Block, were built. While building the new block, the supervisor of construction, was killed. James E. Haley was killed soon after nine o' clock while working on the block. A stick of lumber fell from the saw horses as Haley was walking by and struck him with great force. It hit the ground hard enough that Dr. E.M. Fuller came to the scene when he heard the bang of the wood. He was being rushed home by horse and carriage but sadly died before they reached the house. Mr. Arnold, one of Haley's employees, had just walked across the 100 pound piece of pine wood when he heard the board strike the ground. He immediately turned and saw Haley stuck, then raised the alarm. Haley, at the age of 70, died with great accomplishment. He built about 225 buildings that served many towns and there people.

Thompson's Corner, Bath, ca. 1909
Thompson's Corner, Bath, ca. 1909

Item Contributed by
Patten Free Library

When John Calvin Stevens built the new buildings he made them commercial buildings as the owners requested. Some of the businesses that were in the block were Thompson Brothers and Hallet's Drugstore. They supplied great values for tourists and offices for other businesses. Without these few businesses, Bath would not be as great of a place as it is today. When the businesses were brought into the new block, most of the old businesses were brought back to start where they had left off. These shops and other businesses were a great source for tourists to get little souvenirs or other supplies. In 1901, the top floor, which was used as an Armory for the National Guard, was added.

Today there are various ways that the City of Bath uses the block, such as dance and art studios, retail shops, and Springer's Jewelry. Even today, there are clues to the past: The A.G. Page on the door step, the A. Hallet's Drug Store clock, and the words Thompson's Corner right on the sidewalk on the corner of Centre and Front street .