Thanks to the wonderful Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine we have been given a translation of an article in Le Messager from the opening of the Dominican Block in January of 1883. Le Messager was the French language newspaper based in Lewiston at the time.
“Our Canadian Schools”
January 11, 1883
Vol. III No. 42 – p.2
Written by J.D. Montmarquet
Translation by Donat B. Boisvert
In the company of Mr. G.M. Coombs, the architect and of Mr. Leon Lefebvre, the construction superintendent, we have visited this magnificent building, completed today and which is, unquestionably, Lewiston’s most beautiful and most grandiose possession.
We would have liked to speak at length of this monument which gives tribute to the Canadians and especially the Reverend Dominican Fathers who had endowed it to our city. But we lack space and are obliged to summarize that which we propose to write on this subject.
Proceeding in order, we shall begin with the basement which is divided into three parts, two of which are for the use of the merchants who occupy the first floor and the third houses the furnace which heats the entire buildings.
The first floor is divided into two magnificent shops, one occupied by Mr. S. Marcous, a merchant of novelties, and the other by Mr. Charles Marchand who sells manufactured clothing. These shops are, inarguably, the largest and best (…?) in the city of Lewiston.
The second and third stories are divided into four classrooms for the day and evening schools.
These classrooms, which opened last Monday, have space for seven hundred children. More than six hundred are already registered for the day schools.
These classes are administered by the Revered Sisters from Canada who have other rooms in the building set aside for their own use. The schools are perfectly furnished and everything necessary for the comfort and order which must prevail has been anticipated.
On the fourth floor is the public hall, with a theater and antechambers. This hall has capacity for seven hundred people; in the evening it is lit by lamps, while awaiting the arrival of electric lighting to out city. Two magnificent chandeliers placed in the center add much to the ornamentation.
The decors that have been painted by our artist, Mr. Tresher, are representations of a tropical scene, a city street and an interior scene. The principal curtain offers a view of the city of Quebec. Additional décor will be added as needed.
The uppermost level of the building remains unfinished and will be completed when the need arises. Since this section is vast and well lit it could be made into a recreation center for young people who might wish to spend their leisure time there. Besides, we think that is what the Reverend Dominican Fathers have in mind.
In the interior the woodwork is of ash imported from the West, the doors of pine stained(?) to resemble the ash and the floors are of red pine. The stairways merit special mention and we regret that the space at our disposal does not allow us to give a detailed description of them.
The entire building is heated by steam distributed through ducts which run through every room.
Nothing has been neglected in order to make this edifice a complete, elegant and solid one. No detail has been left wanting and the architect who drew up the plans and the construction superintendent, as well as all those who worked on it have right to be proud of this beautiful monument which is their achievement. All the Canadians who have contributed to the furnishing of the schools also merit praise. But above all, we owe great recognition to the Reverend Dominican Fathers, who have given the Canadians such a beautiful place of assembly and the children such an accommodating means to learn.
Here are the names of the people who are responsible for different aspects of our Canadian city hall. Architect, G.M. Coombs: stone foundation, Roi(?) Brothers; brickwork, Horace Libby; granit, H.S. Decker; roofing, Lemont and Fisher; plaster work, Chs. Lemieux; plumbing, Chs. Greenwood; heating system, Smith and Sabin; painting, William Tresher.
The carpentry and general construction was under the supervision of Mr. Leon Lefebvre to whom we offer our congratulations for the success he has achieved in the construction of this beautiful edifice.
Almost all of the wood used in the construction of the building was furnished by Pingree and Co.