Observer Building

Built in the center of downtown Dover in 1854, the “flat iron” building sits proudly in Union Square.  The building was originally erected as a tenement house and contained several apartments, including one three room apartment on the third floor.

Although no longer in use, this apartment is still there with remnants of its original wallpaper.  The Society now uses it for storage of the large items in its collection.

The unique building, shaped like a pie slice or “flat iron” fits snugly into the triangular intersection of East Main and Pleasant Streets.  It is the only known wooden “flat iron” building in the state of Maine.  The roof is constructed as an upside-down ship’s bottom and was built by a ship’s carpenter especially brought to Dover by Cyrus Doore who could not figure out how to make it work.  The building was erected by William Sargent.

In July of 1893 the building was purchased by H. S. Green, former proprietor of the Dover House hotel, and was immediately sold to W. J. Eldridge who planned to use the ground floor for a grocery store.  Nine years later he leased the building to A. L. Cohn of Bangor for ten years, with the lower floor renovated as a store and the second floor made into a home for Mr. Cohn.  But Cohn’s business did not succeed, so Mr. Eldridge took the building back, and in 1903, traded it for some farms owned by George Doore.  At this time the Piscataquis Observer was looking for a new home.  The building they occupied on South Street did not have enough space, so after six years there the Observer leased the “flat iron” building from Mr. Doore in 1905.  The printing presses were moved and the Piscataquis Observer started publication of the paper from what would become known as the “Observer Building”.  In the June 8, 1905 edition, Ora Evans said in his editorial that the life of the Observer had come full circle because its second home was in a small 20’ x 20’ building that stood in the late 1830’s on the same site.  The Observer first published in 1838.

The editorial office was located in the front room of the building, looking out on Union Square and the business district.  The composing room was in the middle room where the many windows were a great help by providing extra light for setting type – all done letter by letter by hand.

The printing presses were located in the back room – where they still reside.  The second floor had business offices for rent.

The Observer Building was then purchased by James Thompson of California in April of 1968.  He then sold the paper to Northeast Publishing of Presque Isle.  In 1996 the Observer Building was deeded to the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society, as now the paper needed only a storefront to publish the weekly paper.  All printing is done in Presque Isle and the news stories are sent by computer.  The historical society was elated to have received this historic structure.  We immediately had it put on the National Register of Historic Places.  It’s a perfect location for a museum – right in the center of our town, sitting proudly at the head of Union Square.  The bottom floor now houses a museum, the second floor is storage for our archives, textiles, photos, a small library and work space for cataloging.

We are open officially during the summer on Thursdays but there is usually a “work crew” there on most Thursdays.  This is the day when we catalog and set up new exhibits.  We are also very happy to open anytime for visitors on other days.  Simply call one of the officers.