The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was also called the Columbian Exposition, because it was originally supposed to be in held in 1892 – 400 years after the arrival of Columbus in the New World. A quadricentennial! They were a little late, but it was still a huge success. After the fair, what to do with all the buildings?
Comprised of over 200 structures, by 1894 most of them were simply torn down. Two still remain standing in Chicago – one became part of the Art Institute of Chicago and the other the Museum of Science and Industry. Since most of the structures weren’t built for permanence, it wasn’t too hard to take them apart. So three buildings were dismantled and moved – the Norway House went to Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, the Dutch House went to Brookline, Massachusetts, and the third, the Maine State House, made its way back home to Maine.
The building was designed by Chicago architect Charles Sumner Frost, who originally came from Lewiston, Maine. To show off what his home state had to offer, Frost designed the high Victorian building with Maine granite, Maine blue slate, Maine oak, and even Maine fabric and mesh screening. Meanwhile, in the small town of Poland in southwest Maine, the Ricker family were busy running the Poland Spring Resort, source of the famous spring water. Seeing an opportunity to expand the resort, for the relatively modest sum of $30,000 (about $825,000 in today’s dollars) and another few thousand for the building’s train fare, the Rickers arranged for sixteen box cars to be loaded up with the pieces. Back at Poland Spring the building was reassembled and used for additional guest rooms, a library and an upstairs gallery. The enormous main (no pun intended) resort building burned down in 1975, but the spring water still flows into bottles we see on the shelf today, and the Maine State Building has been preserved by the Poland Spring Preservation Society who run it as an art gallery.
Of the 200 buildings at the 1893 World’s Fair, 195 didn’t survive. Luckily the Maine State Building is one that didn’t stay too long at the fair.
Know Before You Go
Just off Rte 26 - Poland Spring, Maine - at Poland Springs Preservation Park