Title: New book examines Maine State Prison history
Author: Amy Lea
Publisher: The Herald Gazette
For nearly two centuries, the Maine State Prison stood as a Main Street landmark -- a sure sign to out-of-towner's that they had arrived in the town of Thomaston.
Though a grassy field and a corner of the old building are all that remain on the former site (closed and demolished in 2002) there are still plenty of stories to tell.
The month of May will mark the release of a new book produced by Arcadia Publishing titled "Maine State Prison: 1824-2002." Thanks to contributions from Thomaston officials, community members, ex-prison guards and current prison staff, the completed memorial provides a pictorial history of the 178-year-old brick façade and offers many previously untold stories of life inside the prison walls.
The project was spearheaded by Maine State Prison Warden Jeffrey D. Merrill Sr., who was the last warden of the old prison and also serves as the current warden at the new facility in Warren.
Merrill said many people have reminisced about the former site since it closed, some telling stories while others inquired about the history of the Maine State Prison. With the combined interest and an offer from Arcadia Publishing to create a book about the prison's history, a planning committee was formed last May to compile information and photos.
Copies of "Maine State Prison: 1824-2002" will be available May 11 at the prison showroom on Main Street in Thomaston for $21.99. The book will also be available through local retailers and online bookstores, including Arcadia Publishing at arcadiapublishing.com.
After reviewing the advanced copy of the new book, Merrill said he is pleased with the outcome. "What we wanted to do is preserve history of the Maine State Prison and I think we did that," Merrill said. "It gives people a lot of information as what may have transpired over the last 175 years."
Merrill said condensing the book down to 127 pages was one of the toughest tasks involved with the project.
"We had thousands of photos to sort through. There are still a lot of untold stories and major events we couldn't capture," said Merrill, citing the lockdown of 1980." I think we probably could write three of these books."
Merrill said there has been quite a lot of interest since people have become aware that the book is coming out. He said this will be a good opportunity for taxpayers to have more information on what they supported for many years.
Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Maine State Prison Employees' Benefit Fund, which benefits charitable causes related to employees.