Original 1809 City Records Preserved by Historical Society

Presenting City Manager Jim Porter (right) with one of the restored books containing the original 1809 city records is Jerry LaPointe of the St. Croix Historical Society. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

 

While they were made to last – as much as anything made from paper can be – the original city records of Calais were in pretty rough shape until recently, when the St. Croix Historical Society [SCHS] made an effort to preserve the documents. The three re-bound books were presented to City Manager Jim Porter this past week, where they will be kept in the vault at the City Building.

Dating to 1809, the year that Calais was incorporated as a city, the three books of records had previously been kept in the vault. However, the vault was, according to Porter, disorganized, and, as a result, the original books were piled on the floor and occasionally stepped on. SCHS President Al Churchill acquired the books and he and Vice President Jerry LaPointe quickly formulated a plan to invest in the preservation of the irreplaceable documents. “They were a mess,” LaPointe said of the condition of the books.

LaPointe turned to Malcolm Summer, a professional book preservationist located in Chester, Vermont. “He restores books from all over the world,” said LaPointe, who explained that he had hired Summer to restore several of his own books in the past. “He saves every bit of the old book that he can.”

The society invested $1,000 in restoring the books, a process that took several months. “We had them done in the best quality Moroccan leather that doesn’t have any chemicals in it, so they won’t decay,” LaPointe said. Summer provided the society with a discount on the project due to his personal affinity for historical societies and their efforts. 

Since the books were originally rescued from the vault, it has been cleaned up somewhat, and there is a prominent spot in the upper corner of the vault where the documents will be kept. Porter said that he is planning on having signs made advising any in the vault of what these particular books are and of their importance to the city.

“The city is thrilled and grateful to the St. Croix Historical Society for restoring these books,” Porter said. 

While the original city records have been saved, there are other documents of worth that still need to be preserved. Among the most accessed of the old records are those that contain the street layouts and dimensions, which is currently in poor condition. “We’re in that book all the time,” Porter said, expressing its need to be preserved. Porter aims to get all the city council records in order on one shelf. Porter hopes to convince the council to budget a certain amount toward the preservation of other books in the vault, and LaPointe said that there may be local grant resources that could be tapped for the purpose as well.