2016-05-13 / In the Know

Historic arch moves to Memorial Park

By Sharman Kivatisky Special to the Leader

Den Danske Landsby, otherwise known in English as The Danish Village, was built about 1930 on Route 1 in Scarborough next to the Big 20 Bowling Center. Most likely many Scarborough residents have never heard of the village, but back in its day it was one of America’s first motels.

Route 1 was known as the Boston Road and the Danish Village became a popular overnight stop and attraction for travelers coming to Maine, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Designed by Peter Holdensen and built by hotelier Henry Rines of Portland’s Eastland Hotel fame, this was a highly unusual community of quaint, authentically styled Danish architecture, which replicated the medieval Danish town of Ribe.

Set back from Route 1, an imposing brick gateway directed visitors to the courtyard, which was dominated by a large, brick town hall.

An octagonal fountain, with a statue of the 1340 Danish patriot Niles Ebbensen, was surrounded by 100 charming lodging units. Employees wore period costumes, adding to the atmosphere.

The Danish Village flourished for years until decreased road travel brought on by World War II, rationing and shortages forced the village to close. This began a long decline of the once popular destination. The government then leased the now unoccupied facility to house shipyard workers.

In 1947, after a fire damaged the town hall, the Rines family sold the motel and it became a gift shop for a period of time until vandalism further devalued the structures.

In 1967, the village became a treatment center for recovering alcoholics. Soon after, another fire destroyed many of the cottages. The remaining buildings were demolished in 1970.

Today, the only remnants of this unique hamlet are the fountain and brick archway. Scarborough’s Historical Preservation Implementation Committee, wanting to preserve one or both of these treasures, worked with the new owners of the property to acquire what could be salvaged and moved. The fountain was deemed too deteriorated to save but the brick archway was moved to the Sawyer Road entrance of Memorial Park in the fall of 2015.

To accomplish this project, Bruce Gullifer of Community Services coordinated the following companies and people: Scarborough Public Works, Mary Pinto of Hospice of Southern Maine, Top to Bottom, James Merry Building Movers Inc., Mitchell’s Electric, C.W. Harmon Excavating Inc., Hanscom Masonry, DSM Metal Fabrication Inc., Joe Tuffs Signs and R.J. Sullivan Lawncare and Landscape.

New, complimentary brickwork and lighting have given new life to this historical remnant.

A public dedication is planned for May 18 at 5:30 p.m. and a rain date on May 22 at 3 p.m.

If anyone has any pictures of the Danish Village, the Scarborough Historical Society would welcome them.

Sharman Kivatisky is a member of the Historic Preservation Implementation Committee.

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