Predicting the Future of Kittery and Portsmouth
Written by J. Dennis Robinson
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When Ben Frisbee gazed into his crystal ball in 1895 he saw his rural hometown of Kittery, Maine radically altered by progress. By 1955, Frisbee predicted, the wetlands would be dredged into lakes and steel wharves would accommodate massive cruise ships. Gerrish Island would be ringed with wide tarred roads lit by bright electric bulbs. (Continue below)
A huge, illuminated, metal tower would replace Whaleback Light and Fort McClary had become a bustling business center. Ben Frisbee envisioned future Kittery as a mechanized, heavily populated, industrial city – and he welcomed the change.
I’d never heard of Benjamin Randall Frisbee until last week when a Portsmouth Herald reader handed me a copy of “The Island and Harbor Echo.” The Echo was an annual publication created by the alumni of Kittery public schools. The group gathered for a number of years on Thanksgiving Eve in November to reminisce, sing, feast, and listen to poems and speeches. As the official class “Prophet”, Frisbee predicted that Kittery would finally become a profitable and important New England city in the upcoming 20th century.
In a speech to his fellow alumni in 1895, transcribed in the Echo, Frisbee imagined a visitor arriving from Liverpool to Kittery Harbor aboard a high-speed steamer 60 years in the future. The transatlantic voyage from Liverpool, England would take only four days. The class prophet opened his essay with the image of an ocean liner gliding past the Isles of Shoals and the Navy Yard toward the modern wharves at Kittery Point. Frisbee wrote:
“Wood Island soon comes into view on which is a steel fortress covering the entire island. A bridge of solid masonry, steel clad, connects the fortress with the earth works on Gerrish Island. On top of this bridge is a covered archway built of steel, bombproof, where troops can be taken from one fort to the other without exposure in time of battle.”
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