Newichawannock Hall - The Business Block, Second Floor - South Berwick, Maine
In the South Berwick Village fire of 1870, one of the casualties was a community assembly hall, upstairs in a brick building destroyed in the blaze. “It is with something of a sigh of regret for the past,” wrote local resident Rebecca Young years later, “that we recall the panoramas, the slight of hand matinees, the exhibition of Tom Thumb and Dolly Dutton and their kind, and also the noisy band concerts, and the church levees and fairs of those early days. It was in, or under or near the ante room of this well remembered hall that the fire of the eventful night began, the hall having been used in some capacity during the evening.”
One of the very first things community leaders did after the fire was to form an organization to create a “new citizens hall.” This Newichawanick Hall Association (Newichawannock) was directed, at least for a time, by attorney Abner Oakes. And when the new South Berwick Business Block opened in 1871, it included a second floor hall.
Once more, citizens had a place to congregate for meetings and cultural events, up over such shops as Merrill’s Shoe Store, Ricker’s Fancy Goods, Miss Smith’s Millinery Store, and Hobbs’s Grocery.
What kind of entertainment went on? In 1874 there was a performance, perhaps humorous, of sacred hymns and tunes thought to have been popular a century before. In the 1880s the alumni association of Berwick Academy, then the local high school, met in the hall.
With the development of moving pictures, the silver screen came to downtown South Berwick. In the 1920s, Newichwanick Hall had become the Strand Theatre.
By the end of World War II, the theater was known as The Park and it even had a telephone. You could see a feature for 18, 35 or 50 cents.
In recent years the hall has been known as Wadleigh Gardens Ballroom.
From the Independent , December 27, 1900 From the South Berwick News , November 21, 1924
(This page was revised in March 2021.)
South Berwick Chronicle, August 11, 1949