WATERVILLE

April 25, 2010

Ticonic Falls? Where's that?

Calling Head of Falls anything else would be unacceptable, many say

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- The name "Head of Falls" should not be changed to "Ticonic Falls."

click image to enlarge

RESISTANT TO CHANGE: The Head of Falls, around 1925-30, was where Waterville resident Barbara Currie's mother-in-law, Rita Talbot, grew up. Currie is one of many residents who wants to keep the name "Head of Falls."

Photo courtesy of Barbara Currie

That is the word from both Mayor Paul LePage and City Manager Michael Roy.

"I don't think it should be changed," LePage said. "I was upset when they said they were thinking of changing it."

He was talking about the area along the Kennebec River off Front Street and near the Two Cent Bridge that will soon be developed with a walkway and plaza, trees and trail entrances.

The ultimate goal is to have a multiuse development there that would include restaurants, office and living space.

A proposal to change the name from "Head of Falls" to "Ticonic Falls" prompted a deluge of comments last week to both City Hall and Roy's office.

Roy responded by e-mail, and thanked all of those who have submitted comments.

"The Head of Falls Planning Committee was just trying to move the project along and we're very surprised by not only the number, but also by the tone of the comments received," his e-mail says. "In our view, that is good because one of our goals has been to rouse interest in what could happen at Head of Falls."

LePage and Roy are members of the committee, which was formed at the suggestion of Bertram & Cochran, Inc., a national real estate and economic development consultant.

The city had hired Bertram & Cochran to conduct a market analysis of Head of Falls. The firm recommended a new name, "Riverscape at Two-Cent Crossing," a name the planning committee rejected. The committee proposed instead calling it "Ticonic Falls."

But the idea has drawn passionate opposition from those who grew up at Head of Falls or whose families lived there before the apartments and houses were razed as part of urban renewal in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The area was home to many Lebanese and French families. Many worked at mills on both sides of the river and at the Lockwood mill complex that now is the site of the Hathaway Creative Center.

Roy wants to maintain the name "Head of Falls."

"As one member of the committee, I will support leaving the name as is and I have heard from a number of committee members who feel the same way," Roy said via e-mail. "I fully expect that the Head of Falls name will remain."

Roy says the walkway and plaza construction projects scheduled for this summer at Head of Falls will include a display kiosk that will highlight the history of the area and include pictures of what it was like when it was populated.

Barbara Currie, whose late husband, Ron, was a Waterville firefighter, says her mother-in-law, Rita Talbot, grew up in a house at Head of Falls. Talbot's mother, Rose, owned the house.

"I believe, like most people believe, (the name) should be left, 'Head of Falls,'" Currie said. "There's just too much family history like the Nales and the Jabars and the Mitchells. There's just too much family history to take that away from these people."

John Mitchell, brother to former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, recalled living at Head of Falls as a young child and going to school with his brothers, attending the Boys & Girls Club off Front Street and sliding on the riverfront hill in winter.

"And then you'd go to church on Sunday on Front Street," he said. "It was so much a part of our life."

John said that he, like his brother, Paul, would prefer the name stay the same: "It'll still be Head of Falls, no matter what the sign says."

The Head of Falls Planning Committee will discuss the issue at its next meeting, at 4 p.m. May 6 in the council chambers at The Center downtown. Roy says everyone is welcome to attend.

City Council Chairman Dana Sennett, D-Ward 4, said he does not understand why the longtime name of an area that is so well-known should be changed.

"We should have a public discussion on the name," he said.

LePage said when the idea for changing the name surfaced, he never thought it would gain momentum.

"My initial comment was, 'It is silly to change that name,'" he said.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

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