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Farmington: Franklin County's Shiretown

The Abbott School

Farmington Historical Society

The Abbot Family came to Farmington in 1836 when Jacob Abbot purchased “Few Acres”, the former Stephen Titcomb Jr’s Estate located very near the middle of the town. Jacob’s son, Jacob Abbott, educated at Hallowell Academy in preparation for his later enrollment in Bowdoin College, returned to Farmington in 1837 and purchased the Little Blue property across the street from Few Acres, and built a cottage there, where he continued his writing. Jacob II was the author of over 100 children’s books – the most well-known being the Rollo Book Series. After the death of his wife, Jacob moved to New York and his brother, Samuel P Abbott took over Little Blue, and opened it as a school for boys in 1844. The property was purchased by A. H. Abbott (not related) after Samuel P. and his wife’s death in 1849, and continued the plan of the originator, developing a school of picturesque scenery and natural charm.

Abbott School pre 1903
Abbott School pre 1903Farmington Historical Society
Abbott Park Map
Abbott Park MapFarmington Historical Society

One of the most ambitious projects was a railroad built on the property. It consisted of a double wooden track running from behind the school down to and across the brook; the little cars ran by gravity. The purpose of this railroad escapes reason – perhaps it was just for fun.

A. H. Abbott finished the “mountain” of sand that Jacob had started on the property, built bridges modeled after famous bridges throughout the world, added shrubs and trees creating a virtual arboretum on the 10 acres of the school grounds. The “mountain” became known as Little Blue, shaped like Mt. Blue located in Weld, which could be seen in the distance.

Bridges at Rollo Pond, Farmington, ca. 1895
Bridges at Rollo Pond, Farmington, ca. 1895Farmington Historical Society

While the Abbott School, also known as Little Blue, appeared to be successful on the surface, it was almost always plagued by financial worries. And while the buildings were quite stately, and grounds well-cared for, the funds for maintaining all of this were tight. But in spite of the lack of funds, the Abbott School continued to educate young men from all over the globe. The school professed to provide a sound education in the fresh air of Maine.

Over the years, the school’s administration changed frequently. One of the more successful managers was Alden J Blethen, who leased the property and increased the enrollment to 60 students. But in 1900 the school experienced disaster. The Mansion burned, and with it went the 3000 volume library and all the early records of the school that were donated shortly before the fire.

Baseball in Farmington, 1921
Baseball in Farmington, 1921Farmington Historical Society

Hippach Field

With the support of influential men of Farmington, the school was rebuilt and by 1903 was hosting students from all over Maine, New England and from as far away as Spain and Cuba. The school now consisted of a dormitory, the main building, the gymnasium. A superior athletic field was later added. That field, a prominent part of Farmington, became the Hippach Memorial Field in 1916. Howard Hippach, an exceptional athlete, was killed in an auto accident near his home-town of Chicago. In his memory, his family donated money to the Abbott School for the purchase of the field for athletic use. It consisted of a cinder track, fieldhouse, and ornate fencing. On that fence are reliefs depicting baseball and football players. The field has hosted many, many baseball games, plus track meets, football games and organized sports for developing athletes.

Hippach Field, ca. 1920
Hippach Field, ca. 1920Farmington Historical Society

Hippach Field has been an intergral part of Farmington's Athletic History. It now consists of a baseball field, a wading pool, tennis courts, a field for Little League games, a skating rink in the winter, and a new playground for little kids - a donation from families of Mallett School.

Hippach Field has seen years of flooding during spring, but it remains as one of Farmington most prominent features. Peter Mills, and now his family, has taken strong interest in Hippach Field and its preservation. The Mills Family set up a Trust Fund for continued maintenance projects.

Abbott School Pennant
Abbott School PennantFarmington Historical Society

The Abbott School would soon struggle to remain a viable educational facility. World War I had an impact – the school experienced a fire in the dormitory in 1917, and the Government eventually did agree to allow funds and materials to restore the building. But the school’s last commencement was in 1918. In 1924, Oren Haskell attempted to reopen the school and return it to its former excellence; over the next four years his brother tried to interest parents into turning the school into Abbott Junior College. These efforts failed and the school eventually fell into a state of disuse.

Abbott School Track Team, Farmington, 1918
Abbott School Track Team, Farmington, 1918Farmington Historical Society
Abbot Junior College Flyer, 1928
Abbot Junior College Flyer, 1928Farmington Historical Society

The proximity of the Abbott School to the Farmington Normal School proved to be a major asset to FNS. Dr. Erroll Dearborn, President of the College at that time, purchased the Abbott School property; the Dormitory was sold to the Kappa Delta Phi fraternity, where the men put forth a great deal of effort to restore it to its former glory.

With the addition of a new dormitory on Main and Depot Streets, the old Fraternity building would no longer be needed (1962) and was demolished by a local contractor.

Abbott School Completion Certificate, 1925
Abbott School Completion Certificate, 1925Farmington Historical Society

The Abbott School was gone, and the grounds that had once been a showplace of bridges, walking paths, and trees was sold to a developer who had planned to put in a number of commercial entities, which he never did. But he leveled Little Blue, and filled in Rollo Pond. In 1969, the State took the property by Eminent Domain, it was cleaned up and Rollo Pond was dredged. Soon a new learning center would be built and named for Gwilyn Roberts, a former student, member of the Kappa Delta Phi Fraternity and later a respected Professor at the Teacher’s College. The area surrounding Rollo Pond has been improved into a park, and some of the walking paths have been recreated. This property is now a very pretty spot on the campus of the University of Maine at Farmington.

Information Sources:
Richard Mallett’s “Schools”
F. G. Butler’s “History of Farmington”
Franklin Journal Newspaper
Franklin Chronicle Newspaper
Conversations with Roger Spear supported by Newspaper Articles

Nancy Porter, Researcher & Page Creator