Friday, September 2, 2022

Lakeview Pavilion at Crescent Lake a popular spot during Prohibition

The old Lakeview Pavilion near Crescent Lake in Raymond 
was a popular dance hall for decades in the Lakes Region  of
Maine especially during the Prohibition Era. It was torn
down in the early 1990s. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Ernest H. Knight

It is historical fact that since time immemorial man, no matter how austere his circumstances, man has reserved some part of his day-to-day life for entertainment and pleasurable pastimes.

Raymond was no different from other communities during the past decades and a popular form of social activity was dancing, whether it be a reel, a square or just a fast clog or slow shuffle even down to our present generations when it was jitterbugging, rock n’ roll or disco. Even when travel was mainly by foot for the many or by horse and buggy for the more affluent, devotees of the art managed to gravitate to the places where dancing was to be enjoyed.

These places were sometimes halls with hardwood floors appropriately designed and maintained and sometimes merely adequate open space. Music could be anything from a jewsharp or fiddle to an orchestra of strings and brass. Canned music or radio is a recent innovation.

In or close to the town of Raymond many places have at various times provided the opportunity for such pleasures, such as the upper floor of the Mains’ Store in South Casco Village, the Lafayette House (at times known as the Central House, Smith’s Hotel or Sawyer’s Inn) in Raymond Village, Forhan Hall (also the prior Forhan Storehouse on the same site and the present Knights of Pythias Hall), Sam Witham’s in the “Lower Village” (later called the Raymond Inn), Bartlett’s above the Bartlett Store on Mountain Road beyond Raymond Hill and the N.E.O.P. Hall at Webb’s Mills. 

Then there were substantial and available barns suitable for an impromptu or planned wing-ding and it did not require much encouragement for the venturesome to find a way to get to nearby towns to partake if their offerings, such as the famous dance hall at North Windham presided over by Rayal Manchester’s orchestra, the Casino on the Naples Causeway or for the elite a visit to the Poland Spring House, the Summit House or the Bay of Naples Inn.

Dress was somewhat optional though the belles and swains could attempt to make a good impression on the other sex or create envy on the part of their competition and the Beau Brummel set his unruly hair in place with an application of bacon grease if it were not fly time. And of course, there was always the unfortunate wallflower and the annoying stag who only came to ogle and heckle.

A place omitted from the above-mentioned hot spots is the Lakeview Pavilion overlooking Crescent Lake between the Tenney River and the “Over the River” Schoolhouse. The building of this dance hall was somewhat coincidental with the renaming of the Great Rattlesnake Pond into the deglamorized Crescent Lake, otherwise it might have been name “The Rattlesnake Den” with resulting better or worse patronage.

For many years while it was operating as a public spa it was also used during the summer months for Sunday morning services as a branch of the Mechanic Falls Catholic Church, thereby saving vacationing Catholics a long ride to Portland, Westbrook, Lewiston, or Mechanic Falls to fulfill their religious obligations.

As this period was partly during the Prohibition Era brought about by the Volstead Act, and the presence of ready-made hideaways for purposes of refreshment brought about by the increasing availability of the automobile a general overhauling or purification of the building and grounds was necessary in the short interval between the termination of entertainment and the start of early Mass.

But changing times worked against the continued acceptability and profitability of the public dance hall and the property was taken over by the church and renovated into a fulltime place of worship and its allied activities, called St. Raymond’s Catholic Church, open during the summer season.

Eventually the building needed more repairs than the churchgoers could afford, and the church was closed, leaving behind its scenic views of Crescent Lake. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.

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