Togus, Maine

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Togus is a facility operated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in Chelsea, Maine. The facility was built as a resort hotel, and housed Union veterans of the American Civil War prior to being converted to a veterans hospital.

Contents

Togus Springs Hotel

Springs on the site were originally described by Native Americans as "worromontogus" (sometimes translated as "place of the mineral spring").[1] The 134-room Togus Springs Hotel was built on the site in 1858 by Rockland granite dealer Horace Beals.[1] Beals constructed a stable, large pool, bathing house, race track, and bowling alley on the site in an effort to duplicate the success of the Poland Spring Hotel.[1] Beal's investment of one-quarter-million dollars failed to attract the anticipated number of visitors, and the facility closed when receipts failed to cover expenses.[1]

Soldiers' home

Togus in c. 1906

The hotel was purchased by the federal government for US$50,000 in 1866.[1] Togus began operations on October 6, 1866 (1866-10-06) as the Eastern Branch of the National Asylum For Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.[1] The first veteran admitted was James P. Nickerson of Company A, 19th Massachusetts Volunteers.[2] Two-hundred veterans were living at Togus during the summer of 1867, and a new barracks, hospital, and chapel were under construction.[2] Two-hundred-seventy residents were displaced by a fire in main building on January 7, 1868.[2] Three 3-story brick dormitories and an amusement hall recreation building were built in 1868.[2] Togus resembled a military establishment where the men wore surplus blue army uniforms and were subject to military discipline including confinement in the guardhouse for infractions of the rules.[3] The residents signed over their federal pension in return for their care.[3]

Those who were able to work could earn money working at the shops or farms raising much of the food consumed at Togus.[3] Three Holstein dairy cattle were imported from Holland in 1871 to form the first registered herd of the breed in Maine.[4] In 1872 the name was changed to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.[5] New buildings included a bakery, a butcher shop, a blacksmith shop, a brickyard, a boot and shoe factory, a carpentry shop, a fire station, a harness shop, a library, a sawmill, a soap works, a store, and an opera house theatre.[6] President Ulysses S. Grant visited Togus on August 13, 1873 to review the men who had served with him during the Civil War.[3] There were 933 men living at Togus in 1878.[7] Most were Civil War veterans, but some had served in the Mexican-American War or the War of 1812.[7]

The narrow-gauge Kennebec Central Railroad offered transportation to Gardiner beginning on July 23, 1890.[8] The interurban Augusta and Togus Electric Railway offered transportation to Augusta beginning on June 15, 1901.[9] The number of veterans living at Togus peaked in 1904 at just under 2800.[10] Most men lived in dormitories, but some resided in small cottages they constructed on the grounds.[7] The men in cottages drew their rations from the commissary and cooked their own meals.[7] Grand Army of the Republic post Cutler No. 48 was based at Togus and named for major Nathan Cutler.[7] Togus became a popular recreation center for civilians from the surrounding area.[7] Large crowds arrived on weekends to observe baseball games, military band concerts, opera house performances, and a zoo including antelope, bear, buffalo, deer, elk, chimpanzees, and pheasants.[3] Special military ceremonies were held on Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day.[11]

Veterans Administration hospital

Additional buildings were constructed to convert the site to a Veterans Administration hospital.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f Jones (1999) p.4
  2. ^ a b c d Jones (1999) p.5
  3. ^ a b c d e Jones (1999) p.6
  4. ^ Jones (1999) pp.8-9
  5. ^ Jones (1999) pp.4-5
  6. ^ Jones (1999) pp.5-6
  7. ^ a b c d e f Jones (1999) p.7
  8. ^ Jones (1999) p.18
  9. ^ Jones (1999) p.28
  10. ^ Jones (1999) p.32
  11. ^ Jones (1999) p.9

References

External links