Earle Shettleworth, Jr. was drawn to history as the result of watching the destruction of Portland’s Union Station in 1961. A year later, he joined the Sills Committee, which created the Greater Portland Landmarks in 1964. In 1971, Governor Curtis appointed him to serve on the first board of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, he became its architectural historian in 1973, and director in 1976. Upon his retirement, he was the longest actively serving State Historic Preservation Officer in the nation. There isn’t a state or regional historical commission on which he has not served or led. Though he has retired from the state government, he remains the state historian.
(Photo: Bob Martin, Earle Shettleworth, and President Bowen.)
Earle’s passion for Maine history is unbounded. A few years ago in preparation for the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, he visited and documented every Civil War monument he knew about in Maine. From York to Aroostook, there were 148 in all for him to photograph and copy inscriptions. He told the Portland Press Herald, “to me, that was just such a wonderful opportunity to focus, and at the same time to visually review Maine as a whole from a historical and architectural standpoint.” His retirement did not pass unnoticed. Thomas Johnson, chair of the state preservation commission and director of the Victoria Mansion called the announcement “seismic. It’s a major event in preservation and cultural circles.”
Earle will discuss the Great Fire of Portland that occurred on July 4, 1866. While only two people perished in the blaze, it leveled 1,800 buildings and made 10,000 people homeless. It was the greatest fire ever seen in an American city—the Great Chicago Fire was five years later.
A Portland native, Earle graduated from Deering High School in 1966, earned a B.A. in Art History from Colby College in 1970, an M.A. in Architectural History from Boston University in 1979, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate (L.H.D.) by Bowdoin College in 2008.