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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: February 21, 2017

Celebrate Washington’s birthday at the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center

Written by: Ray Routhier
Interpreters make cookies in the kitchen at Washburn-Norlands. During Saturday's festivities commemorating Presidents Day, visitors can sample a version of a cake that George Washington's wife, Martha, baked. Photos courtesy of Washburn-Norlands Living History Center

Interpreters make cookies in the kitchen at Washburn-Norlands. During Saturday’s festivities commemorating Presidents Day, visitors can sample a version of a cake that George Washington’s wife, Martha, baked.
Photos courtesy of Washburn-Norlands Living History Center

Go to Washburn-Norlands Living History Center Saturday, and you’ll get a whole new take on the phrase “Martha Bakes.”

Yes, that’s the name of a PBS cooking showing with lifestyle maven Martha Stewart. But at Washburn-Norlands, you’ll see a version of the cake that the first first lady, Martha Washington, used to bake. And you can even sample a slice in honor of the birthday of her husband, George Washington.

The birthday celebration for Washington is just one of the events scheduled for Saturday at Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore. The property was the 19th-century home of the Washburn family, which included three brothers who served in U.S. Congress at the same time, two who were diplomats, one who was governor of Maine and one who was a U.S. senator.

The event is called the “Cabin Fever Reliever Living History Day & Presidents Day Celebration.” It’s a rare chance to see the buildings and grounds, with costumed interpreters, since the property is often open only by appointment.

 The Washburne family mansion, built in 1867, will be open for tours as well.

The Washburne family mansion, built in 1867, will be open for tours as well.

The Washington’s Birthday celebration is in honor of Presidents Day. In the 1800s, his birthday was celebrated, if unofficially, every year before becoming a federal holiday in 1885. There will be a poetry reading in his honor, and wreath will be hung on his portrait.

“We usually open it up at the end of school vacation week as a way to draw attention to how the holiday got started and how it might have been celebrated by someone in rural Maine in the mid- to late 1800s,” said Sheri Leahan, director of the center.

The Washburn family mansion, built in 1867, will be open for tours. The first Washburns to live in the area were Israel Washburn and his wife, Martha. They had 10 children, several of whom were prominent in public life. Israel Washburn Jr. was a congressman and governor of Maine. Elihu Washburne (he added the e) was a congressman from Illinois and secretary of state under President Ulysses S. Grant. The mansion on the property was built for their parents after the sons became prominent.

Also open on Saturday will be a replica one-room schoolhouse, circa 1853, and a building known as “the farmer’s cottage.”

Among the attractions open Saturday at the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center will be a replica one-room schoolhouse, circa 1853, with an "interpreter" playing the role of the teacher.

Among the attractions open Saturday at the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center will be a replica one-room schoolhouse, circa 1853, with an “interpreter” playing the role of the teacher.

Costumed interpreters will be present on the property, including one teaching school. Each interpreter plays a character, either a Washburn or a neighbor. There also will be sleigh rides, crafts and an ice-cutting demonstration on Bartlett Pond.

One craft will be making cut-out silhouettes of Washington’s profile, a custom in the 1800s. Before Instagram and selfies, people were happy just to have to have even the darkened outline of somebody’s face to remember them by.

Cabin Fever Reliever Living History Day & Presidents Day Celebration

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Washburn-Norlands Living History Center, 290 Norlands Road, Livermore
HOW MUCH: $10; $6 for ages 12 and under
INFO: norlands.org
WHAT ELSE: The event could be cancelled due to bad weather, so check the Washburn-Norlands Facebook page for up to date information.

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