Operated by the Portland Veteran Firemen's Association
Since 1891

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Marie and the Chair
Written by: Don Whitney, PVFA Historian

The rugged carved chair use but the PVFA President during meetings for many decades has an interesting history. Marie was traveling in the United States in 1824. It was a visit where huge receptions were held in each city and town on the journey.

The citizens of the United States were wild about Marie, a citizen of Paris France. This love and admiration began long before this visit though, because Marie had been to American previously.

In 1777, twenty-seven months after the start of the Revolutionary War, Marie arrived in Philadelphia, and being of Aristocratic blood, befriended George Washington. Soon, Marie was leading American soldiers in defense of the their home land, a French patriot siding with the American patriots against the British Troops.

Marie even persuaded the French King, Louis XIV to send six thousand troops to America, which helped defeat the English. Upon the return voyage to France, Marie was promoted to Brigadier General.

In 1824, Marie visited America welcomed by throngs at each stop. Upon his stay in Portland, Maine, many favors were shown for this VIP. On departure from the city, the coach carrying Marie stopped at Thadeous Broad's Tavern near the present site of the airport. The citizens, recognizing who was sipping grog with them, shouted for a speech and Marie gladly complied, standing under a giant elm tree for shade.

Now this tree was so huge, that Broad has steps leading up to its monstrous branches where patrons sat and tippled. The tree gained notoriety for this speech and was even nicknamed for the speaker.

In 1882, a major storm hit Portland causing extensive damage, including the uprooting of the old elm tree. The next day, people were busy cutting the tree into firewood.

Retired Portland Fire Chief, Nahum Littlefield, heard about the loss of the tree, but he had a better idea for the wood. He and his assistant took the horse and wagon out to cut a slice for the posterity. They took it to his shop on Federal Street where he set about carving this chair in commemoration of Marie's visit.

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette is the general who spoke under the elm tree. The Lafayette Elm.

The back of the chair stands 62" high and is topped with two finnials. Cannon balls and the dates, 1824 ans 1882 are carved in the chair, as is a seat that resembles tufted and button leather. The original bark remains on the back and sides.

The historic work of art is on display on the second floor of the Portland Fire Museum.







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