The Frye School Apartments at the corners of Horton and Ash streets in Lewiston was established as the Grammar School in 1865. In 1889, the name was changed to honor Senator William Pierce Frye, a famous Republican political figure of his era from Lewiston.
The Frye School enjoyed a respected reputation in the community for many years. The local newspaper, the Lewiston Daily Sun, regularly printed student and school academic achievements. One such highlight, on May 12, 1900, the Lewiston Daily Sun remarked: “Miss Clark’s division of the ninth grade, and Miss Moody’s division of the eighth grade, share the honors of Banner class at the Frye Grammar school this week for having 100 per cent in attendance.” At the time, class rosters had between 24-30 students and filling every seat, despite inclement weather and argicultural schedules was quite a feat.
In June 1905, the principal of Frye School, M. F. Dagger, oversaw the graduation of the largest class at that time, 135 pupils. “During all this time,” Dagger commented at graduation, “no class has averaged higher in good manners and good morals. In scholarship, too, the class stands high.” Locals were very proud of the scholarship at their small brick elementary school.
In August 1961, Lewiston aldermen voted to allocate $15,000 for repairs to Frye School. 24 years later, on Dec. 2 1985, cracks were discovered in the asbestos coverings on the boilers. It was well known that asbestos lurked in older Lewiston schools, especially at Frye where asbestos coverings had been used as insulation. Two years later, in 1987, the Lewiston School Committee voted to close the school citing financial concerns and that “it lacked a lunchroom and gymnasium, and had unreliable heat.”
A committee convened to determine what to do with the vacant space. From the beginning, converting it into low-income housing for the elderly was a leading solution but by May 1996, nine years later, the building was still abandoned. Mayor John Jenkins established a task force to develop a plan for the derelict property, then assessed at $304,600.
In 2004, the Frye School was developed into 27 one-bedroom units with money from the HUD Section 202 program which provides funding for housing for seniors 62 or older. Rent at the new Frye School Apartments is based on 30 percent of adjusted household income and additional funding is provided by Housing and Urban Development.
William P. Frye: 1830 – 1911
Sen. Frye’s grandfather, Joseph Frye, was a colonel in the British army, and a general in the American army during the Revolutionary war. After the war, he received a grant of the town of Fryeburg from Massachusetts for his military services. Sen. Frye’s father, Colonel John M. Frye, was an early Lewistonite and a prominent figure in the development of local manufacturing.
William Pierce Frye was born on Sept. 2, 1830. He attended public school in Lewiston and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in Rockland in 1853. He then returned to Lewiston and set up a private practice with Thomas A. D. Fessenden. When Fessenden died, Frye took John B. Cotton as partner. (Cotton himself had a distinguished career and eventually became assistant attorney general under President Harrison.)
In 1867, William Frye began to distinguish himself in politics: he was elected to the Maine house of representatives 1861-1862, 1867; served as mayor of Lewiston 1866-1867; and Maine attorney general 1867-1869.
By 1873, the Frye family owned the block of land at Frye, College, Elm and Main streets. John M. Frye lived on Main Street and William lived at what is now the historic residence at 453-461 Main Street.
William Frye was elected as a Republican to the 42nd – 47th Congresses and served from March 4, 1871 to March 17, 1881. Sen. Frye resigned when he was elected to the U.S. Senate on March 15, 1881 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of James G. Blaine. He had five successful Senate reelections in 1883, 1889, 1895, 1901, and 1907, serving from March 18, 1881 until his death on August 8, 1911.
Sen. Frye received an honorary degree from Bates College in 1881. He was a regular contributor to the college library over the years and the Bates Library collection boasts many of his original manuscripts.
William Frye is perhaps best known for his speech in the United States Senate on May 29, 1888 on the 1888 proposed Fisheries Treaty.
Ever since the first commercial fishermen set sail from their own indigenous waters and ventured out into uncharted territory, fishing rights have played a major role in international politics. It is a sticky, complicated subject that touches on a wide variety of topics from traditional fishing practices and sustainable use of resources to international borders and maritime agreements.
A treaty written in 1783 established fishing rights for American citizens as follows: “It is agreed that the people of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of every kind on the Grand Bank and on all the other banks of Newfoundland.” Article 3 gave American fishermen two privileges — the right to fish within three miles of the British coast and the right to dry, cure or maintain any caught fish upon “certain convenient parts of the British coast.”
The agreement outlined in this treaty withstood the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain, and subsequent Treaty of Ghent. Then, in 1818, a new treaty was ratified by England on Nov. 2, 1818 and the U.S. on Jan. 28, 1819 that explicitly renounced the 1783 agreement. “And the United States hereby renounce forever any liberty heretofore enjoyed or claimed by the inhabitants thereof, to take, dry, or cure fish on or within three marine miles of any of the coasts, bays, creeks, or harbors of his Britannic Majesty’s dominions in America not included within the above-mentioned limits…”
The question of U.S. fishing rights continued to come up in international legal forums as American fisherman continued to break international regulations. Major clashes ensued between Canada and American fisherman, particularly in waters off Newfoundland in the fertile underwater plateaus of the Grand Banks area. In 1886, a Canadian protection fleet was formed, American vessels were seized, and in 1886 Canada began to enact trade embargos against American fisherman, starting with a prohibition against selling and purchasing bait. As the struggle intensified, an ad hoc International Commission drew up a new reciprocal agreement, the Fisheries Treaty of 1888.
Sen. Frye argued before the U.S. Senate that the U.S. should not ratify the new treaty but stand by provisions in the Treaty of 1818, which expressly prohibited U.S. fishing vessels from “pursuing their avocation within the three mile limit of Canada and Canadian holdings, and accords them no privilege except the use of Canada’s harbors for shelter, repairs, wood, water, etc.”
The motion was carried by a majority of two to one, declaring in effect that the U.S. wished no change be made either with reference to the fishery question or in regard to reciprocal trade relations.
Sen. Frye’s two-hour speech was persuasive, and is now available to read in pamplet form at the Lewiston Public Library (or in digitized form HERE courtesy of Gogole and the library at Harvard University). Before this famous oration, many local accounts of Sen. Frye distinguish him as particularly eloquent, but his reputation as a world-class orator was cemented following the fisheries debate.
Though popular, there seems to have been some controversy surrounding the re-naming of the Grammar School on Ash and Horton streets. On Jan 4, 1899, the Lewiston Daily Sun reported “the Grammar school was named for Senator Frye, who was mayor at the time the Grammar school was built. There was much opposition and it was chiefly through his influence that the new building was secured.” No more is reported, however, about the “opposition” or nature of the disagreement.
Sen. Frye died in Lewiston on Aug. 8, 1911 and was buried in Riverside Cemetery.