Longfellow’s parents are missing from their Portland tomb

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Today, the mystery of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s missing parents; yet another national chain is opening in the Old Port; and the story behind those emergency push alerts you probably got today.

What we’re talking about

Troy Bennett’s Permanent Portlanders series tells the stories behind the grave markers around town, and sheds light on the lives of the people buried in town. He’s publishing one video every day for the month of October.

The series today continues with a mystery: What happened to the bodies of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s parents?

Troy writes:

Stephen and Zilpha Longfellow were the parents of Maine’s most famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. They lived in what’s known as the Longfellow House on Congress Street. …

Anyway, they had a long happy life together and raised six children. Stephen died in 1849 and Zilpha followed in 1851. They were both laid to rest in the granite family tomb in Portland’s Western Cemetery.

But, in 1986, city workers entered the tomb while replacing the old iron gate and preparing to brick-up the door. The tomb was empty. There was no sign of vandalism and the lock was intact.

So, where did they go? Nobody knows.

You can watch the video, featuring an original tune — and co-starring Troy’s hat — here.

In other news

Survivor of Portland fire recalls screams from victims trapped inside  — During the second day of the manslaughter trial of landlord Gregory Nesbit. Paul Garrido recalled the morning he woke up to the fire at 20 Noyes St. He ran upstairs to flee the smoke and flames, and realized his only escape was through the window:

In the hallway, before they leaped from a second-story bedroom window, Garrido said he heard two women’s voices screaming from the third floor, where there were more bedrooms.

“One was just inaudible, just screaming, and the second voice was screaming for help,” he said.  

As the fire neared him, [resident Nathan] Long described hesitating about whether to jump from the burning house.

“I was on the porch roof and thinking it was a bit high to jump, but I was getting these big inhales of smoke, and that’s what forced me,” he said.

Yet another national chain is opening in the Old Port — Women’s sportswear outfiter Athleta, owned by Gap, has leased 4,100 square feet at 152 Middle St. In early 2017 the former home of Casco Bay Eyecare will be hawking athleisure. This is the first Maine store for the company and marks renewed interest in the upper Old Port. “Middle Street is seeing a renaissance,” said Peter Harrington of Malone Commercial Brokers, who helped ink the deal.  

“It started eight years ago with Urban Outfitters. Then Anthropologie pushed things along on the Middle Street corner. Before it was just Bull Moose and Videoport,” he said. With West Elm moving in soon, will the downtown lose its charm? “I don’t’ think so,” said Harrington. “It’s not just national tenants that are interested in this street. Angela Adams and Rough and Tumble have opened new shops recently and Portland Art Gallery has expanded.”

Keep your eyes on 123 Middle St., the vacant 8,900-square-foot space Harrington is shopping around. — Kathleen Pierce

Honey Paw loses its star chef The Middle Street hotspot’s chef de cuisine Tom Pisha-Duffly announced Monday on Facebook he is moving to The Other Portland on Dec. 1.

“As sad as we are to part with all we leave behind, we are equally excited to see what may lie ahead!! Hope to see you all in the coming months,” he wrote.

Mariah Pisha-Duffly, the restaurant’s dining room manager, and Pisha-Duffly’s wife, is headed west too. The pair ran the popular Family Feast pop-up dinners around Portland for years.

The move comes amid a serious chef shortage. But we expect this busy Middle Street noodle house to fill these spots by the time the tree is lit on Monument Square. — Kathleen Pierce

You probably got a couple emergency notifications on your phone today. Here’s why. — Nok-Noi Ricker reports that the missing girl was found:

A 3-year-old girl who went missing from her home on Sewall Street in Augusta early Friday, triggering an Amber Alert, has been turned over to the police department, officials say.

“Brought into Augusta PD. Amber Alert over,” Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said Tuesday evening.

Police were able to contact a woman, identified as Fatima L. Gissentaner, 26, of Augusta, who had babysat for the girl on prior occasions and who admitted that she took the child. The toddler was reported missing while members of the Augusta Fire Department were assisting her mother with a medical emergency at around 7 a.m. Tuesday, Deputy Chief Jared Mills said in a Tuesday morning news release.

The Big Idea

What to watch for in tonight’s vice presidential debate — The New York Times’ Alexander Burns writes:

The debate on Tuesday night between Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana may not rival the drama of last week’s face-off between the candidates at the top of the ticket, but it could matter more than other vice-presidential contests.

The debate starts at nine. You can stream it here.


Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.

Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.