stolen souvenir

Debt That Weighed ‘Like a Brick' Repaid in Portland, Maine After 50 Years

City officials in Portland received a letter from a family confessing to taking a stone brick from Longfellow Square, complete with a debt payment

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For 50 years, a stolen stone paver from Portland, Maine has weighed “like a brick” on the mind of a California family.

Over the past few weeks, that concern hit a breaking point and a mysterious letter appeared on the desk of city staff explaining how a children’s book, a trip to Maine and a desire for a unique souvenir led to the paver being taken away from Portland for good.

“Anytime I see something handwritten, you know that’s something unique and interesting and it must be meaningful to the person who sent it,” said Brendan O’Connell, Director of the City of Portland’s Finance Department and recipient of the letter, which came in an envelope that also contained $5.00 in cash.

“Dear Mr. O’Connell, I’m sure you’ll find this to be a ‘cwazy’ letter,” the message begins.

It goes on to say in part:

“About 50 years ago my family was visiting your city. My 9-year-old daughter had read a historical story that happened there. I’m sorry I don’t remember the name of the street… At any rate we found the address of the happening in the story daughter was all excited to be at the actual location. The sidewalk at the time was made of paver bricks that were in disrepair and strewn all around she wanted to have one of those broken bricks as a souvenir of the day.”

In short, the letter was a confession to the family taking the stone brick and the $5 was meant to finally pay the City of Portland back.

As for why the situation was being settled in 2022, the man explained in his note that "now all these years later, my 89-year-old wife is all worried," and she wanted him to make the city whole again.

"Everybody got a kick out of it," said O’Connell, explaining that Portland officials certainly welcome any kind of similar debt being repaid at any point, though he would caution that a nice handwritten letter will not excuse everything.

"I would certainly not recommend people paying their tax bills late," he said.

Other Portlanders agreed that the man’s sentiment was sweet.

"I think that’s a pretty amazing story, especially nowadays," said Jennifer Howitt, who herself was walking through Longfellow Square on Tuesday.

At some point O’Connell hopes to have the letter’s author speak with officials from the city about the millions of dollars of sidewalk improvements that have been made in Portland since the time of his visit.

However, he has not been successful in reaching the gentleman just yet.

The city will indeed take in his $5 as a donation for public works capital improvements. For that to happen, O’Connell says Portland’s city council will have to officially vote to accept the money.

That is expected to take place at some point in March.  

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