FARMINGTON – The 102-year-old green wooden bungalow-style fieldhouse at Hippach Field will once again warm up cold ice skaters and bring cool relief to summer’s children now that the renovations have been completed.
Rising high into the crowning of new pine paneling, the original massive brick fireplace woodstove blazes warmth for a small gathering Friday evening. They have come to quietly celebrate the fieldhouse’s rebirth for it means more than just the renovation of a historical building, it’s the completion of the dreams of many.
Howard Hippach, circa 1914.
From his large framed full-length portrait set high on the fireplace, a young Howard Hippach, dressed in early 20th century athletic wear – a varsity sweater with an ornately scribed letter “A”, shorts, tall stockings, ankle-high leather athletic shoes – stands with a basketball nestled casually under one arm and looks out across the room to a framed photograph of Peter Mills.
Although Hippach’s photograph was taken sometime before he graduated from the Abbott School in 1914 and Mills was taken in 1969 as he addressed a Maine Bar Association meeting, the two have been instrumental in the building and maintaining of this town’s historic athletic fields.
Howard Hippach, an outstanding athlete, was killed in an automobile crash two months after returning home to Chicago following graduation from the private boarding school in Farmington. In
Howard’s memory, his father, Louis Hippach, purchased four acres next to the Abbott School and had it developed into football and baseball fields with a grandstand, tennis courts, and surrounded it all with a running track. The fieldhouse and a massive brick with granite trim wall, a wrought iron gate with two granite bas-relief sculptures depicting a baseball and a football player were installed for the complex’s facade along Main Street.
Peter Mills in 1969.
In 1916, Hippach Field was dedicated and given as a gift to Abbott School. The highly regarded private boarding school closed 14 or 15 years later in the 1930s. Louis Hippach had the foresight to add a clause in his gift to the school that said if it should close, the sports complex be given town of Farmington. The town assumed ownership and the maintenance of the facility in 1935.
According to Paul Mills, his father Peter Mills, was four years old when the facility was dedicated.
“He grew up on this field,” Paul Mills said. As did generations of Farmington’s children.
Nearly 30 years ago, Peter Mills began to mobilize efforts to sustain the aging park. The once solidly built brick wall was in decline and need of major, costly repair. That would turn out to be the first of many projects to follow that would eventually be given a lasting boost when the Peter S. Mills Hippach Field Trust Fund was established.
Twenty-nine years ago, at about the same time Peter Mills began his efforts, the current parks and recreation director, Steve Shible, began his tenure and a decades-long partnership with the Mills family and the many others who have supported Hippach Field’s maintenance and renovations over the years.
“It’s a great facility, something for everyone,” Town Manager Richard Davis said. “The town is very grateful for the assistance.”
The latest renovation to the fieldhouse includes a donated woodstove from Northern Lights Hearth & Sports in Farmington, and a propane heater, building insulation, new windows, two air-conditioners and a adjacent bathroom. The Mills fund has helped in the fieldhouse renovations and other projects, such as the baseball field lights installed 10 years ago that have allowed night games to be played at the busy park.
“For me, one of the most memorable nights was when they turned those lights on,” Janet Mills said. In the cool, clear night air, Roger Spear, wearing a vintage Farmington Flyers uniform, gave a speech on the storied history of baseball at Hippach Field. Her father, Peter Mills, wearing a baseball cap and team jacket looked up and smiled, as did everyone in the packed grandstand, when the towering lights blazed on.
“Peter and I go way back,” Shible said of his partnership with MIlls. Then looking up at Peter Mills’ photograph, he added, “It’s nice his presence is here.”
Gathering to recognize Peter Mills’ efforts at Hippach Field, seated and holding a photograph of Peter Mills are: Janet Mills and Steve Shible; standing from left to right are: Selectman Chair Stephan Bunker, Paul Mills, Tom Saviello, Kay Mills, Stan Kuklinski, Town Manager Richard Davis, Selectman Nancy Porter and Selectman and Sheriff Dennis Pike.