Rudy Vallee Square

The corner of Main and Bridge Streets in Westbrook is like any other intersection in this former mill town located just west of Portland. Hundreds of vehicles a day pause at the traffic light or simply motor through the intersection with little notice of the honor bestowed upon the city’s most loved son at this very spot. Of course we are talking about the man who made the Maine Stein Song famous, Rudy Vallee, and the square that bares his name in this Southern Maine town.

The Vallee family moved to Westbrook when Rudy was just two years old so his father and other family members could open a pharmacy along busy Main Street. As Rudy grew older he was expected to take over the family business and spent his early years working the soda fountain or helping out in the storage room of the drug store. However, even as a youth he felt a calling to the stage and screen, one which compelled him to leave the family business for a job as a projector operator at the movie theater just down the street.

Main Street in Westbrook in the 1920’s
Vallee’s Drug Store on the right and
 Warren Building on the far left

In a career that would stretch over six decades, Rudy Vallee was the first multifaceted star of his era with top selling albums, radio programs, major movie roles, and Broadway shows. Many referred to him as the “original crooner”, the man who paved the way for the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and modern stars like Michael Buble and Robin Thicke. The peak of his career spanned from the late 1920’s to the early 1940’s moving him from an obscure college band member to a house hold name.

It was during this period, that the town of Westbrook decided to honor their most famous resident by naming their busiest square after him. So in 1930, with the family’s drug store still occupying the northeast corner of the intersection, the crossing of Main and Bridge Streets became known as Rudy Vallee Square. Tens of thousands of people crowded into the square for the dedication ceremony, part of a three-day event to honor Vallee and his success.

The Warren Building in 2013 which is now
home to the Portland Pie Company

Today Vallee’s Drug Store is long gone, the building was demolished following a fire and currently is home to a yoga studio. Ironically enough, a CVS drug store and parking lot now occupy the southern portion of the square. However, the old Warren Building that can be seen in the historic photographs of the square still sits proudly behind the bronze bust of Rudy Vallee. The entrance still has “Warren’s” spelled out in tile and the first floor houses the Portland Pie Company with the building retaining most of its original charm from the late 19th century. The bust of Vallee looking over the square was a gift from his widow, Eleanor Norris, to the city in 2009 when the square was rededicated to the crooner.

If your travels take you to Westbrook stop by Rudy Vallee Square, grab a bite to eat at Portland Pie Company, and naturally fill your stein to honor that man who brought our beloved song to life.

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