Dow & Coulombe, Inc., founded in 1864 and going strong

The surveying and land planning office now known as Dow & Coulombe, Inc. is a direct successor to a surveying and engineering office started by W.S. Dennett, an Army Corps Engineer returning home from Civil War duty in 1864.

Much of the early work performed by Mr. Dennett was for the Saco Water Power Company, who owned and managed the resources of the Saco River during the industrial expansion that followed the Civil War in the cities of Biddeford and Saco. The survey work of the river and at the dams and water power facilities up and down the Saco River provided the information necessary in the development of plans as to best utilize this valuable resource that powered the expanding mill complex.

At the same time, Mr. Dennett designed and oversaw construction of most of the public works infrastructure including sewer, drains, roads and bridges in Saco and surrounding communities.  During the last half of the 19th Century, when coastal areas became popular summer vacation destinations, Mr. Dennett surveyed many of the resorts and subdivisions along the coast from Pine Point to York Beach. Indeed, nearly every subdivision along the ocean within the city of Saco and town of Old Orchard Beach developed between the 1870’s and 1930’s was designed by either Mr. Dennett or one of his successors.

About 1890, Harry Jose joined Mr. Dennett  and designed and staked many of the early coastal subdivisions in the Ogunquit and York Beach areas. Unfortunately, Mr. Jose suffered an untimely death, and a young railroad engineer, Roland L. Libby, joined Mr. Dennett in 1896.  Shortly afterward, Mr. Dennett went to work full time for Saco Water Power Company.

After World War I, Walter I. Johnson (who went by his initials W. I. and was nicknamed Wrought Iron) joined Mr. Libby. In his first project with  Mr. Libby, Mr. Johnson ran a tightly controlled traverse throughout Saco observing stars at various stations along the way.  From that traverse, he located property lines, buildings and other important structures and land types throughout the city. With this information, Mr. Johnson produced the first accurate assessor’s maps for the city of Saco.  Mr. Johnson left in the late 1920’s to work for a grain elevator company in the great lakes area.

Neil M. Dow worked for Mr. Libby during the 1910’s while he was a student at Thornton Academy. After returning from World War I and earning a degree in engineering, Mr. Dow joined Mr. Libby in 1927. Mr. Dow was well known in the area for his accuracy and attention to detail in every survey he performed. During this time, the firm became known as Libby & Dow. Mr. Libby died in 1939.

Mr. Dow carried Libby & Dow through the Great Depression and World War II working on WPA projects such as the Biddeford Municipal Airport and later, several government defense projects, in addition to any local work that was needed at the time. The end of the war brought a period of economic expansion in both the public and private sectors. Libby & Dow was contracted with the Maine Turnpike Authority to provide land surveying services in connection with the development of the first section of turnpike running from Kittery to Portland. In addition, Libby & Dow surveyed and prepared plans of many of the subdivisions in the southern coastal Maine region that were created after the war to satisfy the increased demand for new housing.

In 1960, Mr. Dow hired Alfred Coulombe, a University of Maine graduate who was performing large scale inventory surveys in northern Maine and maritime Canada for a large paper company. Mr. Coulombe purchased Libby & Dow from Mr. Dow in 1967 and shortly thereafter, incorporated the company as Dow & Coulombe, Inc. Neil Dow continued working through the late 1980’s, providing valuable insight and knowledge of surveys that he had earlier performed, in some cases over half a century ago. Mr. Dow passed in 1990 at the age of 95 years. Mr. Coulombe continued to provide the same high quality land surveying services, building on the reputation earned by Libby & Dow and its predecessors.

During the late 1960’s, the State of Maine required for the first time licensure of all professional land surveyors. In addition to running a successful land surveying company, Mr. Coulombe became involved at a professional level as a founding member of the Maine Society of Land Surveyors, eventually serving a term as president of the organization. Later, Mr. Coulombe was appointed by the state governor to serve on the Maine Board of Licensure for Professional Land Surveyors. Under Mr. Coulombe’s term as chairman, this board developed the first standards of practice for professional land surveyors enacted by the State of Maine, many of which had been used by Dow & Coulombe, Inc. for years.

Peter Deletetsky purchased a one-half interest in the company from Mr. Coulombe in 1982. Michael Coulombe purchased Alfred Coulombe’s remaining interest in the company in 1995. Today, Peter and Mike are committed to ensuring that Dow & Coulombe, Inc. continues to provide the same high quality land surveying services that have distinguished this company since 1864.

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