A Waldoboro Miniaturist Turns Vacationland into Legoland

Colby Adolphsen is bringing well-known Maine buildings to Lego-life.

Colby Adolphsen and his lego village
By Mary Pols
Photos by Aaron Snow
From our February 2024 issue

As a kid growing up on the midcoast, Colby Adolphsen saved the pieces from the many Lego sets he accumulated. They were all neatly organized in bins at his parents’ Appleton home when he left for college. After graduation, the collection started traveling with him. When he and his wife, Samantha, moved to Virginia, then Waldoboro, the Legos moved too. “I pulled them out probably once a year to assemble some sets and reorganize,” Adolphsen says. Over time, he acquired more pieces. Then, during the pandemic winter of 2021, he found himself staring at the bins lining the closet shelves in his home office, thinking, “I gotta build something with all this.”

After a month of late nights holed up in the little room, he surprised Samantha with his most elaborate build yet: a replica of their 1887 gray-shingled farmhouse, complete with a fully furnished interior (down to the living room’s digital piano and the fruit bowl in the kitchen) and garden beds brimming with red and white flowers in the bumpy green-plastic yard. “It was a lot of fun to see it go from a thought in my head to the physical thing,” says Adolphsen, who works as a data analyst at Rockport’s Pen Bay Medical Center. Afterward, “the Legos never really went back to the closet.”

Lego fans call a creation built from scratch, as opposed to one assembled from a set, a MOC for “My Own Creation.” Adolphsen’s MOCs include, clockwise from top left, a coastal village, Ellsworth’s Woodlawn Museum, the Camden Public Library, and Rockland’s Breakwater Light.

He’s since brought some better-known local buildings to Lego-life, including Rockland’s 1902 Breakwater Light, perched atop a jetty of smooth, irregularly shaped gray blocks, and the 1928 red-brick Camden Public Library, with its subterranean stone addition and a terraced lawn studded with a half dozen varieties of plastic trees. Last winter, Ellsworth’s Woodlawn Museum gave him his first commission. Adolphsen constructed a six-by-three-foot model of the museum’s 1827 columned Federal mansion nestled on 28 emerald base plates that evoke the 180-acre grounds.

Now, Adolphsen buys Legos in bulk on eBay and Facebook Marketplace, and spends hours sorting them by color, size, and shape, sometimes with help from his sons, 5-year-old Henry and 2-year-old Calvin. BrickLink, an online retailer that caters to Lego builders, supplies specialty pieces, like the 1,000 tiny, iridescent blue blocks he needed to depict water in his most ambitious project to date, a six-by-two-and-a-half-foot homage to a Maine coastal village.

Loosely based on towns like Camden and Rockport, the scene features a bustling Main Street fronting a harbor with one lobsterboat on the water and another suspended from a crane, a rickety fishing shack (dotted with broken dark-red and brown bricks), a diner in a vintage railcar (modeled on Biddeford’s Palace Diner and Gardiner’s A1 Diner), a corniced two-story hardware store inspired by one Adolphsen worked at in Union, and a white-clapboard church with colorful “stained glass” windows composed of miniscule translucent pieces. It took two months to dream up plans for the village, using reference photographs and rough sketches, and all of last summer to build. In September, Adolphsen transported it in 10 sections to BrickUniverse, a traveling exhibition of Lego builds at the Portland Expo, reassembled it on-site, and walked away with the award for Best Large Build. His Breakwater Light took home the Artist’s Choice prize.

Adolphsen isn’t about to leave his day job, but he’s embarking on his second paid Lego commission and wouldn’t mind more. He doesn’t plan to limit himself exclusively to local scenes, even though they’re fertile ground. “Think of the number of artists who use Maine as inspiration,” he says. “It’s like, I’ll just do it in Legos.” How about Katahdin, could he do that? He paused to contemplate the complexities of rendering the Knife Edge. “I’m confident I can replicate anything with Legos,” he said.

See Colby Adolphsen’s creations at the Camden Public Library, Bath’s Maine Maritime Museum (coastal village), Ellsworth’s Woodlawn Museum (reopening this spring), and at colbyadolphsen.com.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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