Georgia – Athens: A City that Grew Around a College

Back in 1785 when the Georgia legislature selected the site for their state university, the city of Athens was called Cedar Shoals and it was little more than a remote trading post on the Oconee River.  Just nine years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Georgia was the first state to make such a move.  The legislators granted 40,000 acres of land to be sold and the money generated would be used to build a state-funded college.  It was not until President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862 that this method of land-grant funding for schools would become common practice in many states. 

John Milledge, one of the Georgia trustees and future Georgia governor bought over 600 acres of the grant land and donated it to the college.  After that other people began buying adjacent lots for businesses and homes.  When the city of Athens was officially founded in 1805, 35 years after the establishment of the university, the Georgia governor chose to name the new city in honor of Plato and Aristotle’s home in Greece. 

As could be expected the city of Athens’ culture is dominated by the university.  The school employs 10,000 people.  Two area health centers employ over 5,000.  The largest private industries are the Caterpillar Athens plant with 1,600 employees and Pilgrim’s poultry with 1,300.  The city of Athens has truly been built around the university.

Our visit to Athens was on a Friday and we booked a room at Hilton Garden Inn, which is situated in the heart of the historic downtown.  We quickly dropped off our things and headed out for a walk.  In spite of COVID, the streets were pleasantly busy, populated with polite and well dressed students.  Many of the young women wore dresses and some of the young men were even wearing blazers.  As busy as the streets were that evening, we were later told that on game weekends in football season the town is completely overrun with enthusiastic football fans. 

Athens is also known for its music scene.  Plans for a music festival to kick off the introduction of the city’s Music Walk of Fame were derailed by COVID, but in September the first ten distinctive guitar-shaped plaques were unveiled at sites downtown.  These plaques honored the inaugural inductees such as R.E.M., Pylon and The B-52s. 

As we strolled the streets that evening, we enjoyed looking at the lovely old buildings and the golden fall leaves of the ginkgo trees. 

The next morning we began with a walk around the central business district.  Standing outside City Hall is a unique double-barreled cannon that was cast in the Athens foundry.  The gun had been designed during the Civil War to fire two balls simultaneously.  The balls were linked together with a chain and the intent was to “mow down the enemy somewhat as a scythe cuts wheat.”  Thankfully, the gun failed because it would not fire both barrels in the same instant and the weapon was never used (Interpretive Marker: The Athens Double-Barrelled Cannon). 

The bright morning light brought out interesting architectural features and we could have tarried longer…

… but we were eager to start touring the university’s Old North Campus, which we could see just across Broad Street.  Two members of the original planning committee were Yale graduates and they pressed for the campus to be laid out in the quad-style of their alma matter. 

We started our tour at the Arch at Broad Street and College Avenue.  Today the arch’s graceful cast-iron columns stand for UGA’s founding principles: wisdom, justice and moderation…but it was originally installed in the 1850s as a gate to keep stray cattle from roaming the quad. 

The earliest structures were of log construction and they have long ago been replaced with stately buildings. 

At the far end of the quad is the Old College building that was completed in 1806.  It was the first permanent structure to be built on the campus and it is the oldest building in Athens.  The statue in front of the building honors Abraham Baldwin, the first president of the university.

Just a few steps away from the quad is the Founders Memorial Garden, which is dedicated to the twelve founding members of the Ladies’ Garden Club of Athens, and is credited as being the first garden club in the United States. 

The university continued to grow over the years and it is now more than two miles from the Arch down to the State Botanical Garden, which is at its southern border.  Next, decided it was time to get in the car and drive to see more of the university as well as some of the historic sites in town. 

Early on, cotton mills had been the driving industry and had fueled the city’s growth.  Railroad lines arrived in the 1840s.  The burgeoning industries combined with the university’s growing influence and Athens was on its way to become one of the state’s most important cities.  Athens has a total of seventeen historic districts for those who want to really delve into its story.  As the first step in our touring, we opted to visit four of the historic Antebellum Period homes located along Museum Mile

Athens Welcome Center at 280 E. Dougherty St. is located on the site of the Church-Waddle-Brumby House (1820).  This Federal-style home is believed to be Athens’ oldest surviving residence and its restoration helped spark the local historic preservation movement.

The Ware-Lyndon House (1856) was built for Dr. Edward Ware and his family.  Dr. Ware became involved in Athens business community and eventually left his medical practice to develop his business interests.  He became active in city matters and become Athens’ mayor for four terms; meanwhile, his lively and social wife, Elizabeth, made their home the social center of the city.  In 1880 the home was purchased by Dr. Edward Lyndon and his wife, and they raised six children in the home. 

The city of Athens purchased the house in 1939 and it served many government agencies before becoming a home for visual arts in 1974.  The house was developed into a museum highlighting the stories of its two named families.  The Lyndon Arts Center, with its five galleries of exhibition space, was built and connected to the house.  

Be sure to pause to enjoy the home’s Parterre garden with its white wooden fence and statuary…as well as the elegant front walkway.

The T.R.R. Cobb House (Thomas Reade Rootes Cobb) was built in 1852 before Cobb went on to become a one of the principal authors of the Confederate Constitution and a Confederate general in the Civil War.  The home was moved to Stone Mountain Park in 1985 and then returned to Athens in 2005.   If you visit the home’s website you can see a fascinating time-lapse video the house being moved back to Athens and being reconstructed (www.trrcobbhouse.org).

The fourth of the most noted Athens houses is the Taylor-Grady House that was built in 1844 by Robert Taylor, a planter and cotton merchant.  Henry Grady’s father bought the house in 1863 and Henry lived here during his years at the university.  He went on to be the managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper and in his writings he stressed “the importance of reconciliation between North and South” (Interpretive Marker “The Taylor-Grady House”).

During the Civil War, Athens had been a supply center and it was spared any major battles.  The Reconstruction Era brought continued growth to the city and the university.  Freed slaves moved to the city where they could now receive an education.  They also developed their own businesses and culture in different parts of the town. 

After seeing these four historic homes, we turned back toward the university to tour more of the campus and along our route we ran into more interesting historic properties, colorful neighborhoods, and quirky sites. 

The Old Fire Hall No. 2 with its wooden doors and cobblestone drive caught our attention.  This flatiron building with its distinctive triangular shape is perfectly fitted to the tight corner lot at the intersection of Hill Street and Prince Street.  This area was originally known as Cobbham (the Cobb House is just across the street) and in 1833 was Athens’ first suburb.  The building was on the docket to be demolished in the mid-1900s, but the public outcry saved it and it is now the home of Historic Athens, a group dedicated to preserving the city’s history and heritage. 

The next corner is home to the colorful Daily Groceries Co-Op.  Their friendly staff and fresh produce department were enough to convince us that we would be regular customers if we lived in the area.

One thing in Athens that we didn’t want to miss was a visit to the stately white oak that stands at Dearing and Finley Streets and is known as The Tree That Owns Itself.  “According to a legend first printed in the local newspaper on August 12, 1890, Colonel William H. Jackson’s will deeded the tree possession of itself and all the land within eight feet of its trunk” (visitathensga.com). 

When the original tree was felled in a wind storm in 1942 and the Junior Ladies Garden Club of Athens decided that the legend should not die.  The members gathered acorns from the site and nurtured them.  The tree that stands here today was just a sapling when it was planted on December 4, 1946, and it was granted the same tax-free status as its parent.  It is probably one of the only property owners in the city that doesn’t receive a real estate tax bill each year.

The tree is located in the Dearing Street Historic District and there are some interesting homes on the streets surrounding it.   

Reentering the UGA campus, one of the first things that caught our eye was the UGA Latin American Garden, which was cultivated to research medicinal plants use by the Mayans.   

Touring the campus on a quiet weekend has its advantages, but many of the University buildings are not open so we were not able to visit the University of Georgia’s Special Collections building that holds a collection of historic items.  If this is of interest, you may want to check the university schedule before you visit. 

Fortunately, the Georgia Museum of Art (the state’s official art museum) was open on the weekend so we were able to tour its extensive collections.  The special exhibit, The Art of the Chair, gave us rooms full of chairs that included little doll chairs and children’s seating to fascinating patented devices from the Victorian Era and more unique pieces up through 21st-century designs. 

As one of the interpretive signs explains: “Few objects tell the history of modern design as eloquently as the chair.  Aesthetics trends, the emergence of new technologies, ergonomics, social and cultural developments are all reflected in the evolution of chair design.” 

From there we wandered through galleries holding works of Old Masters to early Georgia O’Keefe, American Impressionism, Ash Can School paintings and more.  

The museum has a strong and growing Southern Decorative Arts collection with objects ranging from Choctaw basketry and weather vanes to ornamental needlework.

After touring the entire space, I determined that my two favorite pieces are works by Margaret Morrison, a professor of painting and drawing at UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art.  Morrison’s massive paintings were inspired by her visit to an open-air market in Arezzo, Italy, where she saw table after table laden with antique pieces for sale.  Atomic No. 47 and Keramilkos are part of a series of works she created based on that experience.  “Atomic No. 47 is tightly packed with its radiant silver objects, and Keramikos, which overflows with resplendent ceramic cups an crystal goblets, are the first two paintings in this series” (Museum sign). 

Looking closely, at individual pieces in Atomic No. 47, you can see reflections of buildings, sky and other objects on the shining surfaces.  Both are fascinating works for their composition and what there is to be discovered within each piece.  In the body of this teapot, if the reflection of a person leaning forward to take a photo of the display…I wondered if this was a humorous “selfie” Morrison added to her work.

If you still have time in your visit you may want to enjoy the 300-acre State Botanical Garden, which is located just south of the campus.  Be sure to wear good walking shoes because there is much to explore with a variety of gardens to view, five miles of trails and its conservatory, herb and physic gardens.   

Now it was time for us to leave Athens, but not without one last photo of the UGA mascot wearing the school’s distinctive red and black colors.

Georgia – Atlanta: Scott’s Antiques and Stone Mountain

We were headed down to Atlanta to have lunch with friends and decided to take a little extra time touring since we hadn’t been out in a while.  As it turned out our visit was perfectly timed with the monthly opening of Scott’s Antique Market so after lunch we drove over to see what treasures we might discover. 

Vast monthly market with vendors offering heirloom furniture & antiques, collectibles & knickknacks” is how Scott’s describes themselves on their website and “Vast” is an apt descriptor.  Scott’s fills the two Atlanta Expo Centers with vendors and goods for four days each month.  It is worth the $5 admission fee just to see the variety of goods being offered.  Parking is free, but remember to hold on to your ticket stub because you will need it to enter the parking lot at the second Expo Center on the other side of the freeway. 

First-time visitors might like to walk a bit to get oriented, but make note of the location of any vendors you may want to revisit so you can find your way back easily.

Antiques, art, silver service, china and jewelry…smaller sized goods are more on the right-hand side of the building.  Large pieces an furniture are more to the left, but throughout you’ll find interesting pieces from fine art to fun and funky. 

Many of the vendors are regulars so it is a good time to catch up with old friends.  I was happy to run into a Florida-based dealer we know from shows in Brimfield, MA.  He deals in fine jewelry and high-end decorative pieces and brings his sweet sixteen-year-old Yorkshire terrier to all the shows.  She is always dressed in high fashion. 

Now we are approaching the left side of the building where it is like Disneyland for anyone looking for furniture and rugs…

…and remember that this in only half of what we have come to see…more awaits on the south side of the freeway.

Before we go inside, we like to take a look at the offerings in the open lot outdoor.  I was especially taken with these colorful portable chicken coops.  There are always beautiful seasonal plants for sale and this is a good place to look for architectural salvage pieces.

Again, here in the annex there is a lot of space to cover and an amazing assortment of goods on display from rare books and coins to vintage autos.

After all this walking you may be wondering what we came home with…

I found a vintage Cherokee basket in perfect condition.  This obviously older basket is well constructed with a lovely interplay of natural colors and a bentwood handle notch-fitted on the underside.  Basket in hand, it was time for us to leave if we were still going to see Stone Mountain this afternoon. 

Stone Mountain is an enormous, smooth gray granite monolith that rises over 800 feet above everything in the surrounding area.  It was Creek Indian land until the 1821 Treaty of Indian Springs opened the area for new settlers.   European explorers and fur trappers had already been through this area and by the early 1820s there was an inn hosting visitors to the mountain.  Newly developed stagecoach lines brought more travelers, and by the mid-1840s rail service was established and even more people came to view this natural wonder (Stone Mountain, Georgia, Wikipedia).  

The city of Stone Mountain rings the mountain itself and is about twenty miles northeast of Atlanta.  The business district and residential area is often called Stone Mountain Village to differentiate it from what has become Stone Mountain Park.  Although this area voted against secession prior to the Civil War, it was not spared when Union troops, under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman, arrived for the Battle of Atlanta (1864).  The antebellum homes that were being used as hospitals were spared, but the rest of the town was destroyed.  In the Village, the train depot roof burned but the thick stone walls remained standing.  Later that year, thousands of Union troops returned and tore up the railroad tracks.  “The rails were rendered useless by heating them over burning railroad ties, then twisting them around trees. The term Sherman’s neckties was coined for this form of destruction” (Wikipedia).

Quarrying had long been the major industry in the area and during the Reconstruction Era, the demand for granite across the country quickly reignited the quarry operations, which continued up until the late 1970s. 

In 1912, Mrs. C. Helen Plane, a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), came up with a new idea for the mountain.   As the Stone Mountain Park website tells the story she envisioned an enormous carving on its surface with three figures: Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  At that time, the mountain was owned by the Venable family.  The family deeded the face of the mountain over to the UDC with the stipulation that the work be completed by 1928. 

Gutzon Borglum, who later gained fame for the sculptures on Mt. Rushmore, envisioned the piece to be of a large army of soldiers with several mounted figures.   Funding problems and WWI slowed progress and he couldn’t begin dynamite blasting until 1923.  By January 1924 he had Lee’s head completed, and after a dispute in 1925, he walked off the job.   Augustus Lukeman and his crew took up the work using pneumatic drills and cleared all earlier work.  They began on a less expansive design, but by the 1928 deadline Lee’s new head was the only area that was completed and the project was out of funding.   “The Venable family reclaimed their property, and the massive granite mountain remained untouched for 36 years.”  [Note: This and all subsequent quotes are taken from the Stone Mountain Park website.]

In 1958, Stone Mountain and the surrounding land were purchased by the State of Georgia and an arts committee held a competition for yet another design for the mountain.  Massachusetts artist Walker Kirkland Hancock’s drawings were selected and carving resumed in 1964…this time with a new technique utilizing thermo-jet torches.  The torches were much more effective and in eight years the work, as it stands today, was completed.  The carving is actually much larger and more detailed than it appears to park visitors.  “Eyebrows, fingers, buckles and even strands of hair were fine-carved with a small thermo-jet torch.  Workers could easily stand on a horse’s ear or inside a horse’s mouth to escape a sudden rain shower.”   The sculpture was dedicated on May 9, 1970.  “The carving takes up three acres on the surface of the mountain and is larger than a football field.  The carving is 400 feet above the ground and measures 90 by 190 feet.

But on our visit to the park, we noticed that we were almost the only people who had come to see the carving on the mountain.  As we drove on the on-way road around the circumference of the mountain, we were happy to see the number of people walking, jogging, and bicycling through the beautiful wooded terrain.  We quickly learned that there is much to enjoy at Stone Mountain that has nothing to do with the now controversial Confederate carving.

The mountain is surrounded on three sides by lakes.  Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are available for rental, and fishing is allowed if you have a Georgia fishing license.  The century-old wooden Washington W. King Bridge was originally built in Athens and was moved to this location in 1969 after the Oconee River’s flooding began damaging the structure.  In its new site, it allows vehicles and pedestrians to cross Stone Mountain Lake to a picturesque island.  The structure was designed and built by Washington W. King in 1891.  According to the park brochure, “The King family were prominent African-American businessmen for decades in multiple Georgia cities.”

This “covered bridge” or “lattice style” bridge was common in the in the nineteenth century.  It is interesting to note that heavy wood pegs were used in the construction.  “Bridges like this were refuge for travelers during storms, courting couples and robbers who hid themselves on the overhead timbers and dropped down on the unsuspecting victim.”

A little further along the route there is a 100-year-old grist mill that was moved to the park from Ellinjay, Georgia, and a quarry exhibit that describes the quarrying process at the mountain.  Granite from this quarry was used in buildings of every state across the nation and was shipped to construction projects around the world, including the Panama Canal.

Park visitors can also enjoy a daily concert played on the 732-bell Carillion that was donated to the park by the Coca-Cola Company after it was exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. 

While early visitors had to walk up the strenuous one-mile trail to stand on the summit, now with the purchase of a ticket, a cable car ride takes people up past the sculpture to the top of the mountain to enjoy the view. 

There are fifteen miles of trails throughout the park with varying degrees of difficulty.  The Songbird Habitat and Trail is in the area that was used for the archery and cycling events in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.  The area is filled with native plant life that makes it a good place to watch for songbirds and other regional species. 

If you are going to be in the area for any time or returning within the year, you may want to consider a $40 parking pass that will allow no-cost return visits…otherwise there is a $20 one-time charge to drive into the park.  If you have the time and are feeling particularly energetic, you can walk into the park with no admission fee, but to do this you will have to park in the Village and walk from there since there is NO parking on residential streets in the area.

We could have spent more time really exploring Stone Mountain Park, but the sun was getting low and we still had a quite a drive if we were going to get to Athens, Georgia, before dark.  

Virginia – Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction

When we were planning a stay with our friends Mark and Kathy at their Grand Oaks Air B&B, they said that they had something special for us to see and that we had to stay until Thursday.  This was intriguing.  We didn’t ask questions and did not attempt to do any research to find out what the surprise might be. 

One Christmas when I was about seven years old, my sister and I went hunting to see if we could find any Christmas presents.  We searched high and low in every room of the house and at last in the back of the very top shelf in the linen closet I found a watch case…inside was the Cinderella watch of my dreams.  We put it back, put the ladder away and quit searching.  That Christmas Day was the second most miserable of my life when I had to feign surprise and delight with my gift.  The joy was gone and I learned to wait for the good things life would bring.

On Thursday morning, we left Grand Oaks and rode with Mark and Kathy down narrow country roads, over and around hills and past impressive and tidy farms, most of them owned by Mennonite families who settled in this area generations ago. 

The land flattened out and larger farms spread before us with the hills and mountains rising in the background…then we pulled into a field with well-populated parking lot. 

We had arrived at the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction (SVPA).  As their website declares it is the largest such auction in Virginia and the place “WHERE QUALITY MEETS QUANTITY.”  The auction was formed in 2005 by some local producers who had seen the success of similar operations in Amish and Mennonite communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  This Virginia facility has grown to “over 20,000 square feet that stands in the heart of Rockingham County’s Old Order Mennonite community.”

“The auction provides a central location for area growers to sell their harvest in bulk from early spring to late autumn.”   The products consigned to the auction are grown by commercial growers and gardeners within a 100-mile radius of the SVPA.  Their website also gives the auction schedule and a list of the types of produce that could be offered in each season.  The list is an overview of what comes to market during the seasons and not specific to what growers will be bringing on any given date. 

When they arrive, auction items are “graded and packed in standard containers (by box, pallet or bin lots).”  The morning we arrived there were pumpkins, squash and gourds in every variety, shape, and size up for bidding. 

And fresh vegetables…

And bedding plants and succulents…

And seasonal specialties…plus so much more!!!!!

These lots were loaded onto flatbed wagons then the drivers waited in line until their turn came to pull into the separate auction shed. 

Buyers stand on a raised platform in the center of the shed and observers can stand on walkways on the outer sides.  Two people climb aboard the flatbed…one of them holds up a sample of what is being auctioned and the other waits and records the hammer price on a tag attached to the container.  The auctioneer describes the lot then the fast-paced bidding begins until we hear the familiar…“All in and all done”…and seemingly without a breath the auctioneer moves on to the next lot.

“Although the auction is directed to wholesale buyers such as grocery stores, roadside stands and farm markets, anyone who uses fresh fruits and vegetables for canning, freezing and preserving is welcome to buy.”  There is a 20% buyer’s premium for those who don’t meet the wholesale buyers’ guidelines.

I was sorely tempted to bid on a couple of the colorful lots, but I knew we couldn’t put anymore into our already loaded little Honda FIT; and I couldn’t bring myself to get excited about the work that canning and freezing would require. 

Flatbed after flatbed loaded with pumpkins, squash and vegetables rolled through the auction shed and then wagon loads of mums arrived.  One of the sellers chose to hold her own full-bloom plants for buyers to observe.  After the bidding closed, the woman used her elbows to make space for the displayed mum and carefully put it back into its place on the wagon.   Her extra care was recognized and worth it.  Her plants brought in more than the next lots that had not been as well handled for they had plants with some broken stems.

After the bidding was done, the flatbeds lined up back at the large shed area where they waited to be unloaded.  The buyers settled their bills then transferred the day’s purchases into their vehicles, which ranged from old long-bed pick-ups to 18-wheelers.

FOOD!!!  Sadly, we had eaten a full breakfast and weren’t yet ready to taste test the hearty burgers and sandwiches that were on the menu or the generous slices of peanut butter, apple and banana-topped coconut cream pie…but after seeing these little boys, we found room for a shared ice cream cone. 

Mark and Kathy had certainly found a unique auction for us to see and a delightful way to conclude this visit to the Shenandoah Valley. 

We drove away marveling at the wonderful time we had enjoyed and already looking forward to exploring more of the Shenandoah Valley on our next visit!

Virginia – Mount Solon: Grand Oaks and Lots More

We took exit 240 and began following three-digit state roads.  Near an especially early looking farmhouse with its cut stone foundation and ancient barn we came to Mossy Creek, an area first settled in the 1740s.  An aging historic marker told of the Mossy Creek Iron Works that was established in 1775.  “The ironworks became an important industrial enterprise” that sold its products “throughout western Virginia.”  A community grew up around it and “by 1852 the Mossy Creek Academy was established by Jedediah Hotchkiss,” who would later become the cartographer for Stonewall Jackson.  Both the school and the ironworks closed around the beginning of the Civil War.

We drove on, passing large and tidy farms and we kept climbing…about ten miles from the interstate we reached Tall Oaks Lane and drove up toward a beautiful stand of oaks.  There we found Grand Oaks, our friends Mark and Kathy’s home and Air B&B. 

This was a far cry from their stucco-clad Arizona house set in the mostly untamed landscape of the Sonoran Desert with the occasional saguaro cactus standing stately and tall amid shaggy mesquite, palo verde and creosote.  Oak trees surrounded and towered over their two-story home, creating a sun-dappled setting.  Beyond the house and the trees were the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley.  What a breathtaking setting…no wonder their guest suite had been filled steadily by people wishing to escape their urban environments and get away to such a peaceful and magnificent setting.  #GrandOaks

The property came complete with a horse barn, which now houses Mark’s 1958 turquoise GMC pickup and also gives him ample room for his workshop and wood storage. 

They have built a “red barn” that is a welcoming social center.  The bar in the center of the barn was strongly influenced by their favorite cantina in Cave Creek, Arizona, and its shelves hold an impressive and colorful array of empty beer cans and bottles that Mark has been collecting since he was a teen. 

It also holds another impressive collection.  Mark has owned nine cars in his lifetime and six of them are on display here in the barn (you’ve already seen his turquoise pickup).  The collection includes his first car…the ’63 Corvair he drove on their first date…and the white ’63 Oldsmobile that they drove away from their wedding…as well as a ’53 Pontiac, ’70 Buick Skylark, ’79 Camaro and a ’79 Shortbed Chevy Cheyenne.

The cars are moved outside when the space is being used for weddings and other celebrations.  Don and I explored the loft area, which overlooks the cars below and is also a comfy place for guests who simply want to hang out here with its interesting collection of antiques. 

The next morning we decided to do a little roaming around and Kathy suggested we stop at Valley Pike Farm Market, but before we could leave we had to talk with the “parking lot squirrel.”  This chatty fellow seems to have taken great offence that we were parked under his oak tree and complained vigorously about it.  I was thankful he didn’t take a few acorns from his winter supply and throw them at us.  My respectful attention must have satisfied him because after he was done venting he scampered further up the tree.

There was a school bus parked outside Valley Pike Farm Market.  The Old School Burgers must be pretty tasty because there was a growing line of customers waiting to order. 

Inside the market, there was a wonderful array of products to consider.  Local wineries were well represented with a broad range of wines on display.  The chocolates in the candy counter were tempting as was their selection of old-time candy favorites. 

The colorful jams, jellies, preserves, honey and syrups gave us lots of options to stock our pantry…and there were beautiful pottery pieces to use for serving these delights.

The deli counter was doing a brisk business building sandwiches and there was a Wet Whistle station for those who wanted to sample some of the local wines and craft beers.  The decorated loft offered comfortable seating and a great view of the action below.

The Route 11 Potato Chip display caught my attention (the market is on Route 11, the old highway that carried traffic before the interstate was built).  I have since discovered that the next time we are touring in this area we can stop at the Route 11 Potato Chip factory store in Mt. Jackson and view the frying operation.

We barely got a half a mile down the road and when we came to Rocky’s Antiques.  This isn’t your ordinary antique shop.  We entered into a large room filled with silver flatware and hollowware and an impressive selection of coins.  In our search for sterling silver luggage tags, we were directed into the next room, which was filled with fine jewelry as well as costume jewelry.  A sign directed us to “MORE ANTIQUES” and the next doorway led us into “10,000 square feet filled with antique furniture, glassware, signage and more.” 

Our next stop was the Factory Antique Mall in Verona, which bills itself as the “Largest Mall in America and Still Growing.”  With over 135,000 square feet there are miles of aisles to explore and it is a good place if you want a lot of walking.  The aisles are filled with home décor, advertising, books, furniture, kitchenware and glassware and lots more. 

Nearby Verona Antiques is “something to crow about” according to their sign.  The shop isn’t as large as Factory Antiques, but this former roller skating rink is filled with good quality antiques, art and furniture.  With it being so close to I-81, we marked it on our map as a place to stop when we are staying in the area or even just passing through. 

Now, it was time for us to get back to Grand Oaks to meet up with Mark and Kathy for the next phase of our Virginia adventure. 

Virginia – New Market

It was dark and dry when we left Maine at four in the morning.  We made it around Boston and all the way through Hartford to Danbury before the rain started.  With all the rain there wouldn’t be any bold displays of fall color as we drove along the steep ridge above Wilkes-Barre.  We’d be lucky to stay on the road when the spray of the passing 18-wheelers hit our windshield and overwhelmed our wipers. 

Over the years, we have spent a lot of time on this route and usually when we get to Virginia I put aside my knitting and simply enjoy the fields and pastures that spread across the broad, rolling landscape and climb on up to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I can tell you from memory that the cheapest gas along Route 81 is to be found at exits 279 and 17.  Those are usually our only stops, but this time we were going to turn off the highway for a visit with former neighbors from Arizona. 

I was especially curious to see their home because they had lived just down the road from me in the northern reaches of Scottsdale.  Theirs was a stucco-sided ranch-style house with walls that resembled an aging hacienda.  The land between our houses grew mesquite, palo verde, saguaro cactus and creosote that scented the air after the monsoon rains.  Coyotes and javelinas ran in our washes and a great horned owl hatched her young each year in a burrowed hole in a tall saguaro at the curve of the road. 

Thankfully, the rain eased up by the time we got to New Market and we were ahead of schedule so we stopped to take a quick look at this historic town in the Shenandoah Valley.  New Market is the birthplace John Sevier, Revolutionary War hero and the first governor of the state of Tennessee, but it is remembered for the Civil War battles that took place here, especially the one in May of 1864 when the students from the Virginia Military Institute grabbed weapons and fought along with the Confederate soldiers.  Together with the troops, they broke the Union line, captured several cannons and sent the Union Army back north in retreat.  If you are so inclined, there are two Civil War Museums to explore in addition to the battlefield.

In town, Jon Henry’s General Store and the Strayer House (on the right) anchor opposite corners of the street at the town’s only stoplight.  “On May 21, 1862, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson watched from the building’s stoop [Strayer House] as his ‘foot cavalry’ turned east toward New Market Gap to surprise the Federals at Fort Royal.”  He returned two weeks later and stayed for a while at the Strayer House after the tent he had been sleeping in got washed out in a “torrential downpour” (Historic Marker).

We took a little time to walk the streets of New Market where every building seemed imbued with such a strong sense of history.   #shenanoahvalley, #virginiaforlovers

One of the things we noticed was that most of the buildings had a “stoop” like the one Stonewall Jackson had stood on to watch his men parading past. 

A sign in the window of the Calvert House dates the bricks in the house and the sidewalk back to 1770, giving it a solidly pre-Revolutionary history. 

The sign on the Henkel House dates its back brick portion to 1802 and said that the two-story front had been added in 1855.  “A metal plate nailed on the right beside the latch covers the holes broken into panels by the rifle butts and bayonets of irate Yankee soldiers who had been doused with hot water thrown from the upstairs window.”  A sign like that leaves a lot of story to be imagined.

The Henkel Press came into existence in 1806 when Ambrose Henkel “began publishing Lutheran devotional materials, newspapers, song books and children’s books” in German and later in English.  “The Henkel family believed it was a way to preserve their culture, language, and religious beliefs” (Historic Marker).

People also come to this area to enjoy subterranean touring in the Endless Caverns and nearby Luray and Shenandoah Caverns that are all part of a vast underground network that runs through the valley.  New Market lies in a gap in Massanutten Mountain, which caused it to be an important battle in the Civil War.  Today it is also known for the hiking trails that cross the mountain’s ridges, giving those who like to travel on foot a challenging piece of the Appalachians to explore. 

If your wandering take you down the aisles of antique markets, this area has a lot to offer for you as well.  Burt Long Antiques is just one example of a shop selling furniture, collectibles and memorabilia that have come from homes and families in this area.

We’d now used up our spare time so we turned our GPS on to find the way to Grand Oaks for our visit with Mark and Kathy.

New Speed Limit

We have some friends who live in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  When the highway narrows down to two lanes we know it is time to turn down their road and then we drive for a couple of more miles on a narrow, curving road with no shoulder.  Once we get to the dead end and come through the gate there is a barn and beyond that a herd of Black Angus grazes in a broad expanse of land, a miracle of flat meadow surrounded by forested hills rising steeply on all sides. 

For the first time in miles the road in front of us is straight. 

The scene is so beautiful that I always want to stop just to drink in the view, but maybe everyone doesn’t have that same feeling because there is a sign nailed to a fencepost with a 21 mile per hour speed limit.  The sign has been there so long that the wood is now dark, the paint faded and moss grows around the edges. 

When I started this travel blog a year ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would post an entry every week for a year.  I just read the blog’s “Mission Statement” and “About Traveling Toni” and to my surprise I had more sense than to make public mention of that goal.  But here we are a full year later with fifty-two postings that somehow managed to appear every Thursday evening over the course of that time. 

It started with that road trip from Maine to Glacier National Park with stops in Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Ohio.  Then we chased around Tennessee for a while before we took a meander through a swatch of the South on our way to Orange, Texas, to visit a Western art museum.  Once things warmed up in Maine, we spent the summer along the southern coast and ended up walking much of Portland…and of course the last several months of this travel was done under the strict constraints brought on by COVID-19. 

With the fifty-two week goal met and travel still somewhat constrained, we are going to slow our pace a bit and post on a little more leisurely basis.  Our bags are at the ready, but we are going to take time to get our Honda FIT an oil change and a tire rotation and do a bit of planning before we take off again.   

For those of you who have been followers since week one (this means you Mom), we appreciate your interest, kind words and faithful support.  I look at the big three-ring binder filled with all the red edits on the final drafts and am reminded of how grateful I am of my husband Don’s editing, driving and patience.  This truly has been a gift for us to be able to relive our adventures and to have these treasured memories to share with each other as well as our family and friends.

We look forward to seeing where the road leads next, and we invite you to continue to travel with us albeit at the new reduced speed. 

Traveling Toni

Maine – Portland: The Old Port and Other Favorites

Now that we have rambled in other parts of the city, we will return to the Old Port with its quaint streets, mid-19th century buildings and layers of Portland history.  Boothby Square, just a block up from the waterfront is bordered on one end by the Customs House.  It is quintessential Portland with cobblestone streets, colorful old buildings (spared by the Great Fire of 1866) and an old stone horse fountain.  The grey building was Samuel Butts home and store and it dates to 1792. 

The other end of the square is anchored by the Portland Regency Hotel, which was built in 1895 as an armory for the Maine National Guard.  After it was decommissioned in the 1950s, it was use as a warehouse until 1984 when developers with a vision of what the city was to become converted it into a luxury hotel. 

Instead of moving further into the Old Port right away, we’ll take you on a little detour one block beyond Franklin Arterial to India Street and into what used to be the Italian neighborhood.   Walk past the horse fountain toward the Customs House and on to Fore Street Restaurant.  Depending on the time of day, you may see the staff stacking the daily supply of wood for their oven fire.  Take the landscaped stairway on your right and you will arrive at the front door of Standard Baking (as good place for coffee and a snack).  Turn left on Commercial Street, cross Franklin and walk one block to India Street with the Grand Trunk Railroad building on the corner.

In Portland’s early days, India Street was the main access leading down to the waterfront and it was lined with homes and businesses.  As the city grew and the congested neighborhood became less desirable, the area became populated by immigrants with India Street becoming a predominantly Italian neighborhood.  The close-knit residents even built St. Peter Parish Church, but for us the most significant reminder of that era is Micucci’s, a flourishing Italian food business that was established 1949 when Emilio (Leo) Micucci opened his food business.  The business is still family owned and run, and it holds fast to its heritage and the tradition of providing the finest products and service for both its retail and wholesale customers. 

This plain-front brick façade gives no hint of the vibrant and delicious offerings inside, from the deli counter with a wide range of cheeses and meats to the aisles of pastas, olive oils, canned tomatoes, capers, etc., to their wine selection and up a short flight of stairs to the spices and cold cases filled with fresh and frozen ingredients as well as separate case of tempting sweets.  If the line isn’t too long, be sure to queue up for a slab of their delicious Sicilian pizza.  That will help sustain you on your walk, but you will probably want to come back later to do the rest of your shopping.  Before you leave, be sure to go out the parking lot door and take a glance at the mural of Casco Bay and tall-masted ships on the wall of the opposite building. 

If you are interested in beer, a tour of Shipyard Brewery (just a block away) may interest you and for English majors, there is a boulder in front of the Marriott Residence Inn that marks the site of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s first home. 

For those of you heading back into the Old Port, Middle Street (right outside Micucci’s) will take you into the heart of things.  First you will pass a row of restaurants whose names will be familiar if you have been reading Portland dining and travel magazines: Duck Fat, East Ender, Ribollita, Honey Paw, Hugo’s and Eventide Oyster Co.  A local favorite just a few steps off this stretch is Tomaso’s Canteen, a former workingman’s bar who’s  location and good food has made it a favorite casual meeting place for friends.    

Follow Middle Street past the police station and enjoy the varied architecture that characterizes the Old Port.  At the corner of Exchange Street you will come to Post Office Park, the former site of a beautiful marble post office that was built quickly after the Great Fire out of white marble, a material not suited for northern winters.  It was eventually demolished and the empty lot gave rise to this popular urban park.  The only post box in residence these days is an interesting red post-style that was a gift from Shinagawa, Japan, Portland’s sister city. 

Across the street at Tommy’s Park, Mark Gatti has been selling steamed hotdogs at this location for 37 years now.  In spite of all the fancy food restaurants, his cart is one of the most enduring and endeared food venues in the city (Pierce).  At the back of the park is a new mural that, due to the building’s renovation, recently replaced the trompe l’oeil mural (1985) of the old post office that had stood in the park across the street.    

The new 4-story tall mural was selected from 47 applicants and was completed in 2019.  In the words of the artist Will Sears the design was inspired by “the color found about an hour before sunset incorporating only hues found locally” (Harry).

Standing on the corner between the two parks, you can look up Exchange Street to catch a glimpse of Portland’s City Hall. Across the street, opposite Starbucks, is the Exchange Building.  Originally, this was the site of the Customs House.  The present rich architecturally texture building was built in 1884 as the home of the First National Bank (“Ruins”).

Before turning down Exchange Street, take a few extra steps past Mark’s hotdog cart to visit the “Lobsterman” in front of the Nickelodeon Theater.  We love going to the Nickelodeon on Tuesdays for their $5 movie special.  For now, ignore the snow on the bronze statue, we’ll talk about that later.

This summer Exchange Street got a whole new look when the City blocked the street to vehicle traffic and encouraged the restaurants to create open-air dining venues, allowing them to comply with COVID-19 regulations.  The street is also home to a bevy of boutiques and galleries.  Remember to keep an eye open for interesting architectural details while you are shopping and dining.

Besides window shopping, remember to keep watch for unique trade signs and other interesting architectural and historical details.

If you have a taste for Irish fare or just want to stop for a beer or some other beverage, you might consider Bull Feeny’s on Fore Street.  According to their website the restaurant was named in honor of Hollywood director John Ford (nee John Martin Feeney), who was a Portland high school hero known for lowering “his leather helmet like a bull and charg[ing] through the line.” 

The building itself dates to 1867 and over the years it has had a variety of businesses housed within its walls.  Some time in the early 1940s it “became the Seamen’s Club to attend of the needs of the thousand of sailors in town during World War II.” 

The owners wanted their pub to reflect Portland’s strong Irish heritage so they incorporated a lot of that history into the design.  While you are there be sure to explore both levels to see all the old advertising signs and other pieces they have included in the comfortable décor.  While you are upstairs, remember to pause for a moment to look down toward the harbor through the beautiful arched windows.  John Ford would have approved of this set.

Across Fore Street from Bull Feeney’s are two shops we especially enjoy when looking for authentic Maine gifts.  Skordo offers freshly ground, small batch spice blends and rubs as well as cookbooks and beautiful items for the kitchen and the table.  Their four-jar spice packs are beautifully packaged and always a welcome gift.

Next door Maine Potters Market offers fine handmade pottery pieces from local potters.  They handle a wide variety of styles and price ranges, making it easy to find the perfect gift or souvenir to bring home as a reminder of your stay in Portland.

Fore Street’s curving path follows Portland’s original shoreline and was the main access road to the wharves before the major landfill that began in 1853 to make way for the arriving railroads and create Commercial Street.  The basement walls in many the businesses on Fore Street have waterlines that bear witness to the tides and wakes that slapped against their old reinforced stone seawalls.  The street with its 1850s- and 1870s-era buildings looks much as it did back in the days when huge ships were being loaded and unloaded just a half block below on Wharf Street. 

The cobblestones on Wharf Street slow down your pace but that is fine because it gives you time to take in the unique character of the buildings, shops, and restaurants in this stretch.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to see what this stretch would have looked like, filled with tall-masted ships and sweating, swearing men moving the ship’s cargos.  The dirt and grime are mostly gone, but not the character.  Street and Company, the acclaimed seafood restaurant, is a wonderful choice for a candle-lit dinner in a space that has long been lit by candles and lanterns, and newcomer Central Provisions’ small plates menu is an excellent choice if you are able to score a reservation.  If a beer and a burger are more to your liking, Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub has been a favorite for locals, as well as tourists, since 1988.   

Many visitors to Portland spend most of their time in the Old Port, which is understandable, but something you might like to consider is a visit to the Victoria Mansion (a few blocks away at 109 Danforth Street).  Built in 1858-1860, the mansion was “the summer home for Ruggles Sylvester Moore and his wife, Olive.  They were both from Maine originally, but Morse made his fortune in New Orleans where he operated luxury hotels” (vistoriamansion.org).  Their summer home had all the newest conveniences of the day with “hot and cold running water, flush toilets, central heating, gas lights, a servant call-bell system, wall to wall carpeting, and a 25 foot long stained glass skylight.” 

One of my favorite rooms is the Turkish smoking room with its walls painted like a Bedouin tent.  During a special tour, we were delighted to be able to climb the house’s tower and discover that at the very top, the observatory was also painted in the same tent motif but it was still in unrestored condition.

The month of December is an excellent time to visit the mansion.  A bevy of local florists decorate its lavish interior and turn every room in the home into a holiday tour de force. 

I’m guessing that several readers are questioning my sanity in suggesting a visit to Portland, Maine, in the winter, but it is can be a magical experience.  Yes, it is cold, but nothing that a good down coat, boots and proper layering can’t combat.  The waters of Casco Bay help moderate the temperatures compared with those inland. 

One of the best reasons to come off-season is that the hoards of summer tourists are gone and it is much easier to get reservations at any of the finest restaurants.  Snow gathers on the architectural details of the buildings and the Old Port takes on the look of a scene out of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol.  

Bringing in a contemporary perspective to the city streets, local luminary artist Pandora LaCasse’s creations festoon building fronts and parks from the waterfront all the way up to Longfellow Square.  I’m actually eager to pull on my coat, boots, muffler and all that goes with it to walk out into the night and view these bold-colored, geometric designs.  The experience is especially magical when a light snow is falling.  Remember that there are an inviting number of restaurants and pubs that make excellent warming spots along the way. 

The snow doesn’t stop the lobstermen who come down to the harbor to warm their boats in the pre-dawn hours and shovel the snow off their decks into the icy channel before they take off for a day of fishing. 

Hearty joggers and walkers still take their daily walks along the shore and the stark contrast between the dark snow-lined tree limbs and the white snow is stunning. 

On certain mornings when a light wind blows very cold air into a warmer layer of air above the water, Sea Smoke, really a kind of fog, rises over the harbor, creating a magical cloudy effect.    

No matter what time of the year you come, Portland is a beautiful city with a vast array of opportunities to explore. We hope to see you on the streets some time soon.

Recommended Resource:

Harry, David.  “Portland historic preservation panel endorses Tommy’s Park mural.”  December 10, 2018.  PressHerald.com

Pierce, Kathleen.  “How a 34-year-old hot dog cart has survived Portland’s fancy food explosion.”  June 13, 2017.  Bangor Daily News .com.

“Ruins of the Merchant Exchange.”  Maine Historical Society)

Maine – Portland: Congress Street’s Three Squares

After the leisurely walks we have been taking for the last couple of weeks, we are going to drive down the rest of Congress Street so fasten your seat belts and come along for a colorful narrated ride…. 

The first thing we see as we cross Franklin Street (also known as the Arterial) is Lincoln Park, a lovely green space that was part of the redesign of the city after the Great Fire of 1866.  Today, the park is only about two-thirds the size it was originally, the remaining third with its truncated walkways was given over for the construction of Franklin Arterial. 

The Central Fire Station is just beyond the park.  The station was built in 1925 to replace an earlier fire house. 

The handsome “Fireman Statue” dates back to 1898 and was moved from his lonely home in one of the city’s cemeteries to this location in 1987. 

Behind the fire station is one of the two remaining horse fountains in the city.  What a lovely tribute to the animals that contributed so much to the building and growth that took place during the first two hundred years of the city’s history.

The old Gannett Building (1923) housed the workings of the Portland Press Herald from the editorial office to the printing presses.  Instead of news trucks pulling in for deliveries, valets now greet guests who are staying at The Press Hotel or coming to enjoy its Ink Bar and Union Restaurant.  It is fun to poke into the hotel to look at the décor with a whole wall of vintage typewriters and lots of reminders of the days when the smell of ink permeated the building.  This boutique hotel offers “modern lodgings in posh newspaper-themed rooms and suites” conveniently located right at the edge of the Old Port so everything is in walking distance.

The magnificent Beaux Arts building across the Congress Street is Portland’s City Hall, which was completed in 1912 and was designed by Portland’s most famous architect, John Calvin Stevens.  This is Portland’s third city hall…the other two having been destroyed by fires in 1866 and 1908. Be sure to note the galley-style sailing ship weathervane atop the building.

It is no wonder that the Portland city seal depicts a phoenix rising majestically at the top since the city was burned down three times during the Indian Wars, by the British in 1775, and in the Great Fire of 1866. 

We recently did a lot of research on the city seal since Don has a very old locally-made Portland Police Badge in his collection that he believes is the city’s first badge and dates to mid-1850s.  William Berry’s article “Portland and the Phoenix” explains that “the Phoenix motif was woven into militia banners; dropped in speeches, orations and toasts; carved into facades; and carted around during parades” starting as early as 1785.  Portland became a city in 1832, but was without an official seal until 1835 when the “Resurgam” with its phoenix perched on an anchor, a ship and two dolphins was adopted as the city seal.

Just a block beyond City Hall is the stately old First Parish Church.  The earlier wooden church was moved to this location in 1740, and this granite building replaced it in 1826.  The granite construction meant it was spared during the Great Fire.  The church has been the setting for many major events in Maine’s history and its numbered and boxed church pews have been the religious homes for many illustrious families.   Outside, its garden offers a lovely quiet space within the heart of the city.

Following Independence, “Congress Street began to be more actively developed.  Market Square was a commercial hub where farm products destined for residents of the booming port were bought and sold” (Congress Street).  In 1891 “Our Lady of Victories was erected on the site of a former city hall and Market Square was subsequently renamed Monument Square [it is one of the three major squares on Congress Street]. 

In spite of its new name and statue, the produce kept arriving and this square houses one of the oldest continually running farmers’ markets in the U.S.   On Wednesday mornings all summer long, local farmers drive their trucks into town bringing fresh produce, flowers and other products that they unload, creating colorful displays.   It is fun to listen to snatches of conversation while contemplating your purchases and learn of the beans’ growth patterns or what a local chef is planning to do with the eggplant he has just purchased.

Surrounding the square, are the commercial buildings that rose to impressive heights in later years, the tallest among these is the fourteen-story Time and Temperature Building with its updates flashing from the rooftop day and night. 

The Portland Public Library was established in 1867 and the main library moved here to the square in 1979.  “The Little Water Girl” continues to greet visitors.  Even after the library underwent a major renovation in 2010, she has held fast to her post.  In addition to the traditional lending and research services, the library’s art gallery provides regularly changing exhibits and the auditorium, with its book-stack podium, is regularly filled with audiences who come to listen to guest authors and other speakers.

The library is only a few steps away from acclaimed author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s home.  The brick house was completed in 1786 and was “[o]ne of the first private homes to rise after the Revolution… [and is] now the only remaining example of a single family residence on this downtown section of Congress Street.”   Up to the mid-1800s this area was Portland’s most prestigious neighborhood.  Congress Street was originally known as Back Street, but in 1823 the street was renamed to honor two residents who had served in the U.S. Congress (Stephen Longfellow, father of Henry being one of the two men honored).

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow eventually moved to Boston to teach at Harvard University, but his sister, Anne, remained in the family home until her death at the age of 94.  She left the residence filled with family artifacts and essentially unchanged, with the exception of adding a new cook stove at one point.  This trove of history is now overseen by the Maine Historical Society, which has its offices and museum next door, and offers tours of the home. 

The property was much larger when the family first took residence and the Brown Research library (behind the house) is located near where the cow barn used to sit.  One of the best kept secrets in Portland is the beautiful, historic garden behind the house.  Since 1924, the Longfellow Garden Club has been maintaining this secluded space, cultivating plantings based on the handwritten list of plants discovered in a family cookbook.  Whenever the gates are open, visitors are invited to tour the garden (no charge) or even take time to sit for a while and enjoy its quiet beauty.  The lilac bush in the lower garden is reputed to date back to the days when young Henry was playing in the garden. 

By the turn of the nineteenth century, fashionable shops and large department stores filled the stretch from Monument Square to Congress Square.  “The 1920s roared up Congress Street as electric trolleys and increasing number of automobiles brought visitors to the compact downtown that included restaurants, theaters, department stores, movie houses, an historical society and an art museum” (Congress).  The Art Deco style arrived bringing changes to the fronts of some of the stores and many of the new apartment buildings that arose on side streets off Congress.  

Today, this stretch is the home to MECA (Maine College of Art) and a mix of galleries, boutiques, jewelers and restaurants.  The old department stores are long gone but Reny’s Department Store moved in to fill the gap.  Reny’s is a family-owned, seventeen-store chain that serves customers throughout the hinterlands of the state.  Its commitment to service and wide range of well-priced products that fit the Maine lifestyle make it the place to go for everything from winter boots to breakfast cereal.  

Congress Square doesn’t have any significant statuary, but it is still easy to spot with the pie-shaped H.H. Hay Building (1826) on one corner and the Portland Art Museum on another. 

At street level across the street in a glass-encased pavilion, is the Union Station Clock (1888) that stood above the grand old Portland Union Station.  It is a sad reminder of the days when wrecking balls swung unobstructed here in the city.  The square itself, with its newly painted surrounding walls and freshened planters, has been a center of preservation controversy for the last couple of years and the outcome has produced a much more attractive and well-used space than was previously the case.  

The Portland Museum of Art was founded in 1882 and is the cornerstone of the city’s vibrant art culture.  After residing in several impermanent locations, it finally found a home in the McLelland House in 1908.  When a generous Maine art collector offered the seventeen Winslow Homer paintings, he recognized the museum’s need for expansion and added an $8-million-dollar gift to help cover those costs.  The Post Modern style wing, designed by I.M. Pei and Partners, was completed in 1983.

Fired by the expansion, the collection grew and today “includes more than 22,000 artworks, dating from the 18th century to the present. “  In addition to an outstanding collection of Maine-based artists, the museum has a large collection of European works.  It is not stuck in history but is forging ahead with modern and contemporary artists’ works being added to the collection and being introduced in major exhibitions.

Now we are going to pick up speed or we will never get to the airport.  Longfellow Square is just a couple of blocks ahead.  During the cold of Portland’s winter our distinguished poet is usually seen on his perch above the swirling traffic with a knitted cap and muffler. 

Beyond the square and interspersed with businesses are, a few of the more historic and “substantial single family homes” that were “designed by the city’s leading architects” (Congress Street).  On the left is the Neal Dow House Museum (1829).  Dow was a prominent politician, a General in the Civil War and is best known for his passion as a prohibitionist, which brought him to leadership in the Temperance Movement.  The house is now the headquarters of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

If you have a bit of extra time, you may want to turn up Dow Street and drive into the West End

After passing a few more modest homes, the streets become lined with the grand residences that the wealthier residents of Portland began building here, far from the dirty wharves and the rubble and ashes of the Great Fire. 

You can even catch glimpses of some lovely back gardens by driving down some of the alleyways.  One of our favorite houses has such a lovely back entrance that we wonder if any of the family’s guests ever use the front door. 

The Western Cemetery was established in the 18th century and was acquired by the City of Portland in 1829.  In its earliest years this area was not nearly so elegant and was the home of many poor people and especially the Irish Catholic immigrants who fled the Potato Famine in Ireland.  It is no longer an active burial ground and its twelve peaceful acres has become a favorite place for people to take quiet walks.

Back on Congress the neighborhood quickly changes as we drive past the Maine Medical Center, the state’s largest medical facility, and arrive at Haddock Field, the home of Portland’s beloved Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliates of the Boston Red Sox.  Faithful fans and lots of families come to enjoy the games where Slugger, the team’s mascot, leads activities during breaks in the game, and the snack stands serve up tasty and reasonably-priced hot dogs and whoopee pies.   

From here on there are very few points of interest along the drive.  Unless you are looking carefully, you will pass the pre-Revolutionary War home of Deacon John Bailey (built sometime between 1730-1756) at 1235 Congress Street.  The home is privately owned. 

Just before the airport we come to Stroudwater, an early village that is now part of Portland.  Located at the juncture of the Fore and Stroudwater Rivers, it was first settled in the 17th century and abandoned after Indian attacks in the 1680s.   Colonel Thomas Westbrook resettled the area in 1727.  He was a mast agent for King George II and under his direction, roads were built to haul mast timbers here from where they were cut.  They were then launched down the Fore River on their way to Portland and from there they would be shipped to England (Stroudwater Historic District).

The Tate House (1759) was built by Captain George Tate who was the Senior Mast Agent for the British Royal Navy.  He oversaw the cutting and shipping of white pines from Maine to England, and his home reflects the prominent status he held in the community in that day.  The two-story, unpainted clapboard house has been carefully restored and can be toured during the summer months (tatehouse.org).  The back yard has herb gardens as well as some old apple trees.  The yard slopes down to the river where I spotted several large white geese feeding in the water.

When they became aware of my interest they paddled upstream to safety.  As we pulled out of the neighborhood and back onto Congress Street, I noticed a “goose” mailbox that seems to indicate the house that the geese must call home.

At long last, just four miles from our starting point today, we have reached to entrance to the Portland Jetport.  Keep a lookout for the interesting wrought iron sculptures that are integrated into the landscape along the entry drive.

If you are not catching a plane and are going to be staying in Portland a while longer you may want to go back to Congress Square and visit the lounge at the top of the former Eastland hotel, which is now the Westin Portland Harborview. 

Take the elevator to the top floor before sunset to enjoy one of our favorite views of the city as well as a snack and a beverage while gazing out to Casco Bay. 

Recommended Resource:

Berry, William. “Portland and the Phoenix” Filed under V. F. Seals in the Portland Room, Portland Public Library Main Branch. 

“Congress Street Historic District Designation Report” portlandmaine.gov

(Stroudwater Historic District.  Portlandmaine.gov.)

Maine – Portland: Congress Street from Munjoy Hill to Federal Street

The longest continuous street in Portland is Congress Street and it runs from Casco Bay all the way out past the Jetport for the entire length of the city.  The American Planning Association designated it one of the “Great Places in America.”  As they tell the story, the street began “as an access road for farmers bringing their goods to market” and developed into “a prestigious residential neighborhood and then Portland’s commercial and cultural center” (Congress Street).  That much change comes with a lot of interesting history.

They go on to describe the street’s rich and layered character that has evolved over time.  “The result is an area which is a delightful mix of historical architectural styles from 18th century Colonial and 19th century Federal to 20th century International and 21st century Post Modern.”       

Who knew what an illustrious stretch of pavement we had selected for our next walk? 

For those of you who have been following our rambles around Portland, you will already have been at the foot of Congress Street when we described the Cleeve-Tucker Monument with its surrounding bevy of food trucks.  Today, we will start at that intersection and walk up into the Munjoy Hill neighborhood. 

Sara Donnelly, one of the Hill’s residents wrote “The Cool on the Hill,” an excellent account of her neighborhood for DownEast Magazine.  She explains that Munjoy is not a slurring of Mount Joy, as is sometimes reported, rather the area was named “for George Munjoy, who came from Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1659 to settle the land on the eastern point of the peninsula that his father-in-law had bought from one of Portland’s founders, George Cleeve”…no less than the honoree on the obelisk!   

Munjoy may have had naming rights, but according to Greater Portland Landmark’s account he didn’t stay around long enough to really have much impact on the Hill’s development.  He and his family settled close to the shore of Casco Bay and “fled Portland after an Indian attack in 1676 and never returned” (Munjoy Hill). 

Captain Lemuel Moody is the man who has left the most lasting legacy of any here on Munjoy Hill.  In 1807, Moody decided to “quit his work as a sea captain after he was kidnapped and held briefly by pirates” (Donnelly).  He built “the 82-foot Portland Observatory tower” at the top of the hill and climbed its 103 stairs three times a day to its “lantern” to scan through his powerful telescope for approaching vessels.  He was able to see twenty miles out…beyond Casco Bay all the way to the Atlantic.   

Merchants paid Moody to keep an eye on the horizon for incoming vessels.  For a $5 annual fee, anyone who had their own ships could supply Moody with flags to match those of their vessels.  When he spotted a ship flying one of their flags, Moody would raise a matching flag on a pole atop the observatory, giving his customers notice to send men and wagons to the docks so they would be ready to unload when the ship arrived in port.  

Moody used his time well atop his lofty perch.  He kept daily record of the weather and, using his skill as an accomplished cartographer, he created charts of Casco Bay and maps and drawings of the Munjoy Hill.  On the land around the observatory he built a dance hall and a bowling alley, and he charged 12½ cents to those who wanted to climb up its the six levels to enjoy the unparalleled view from the top.  [The U.S. had ½ cent coins from 1792 to 1857.]

From April to mid-October for a somewhat higher fee, visitors can still climb those steps for a spectacular view and to learn more about the history of octagon-shaped tower.   If you visit be sure to look at the enormous boulders inside the ground-level base of the tower.  The structure was built without a dug foundation; instead these massive stones anchor the observatory firmly to the hilltop even through the strongest nor’easters. 

At age 79, on the last morning of his life, Lemuel Moody climbed those steps once again and died suddenly after he returned home.  His son took over the daily climbs until radio communication made the business obsolete.  The structure was left to fend for itself until the City of Portland took over in 1939 and in 1984 Greater Portland Landmarks (GPL) took over and began the extensive repair and restoration necessary to preserve “the only remaining historic maritime signal station in the United States.”  As GPL describes it, the Portland Observatory is “an intact survivor from the Golden Age of Sail” (Portland Observatory).

Even after the building of the observatory, Munjoy Hill went largely undeveloped, serving as little more than a cow pasture with a few scattered residences.  When the Great Fire of 1866 destroyed most of the city of Portland its flames died out at the base of the hill.  Suddenly, its summit was filled with a quickly built tent city to help house the “ten thousand people made homeless” (Varney).  But this population explosion was only temporary, “those residents only stayed long enough to rebuild their houses, in brick or stone, usually on the posh West End”…farther away from the sights and smells of the working harbor (Donnelly).

A new Portland emerged within ten years after the fire with wider and straighter streets and “more roomy, convenient and handsome” structures.  With the ongoing port activity and the arrival of the railroads, Portland needed workers to support its tremendous growth.  Around the turn of the 20th century, the city attracted “working-class blacks, Jews, and immigrants from France, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Canada, and, in particular, Ireland.”  These hard-working newcomers “built the single-family homes and three-story tenements that make up most of the modern-day housing stock” on the Hill.  The neighborhood became filled with “close-knit boroughs often divided by ethnicity” and the area “developed a reputation for toughness and inter-Hill loyalties among the residents, who lived in houses so close together that clotheslines were strung between them” (Donnelly).

By the 1960s the area had become “downright seedy.  Boarded up houses and absent landlords were common, and drug related crime made walking the streets at night dangerous.”  A lot of artists moved in to take advantage of the affordable rents, and finally a neighborhood group organized and created a community center and two parks.  The spark was lit for renewal, and in 2000, “the St. Lawrence, a crumbling Queen-Anne-style former church [built in 1897], was converted into the St. Lawrence Arts Center, a theater and community hub for the creative, eclectic neighborhood that by this time Munjoy Hill had become“ (Donnelly).

The movement began slowly, but one by one the modest little houses began to be bought and restored by their new owners until these days when Munjoy Hill has become one of the hottest real estate markets in town.  Houses like these three at the foot of Vesper Street are being snapped up at elevated prices…depending on the size of their lot they can easily close at over a million dollars nowadays. 

Some of these homes are being restored and frequently reconfigured while others are being torn down and replaced with larger modern structures that cover most, if not all, of the lot.  A hot battle is raging in city planning board meetings with residents, new buyers, developers and preservationists fighting over the future of this neighborhood.

Take some time to wander into the neighborhood, but be careful of your step.  The housing stock may be improving but the tree-speckled light makes it difficult to navigate some of the sidewalks, which old tree roots and winter freezes have turned into heaving brick rollercoasters.   On quiet summer afternoons, feline residents seem to find it entertaining to watch from their screened windows for people tripping down the street.

We love to attend Good Theater performances at the St. Lawrence and beforehand enjoy dining at the charming little Blue Spoon restaurant just up Congress Street. “Chef/Owner Will Lavey and his wife Liz Koenigsberg have been in the Portland restaurant scene for many years” and the restaurant’s menu is based on “fresh market ingredients.”

Across the street, Rosemont Market is one of “six locally sourced markets conveniently placed throughout Greater Portland that supply fresh and tasty food to a community of loyal customers.”  The European-styled market offers fresh local ingredients, delicious prepared items and their own baked goods for customers who like to shop within the neighborhood. Rosemont has remained loyal to both its suppliers and its customers with “over 60% of the products in our markets are grown or produced in the state of Maine” (Rosemont).

Willa Wirth’s silver shop is a reminder of the days when so many artists used to populate this area.  The colorful little façade, with its eye-catching displays, makes it difficult to pass without a stop to see what is new within.  As Willa describes the process on her website, “I use silver wire.  I form it.  Forge it.  Solder it.  As it begins to take shape, something special is captured.”   

We have now reached the top of the hill and are standing at the base of the Observatory.  The western border of the Munjoy Hill neighborhood is a bit murky.  Many declare Washington Street as the marker, but I feel like the vibe of the Hill really extends all the way to Federal Street.

At the intersection of Congress and Washington Streets is the Eastern Cemetery, which opened in 1668.  As Portland’s “oldest public burial ground and is a vital link to the City’s early English settlement.”  The clustering of grave sites “suggests the social stratification in early Portland: Anglo-American residents, African Americans, the poor, and impoverished outsiders are all clustered in different locations” (Portland Landmarks). 

Captain Lemuel Moody, builder of the Observatory, is buried here.  Two other especially interesting side-by-side graves are those for Commander Samuel Blythe of the H.M.S. Boxer and Lieutenant William Burrows who commanded the U.S.S. Enterprise.  In September 1813, the two warships engaged in battle in Casco Bay.   Blythe was prepared for a fight to the finish and had his flag nailed to the ship’s mast…and for him it was the finish.  He died in battle and Burrows was severely wounded.  The injured man was brought to shore and housed with local residents who nursed him for weeks, but the valiant Lieutenant ultimately succumbed to his wounds.   The two foes now lay next to each other for eternity…their names unknown to most Portland residents…but the opening of Blythe and Burrows, a local bar and restaurant on lower Exchange Street, has brought the story alive.  It is a fun place to have a drink and some fresh oysters when you are done touring.  If you go be sure to try to find the “secret passage.”  

Across from the Eastern Cemetery is the colorful “Clam Diggers” mural that runs the length of a sixty-foot building.  Artist Susan Bartlett Rice’s work is a tribute to the men and women of Maine who trudge across the tidal flats when the water is out, wearing hip waders and carrying their clam hack in hand.  They bend and push the hack down into the sodden soil and pull out live clams that they toss into their baskets…then straighten up and move on (Gagne).

Around the corner from the mural is an eclectic series of shops.  Right at the corner is Otto Pizza.  The original Otto opened in 2009 and now there are several locations in Maine and Massachusetts.  They offer a wide variety of pizzas with standard and unusual toppings.  “The Masher,” with mashed potato, scallion, and bacon is one of their most popular pies.  If you are feeling a bit peckish by now, you will be happy to know that they sell whole pizzas as well as pizza by the slice.

On the other side of Otto Pizza is a thrift shop, used book store, yoga studio, hair salon and KnitWit, one of my favorite yarn shops.  The store originally opened as the flagship store for Quince & Co. yarn.  They carry a lovely selection of Maine-based yarns as well as a variety of other yarns and supplies.  Their staff is helpful and friendly so this is a pleasant stop if you want to pick up supplies for a new knitting project or to buy a gift for a knitter you may know. 

In the block-and-a-half stretch from here to Federal Street there are three houses of worship. The first is Etz Chaim Synagogue, which was founded in 1906.  The congregation “flourished through the 1950’s when it served more than 125 families….however, by the 1970’s, membership had dwindled to about 25 families, [and it] no longer had a rabbi or offered Hebrew school.” 

The synagogue and its congregation are now once again thriving, welcoming “all types of Jewish families, from orthodox to reconstructionist” (Etz Chaim website).  

That sense of rebirth and outreach extends to the greater Portland community as well.  Their well-tended garden is a quiet place to rest, contemplate and pray; and their museum space offers interesting exhibits throughout the year. 

Print: A Bookstore is a much more recent arrival.  It is an independent bookstore that inserted itself here on Congress four years ago.  The store offers a wide range of contemporary titles and the friendly and knowledgeable owners and staff welcome questions and requests. 

St. Paul’s Anglican Church is Portland’s oldest church.  It was established in 1763 “under the oversight of the Bishop of London, St. Paul’s was founded as a mis­sion church, the first non-Puritan church in what is now Portland.”   This Gothic stone building, with its beautiful rose window and attached rectory was built in 1867 after the original church structure was destroyed in the Great Fire.  I found it interesting that “since the War of 1812, St. Paul’s has en­joyed serving as the Maritime Church for the local seagoing community, including all who serve and work on the world’s seas and their families” (St. Paul’s website).

We have now arrived at Federal Street and the back door of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  I’ll pause here, in part because I don’t have photos of this historic building, whose walls were just being built in 1866 when they were destroyed in the Great Fire.  Undeterred, construction was resumed and the cathedral was completed in 1868.  You will have to go online to see photos of this impressive Gothic structure and its beautiful restored interior.

Feel free to join us again next week…we will cross Federal Street and come into the civic and commercial heart of Portland.

Recommended Resource:

 “Congress Street: Portland, Maine.”  Great Places in America: Streets.  American Planning Association.  planning.org.  

Donnelly, Sara Anne.  “The Cool on the Hill” DownEast Magazine downeast.com

Gagne, Jessica.  “Clam Diggers.”  News Center Maine.  October 11, 2016.

“Munjoy Hill, Portland, Maine.” Greater Portland Landmarks website. 

“Portland Observatory.”  Greater Portland Landmarks.  Portlandlandmarks.org/observatory

Varney, Geo. J.  “History of Biddeford, Maine.”  A Gazetteer of the State of Maine.  Boston: B.B. Russell, 57 Cornhill, 1886.  History.rays-place.com 

Munjoy Hill Garden

Maine – Portland: The Eastern Promenade

Portland is full of parks, but the Eastern Promenade (or “Prom” as locals call it) is the city’s largest park and the jewel in her crown.  In the early days of the city, these 78 acres with their spectacular view of Casco Bay were privately owned and were used for grazing cattle.  In 1837 the city built “a roadway along the Promenade from Fore Street to Washington Avenue.”  Suddenly accessible, developers saw new opportunity for this stretch of land, and the “by the early 1880s the Fort Allen site was being considered for a hotel.”  

William Goold, a local historian raised the cry for the preservation of this space: “The Eastern Promenade has a more beautiful outlook than any other vacant space in the city and should be preserved as an open space.”  Fort Allen became a battlefront again, and fortunately Goold’s efforts drew the support of the citizenry.  The City of Portland purchased the Fort Allen site as well as additional land in 1890 for use as a public park.  For the design of the park, the City commissioned “the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm, renowned for creating New York’s Central Park and the Boston Commons (Friends of the Eastern Promenade). The photo below was taken from Bug Lighthouse in South Portland and has of Fort Allen on the left.

We picked a sunny Sunday afternoon to take photos along this two-mile stretch because we wanted to show the diversity of the space and to share how enthusiastically Portland residents and visitors embrace the Eastern Prom with its unobstructed views of Casco Bay from the Fore River to Back Cove.  Many grand and colorful old homes stand respectfully back from the bordering roadway and form the backdrop for the sloping green vista that runs down to the water. 

The shore walk we posted last week is actually part of the trail system of the Eastern Prom.  From where we ended at the beach and boat ramp (the upper right on this Friends of the Eastern Promenade map) there is a long sidewalk that angles up to Fort Allen Park (the “You Are Here” dark rectangle on the right side of the map). 

The original Revolutionary War fort was built in 1775 and rebuilt during the War of 1812…both are long gone, but this is an excellent place tobegin since it helps tell the story of Portland’s often turbulent history and the forts that were built here in Casco Bay to help defend the city. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the Civil War had a huge impact on Portland and the rest of the state for thousands of Maine’s soldiers did not survive the war, but that is a story for another day.  As reminders of those losses, two guns from that era stand at the base of the flag pole here in the park.

Remember the Maine.  These words appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the country, giving the impression that the ship had been attacked in Havana Harbor, but the real story was that “On January 24, 1898, President McKinley sent the U.S.S. Maine from Key West to Havana Harbor.  On February 15th, an explosion aboard the battleship killed most of the crew” but public fervor was stirred to the point that this incident helped push the United States into the Spanish-American War (April-August 1898).  The U.S.S. Maine Memorial Cannon was salvaged from the battleship and placed in Fort Allen in 1915, and restored in 2014 (Interpretive Marker: Fort Allen Park).

Another ship that is honored here is the U.S.S. Portland. She was built in 1933, during the depths of the Depression and was christened during Prohibition with a bottle of sparkling water…but that didn’t slow her down.  Her nickname was Sweet Pea (after the speedy, punch-packing baby who became a character in the Popeye cartoon strip in 1933).  This sleek, powerful and fast Navy cruiser packed her own wallop.   She was out on a training mission when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  From then on she was “engaged in almost every Naval battle” during WWII from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, and “she was the only U.S. ship in all three major battles: Coral Seas, Midway and Leyte Gulf.” 

Near Guadalcanal, when a torpedo nearly ripped off her stern, she fought on, sinking an enemy destroyer and severely damaging a battleship.  Fully loaded with returning troops returning to the U.S. from Europe, she was badly damaged in a 100 mph hurricane but she still managed to limp home across the Atlantic.  Over her lifetime she rescued over 3,000 sailors at sea.  The U.S.S. Portland was honored by being the “ship singled out to accept the surrender papers at Truk, the great Japanese naval base” (Interpretive Marker: U.S.S. Portland Memorial).

Her mast, bridge shield and ship’s bell stand proudly at the crest of the hill overlooking Casco Bay.  They were brought here to her namesake city in 1959 and are silent reminders of the skill, determination and heroism of the men who served on her during her challenging career.    

There are two other memorials in this area.  One is to the more than 3,000 U.S., British, and Russian sailors, airmen, soldiers and civilians who died “convoying war supplies to Russia” during The Arctic Campaign (1941-45).  The newest memorial is in remembrance of September 11, 2001.  The names of Maine victims encircle the memorial.

Out in Casco Bay four other forts were built to help defend Portland from foreign invasion.  A sign board entitled, “Defending this Mighty Harbor” helps visitors identity these forts and provides a brief histories of each.   

Fort Scammell on House Island was built to keep English ships from entering the harbor in defiance of the Embargo Act (1808-1809). Fort Preble at Springpoint Lighthouse was also built in 1808 and was named in honor of Commodore Edward Preble, who was a hero in the fight against the pirates during the Barbary Wars. Fort Preble was a recruiting station during the Civil War and saw action when Confederate raiders tried to attack Portland. The fort was remodeled and upgraded over the years and served up through World War I.

Fort Scammell and House Island are now privately owned, and Fort Preble has been dismantled. Southern Maine Community College was built on its site and some of the fort’s later buildings are in use on the campus and a few of the old WWI gun emplacements remain.

Named after Sir Ferdinando Gorges and modeled after Fort Sumter in Charleston, Fort Gorges was built in 1861-68.  It was planned in response to “the threat of foreign naval powers, initially provoked by the War of 1812,” but by 1864 it was “deemed obsolete due to technological advancements in rifled artillery and high-explosive ammunition developed during the Civil War” (Fort Gorges).  Even though obsolete, the already provided funding was there for its completion!

Fort Williams construction at the Portland Headlight was begun in 1873.  It became a sub-post to Fort Preble and was finally named an official fort in 1899.  The guns and batteries were never actively used in battle, but it supported a lot of troop training and activity.  It was officially decommissioned in 1963 and today is the site of another lovely ocean-front park. 

In spite of all these military reminders, the park is more than a tribute to war and battle.  People from near and far come here to enjoy the breathtaking view of Casco Bay with its many islands.  On occasional summer evenings the Gazebo in the center of this area hosts concerts and people gather on the sloping lawn to enjoy the music. 

But enjoyment of the park is not limited to special occasions.  Families and friends…people of all ages are here in the park every day enjoying this beautiful open space.  In the summer parents spread blankets and chat, keeping a close eye on their children at play.  Other people read or sunbathe while still others prefer to sit on the benches that line the sidewalks.  In the winter a few hearty souls traverse the park on cross-country skies or snowshoes, and this snow-covered slope is a popular site for sledding.

The Cleeve-Tucker Monument is set at the point where the Eastern Prom begins to curve toward Back Cove.  This tall obelisk is easy to ignore because there is usually so much activity in the area.  The monument was built to honor George Cleeve and his partner Richard Tucker who are credited with being the founders of Portland.  In 1633, Cleeve and Tucker landed their boat with their families aboard just a short distance downhill from this historical reminder (Cleeve-Tucker Memorial).

Today, food trucks vie for parking along this stretch, each bringing its own unique specialties.  Their painted exteriors, inviting menus and the mouthwatering aromas they emit attract hungry customers.  

On this day, just steps away, children swing, slide and climb on playground equipment.  Beyond them a large animated group of people move or dance to music, bringing back images of the flower children of the 1960s.

On a much quieter note, there is a flag pole lower down the hill and a rectangular bed of cobblestones.  A rock in the center of this area is inscribed “Within this enclosure were buried 21 soldiers captured by the English at the battle of Queenstown, Canada, in the war of 1812 and died in hospital here on their way to Boston.”  Some of the stones bear names and others are marked “Unknown.” 

On the rise on the other side of this tribute is one of Portland’s many community gardens.  What a beautiful place to grow vegetables and flowers.  The nearby tennis courts and baseball field have spirited matches going.  Although few people probably notice the graveyard, this juxtaposition is another powerful reminder of the freedoms we enjoy and the price that has been paid by so many over the years.

The park becomes more heavily wooded in the next stretch with a variety of trees growing on the embankment and obscuring all sign of the bay beyond.  At the end of this stretch is another Eastern Prom map (you have now traveled across the entire map) and a trail head marker with its path leading down to the shoreline walk below.  We have now reached the “You are here” rectangle on the left side of the map.   

From this point the large salt-water inlet ahead is Back Cove, and it marks the end of the Eastern Prom. 

Here is another military memorial…this one honoring Major Charles Joseph Loring, Jr.  Loring was born in Portland in 1918 and raised in the Bayside neighborhood.  He attended Cheverus High School and Portland Junior College before enlisting in the U.S. Army in March of 1942.

He became an Army fighter pilot and was sent to Europe in 1944 where “he completed 55 combat missions before he was shot down” and spent the next six months as a prisoner of war. He again saw action in the Korean War, and “during a close air support mission on Nov. 22, 1952, Loring’s flight was dive-bombing enemy gun positions. He was hit repeatedly by ground fire during his dive. Instead of withdrawing, Loring aimed his F-80 directly at the gun positions and deliberately crashed into them, destroying them” (Maj. Charles J. Loring, Jr.).

Loring Air Force Base in upper Maine was named for him, and this dramatic landscape installation was created in 2000 in his honor.  At the center of the piece these words surround a circular grate, “When all our histories converge…When all our stars come together in the defining moment.” 

Five rays spread from this circle, each listing notable aspects of Loring’s life and character.  They cut through large boulders and point toward “nine foot-high, one foot-square granite ‘sentinel posts.’”  One bears the word REMEMBERING and the other four each have “a single word carved vertically in large letters into its surface. The four words, going from left to right are SPIRIT, INTEGRITY, PRESENCE, and HEART.”  At night searchlights shine up into the sky in silent tribute this brave and generous man who gave his life in service to our country (Loring Memorial). 

This point is also a beautiful place to enjoy a sunset at the close of a day in Portland.  Next week we will continue with more travels in the city and more of its history.

Recommended Resource:

Cleeve-Tucker Memorial.  Maine Historical Society.

Fort Allen Park.  Portlandmaine.gov.

Fort Gorges.  Greater Portland Landmarks.  greaterportlandlandmarks.org.

Loring Memorial.  Public Art Portland publicartportland.org

Maj. Charles J. Loring, Jr.  Nationalmuseum.af.mil.  May 8, 2015