Maine – Arundel & Goose Rocks: Trolleys and Antiques

When I think of Arundel, Maine, I don’t have a picture of a town…rather my mind takes me to a several distinct locations along the roads crossing the community.  The Town Hall is indistinct, located in a former two-story house, and the closest post offices are in Kennebunk or Kennebunkport.   Once I started digging into the town’s history this lack of center made sense.

The town has had a roster of names over the years according to the “History of Arundel” website: Cape Porpoise from 1653-1719; Arundel from 1719-1821; Kennebunkport from 1821-1915; North Kennebunkport from 1915-1957; and back to Arundel in 1957.  The last change was made in honor of Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957), the Kennebunk-born author of the Chronicles of Arundel, which was first published in 1930 and was turned into a movie starring Spencer Tracy in 1940 (Owen).   

The novel is the story of “the stirring days of the [American] Revolution’s earliest phases when Benedict Arnold drove his army of untrained colonials northward through the Maine wilderness toward the walls of Quebec” and the fictional hero of the story is from Arundel, Maine (cover flyleaf).

Roberts was born in the “Storer House,” the former home of General Joseph Storer, a Revolutionary soldier and a personal friend of Major General Lafayette.  Being born into such a rich cradle of American history seems to have impacted Roberts’ life work.  He became a highly respected journalist, but when he began writing fiction, he found difficulty bringing his characters’ dialogue alive and he turned to his friend Booth Tarkington for help (Owens).    

The tutoring was effective and Roberts went on to write a series of highly popular and historically accurate books.  He even received special Pulitzer recognition “For his historical novels which have long contributed to the creation of greater interest in our early American history” (The Pulitzer Prizes, Pulitzer.org).

Arundel is part of a greater area along the Kennebunk River that is thought to have been a planting grounds and summer residence for Native American tribes.  As with many Maine towns in the coastal region, the earliest industries were fishing and farming.  Arundel’s forests provided straight, tall trees that were turned into ships masts.  In addition, “there were at least five mills and a brickyard.  Most of the mills were saw mills, but one became a fulling mill where thread was made from cotton” and another became a gristmill (History of Arundel).

After the Indian Wars, “each returning settler was given a parcel of land in return for providing needed skills and service.  Within a few years a major settlement was created by giving 100-acre lots to sons and other young men on the Saco Road, now known as Route 1A.”  This gifted land was intended to be a buffer between Kennebunkport and the Native American tribes.  For additional protection, “the community built a garrison on the Saco Road to further protect them from raids.”

In the late 1800s the arrival of the railroad brought tourists and development along the coast.  Local farmers did not want to pay the increased taxes that were going into improvements along the shore area so they split off from Kennebunkport and became North Kennebunk in 1916 (History of Arundel). 

With its highly rural history it is no wonder that there is no commercial center for this sprawling town.  There were enough towns with stores and businesses nearby to provide good and services for these rural residents.  The now defunct rail line is part of the Eastern Trail, a 65-plus mile bike trail that runs from Kittery to South Portland.  U.S. Route 1 is the main artery running through the area, and sporadic and unusual points of interest appear along the route. 

A recent arrival to the area is Raptor Falls Mini Golf & Ice Cream.  In only about a year’s time this piece of land, filled with enormous prehistoric creatures, has become a popular attraction for golfers of all ages.   

About two miles down the road is Motorland, a used car lot that inevitably causes my husband to pause. 

This time they even had a 1946 Plymouth Coupe on display that took Don on a happy trip down memory lane.  This model was his first car in high school…but his was repainted turquoise with pin striping on the body and on the dash, moon hubcaps and even dual exhaust pipes. 

I was fascinated by the ’56 Chevy “BelAir” station wagon that had a collection of 48 state decals on its windows.  I could just imagine it rolling down the road for a summer vacation filled with a family, suitcases and a large collection of road maps.  

But the fun doesn’t stop there.  On the same lot is the Maine Classic Car Museum, which is filled with rare and beautifully displayed cars.  The nostalgia of the old cars reminds me of how lucky we are to be driving down these two-lane roads enjoying the beauty, history and mystic of this wonderful state. 

Cars aren’t the only way to tour the roads in Maine as evidenced by the parking lot at Bentley’s Saloon, a favorite stop for motorcyclists.  The parking lot swells in the afternoon and evening with bikes and their riders who are hungry for food and camaraderie.   

Right next door is one of my favorite hubcap displays. We wondered how long ago Santa left the toy trucks around the base of this Christmas tree. The side lot also has interesting old cars, farm equipment and even a glider for sale. 

My husband believes that Maine is a place where history has stood still, in part that is because of the devastating effects the Civil War had on the economy followed years later by the Colonial Revivalists trying to recapture and preserve a seemingly more ideal era.  Maine’s remoteness has made it a unique and an often challenging place to live and earn an income.  Many adventuresome Mainers left their families and homes in the northern woods or along the shore to explore other parts of the country and the world…and many of them returned home bearing mementos of their lives away.  Over the years Don has discovered “Old West” saddles and holsters with markings from historic leather makers from Montana to New Mexico…soapstone carvings and totems from Alaska…and early artifacts of European, Roman, Greek and Asian origin…treasures gathered while away and brought back as souvenirs of times and places to be remembered.

Right at the crossroads of Route 1 and Log Cabin Road are two large antique stores (Arundel Antiques and Antiques USA). 

Joanne Cacciapaglia and her daughter, Miranda, run Arundel Antiques where we have made some interesting finds.  Adjacent to the store they also have a vibrant antiques flea market where we like to browse to see what “new” items have made their way out of Mainers’ closets, attics and cellars. 

Take a minute before you drive away to enjoy the entertaining garden outside Arundel Antiques. 

After you are done shopping, turn down Log Cabin Road for a visit to the Seashore Trolley Museum.  In 1939 when the end was coming for streetcar service on the Biddeford and Saco Railroad, a group of enthusiasts pooled their money and purchased No. 31, the last open trolley car to be used in the state of Maine.  From 1900 to 1939, No. 31 carried passengers from Biddeford and Saco to the resorts and seaside activities in Old Orchard Beach.  The car could carry sixty seated passengers with others hanging on while standing on the running boards. 

Since being moved to this out-of-the-way location, No. 31 has been joined by over 200 additional streetcars and the museum grounds now extend to over 300 acres.  The Seashore Trolley Museum was the first of its kind to be established and over the years it has helped to “establish the private preservation railway movement in the United States.”  [NOTE: The museum has an abundance of informative signs and materials and all quotes in this section come from those sources.]

The collection is so large that it is hard to pick which ones to include.  “City of Manchester” (NH) parlor car was built in 1898, and its description reads: “The elegant design of this car, including the thick carpet, curtains and wicker furniture, made it suitable for usage by high officials and visiting dignitaries.” 

In 1947 and 1954 the passions of the citizens of San Francisco were so strongly stirred that they took action and to secure the future of their city’s streetcars.  Car 48 was acquired when a compromise was reached and half of the system was abandoned.

In addition to streetcars from across the country, the collection includes examples from around the globe.  Car 279 was built in 1914 in Rome, Italy and provided service there until 1960.  The yellow and green double-decker behind it saw service in Glasgow, Scotland from 1939 to 1963.

Some cars were built to carry more than passengers.  This little red one was attached to a passenger car and used for baggage and express deliveries while the Car 34 was operated by the United States Mail Service.

Over the years, the collection grew to include rapid-transit and inter-urban cars.  Car 434 went into service in 1927 for the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin RR.  The interior appointments included “rotating bucket seats, toilet facilities and neatly finished paneling.  This all made for luxurious rides to and from the Western suburbs to the thriving city of Chicago.”

The first bus arrived in 1962 and “the rubber tired collection gained momentum with the goal of representing major manufacturers and key vehicle models.” 

In addition to the collection of streetcars and other vehicles, the museum informs visitors about many other aspects of running and maintaining transportation systems.  We learned about track manufacture, layout and assembly; overhead electric lines, insulators and tension variables; the different power systems for streetcars, trackless- and rubber-tired vehicles; and the “motor truck” units that used electricity to propel the streetcars. 

Restoration work on the collection began in the 1950s with volunteers and interns taking on these projects as funds and time allowed.  The inventory of spare parts the museum acquired over the years has really come in handy for both restoration and repairs. 

Other volunteers developed educational programs, exhibits, and an archive and research library.  The museum has partnered with communities to help them build reproduction models of their former cars, and they have been involved in consultation with groups and municipalities engaged in studying the feasibility of the reintroduction of streetcars.   

I had a real EUREKA moment as I was looking through Don’s collection of railway badges.  Because these early railways were electric powered, the agency running the railway would need to be closely aligned with the local power company or the railway would be one facet of the power company’s operation…as evidenced in the “Claremont Railway & Lighting Co” and “Columbia Railway, Gas & Elec. Co.” badges.

Before we left, we got to take an open-air ride on the beautifully restored “Savin Rock” car from West Haven, Connecticut. 

We were now ready to leave the clang of trolley bells and all thoughts of city life behind as we set our GPS for Goose Rocks Beach.  At Clock Tower Farm, on Route 9 and Goose Rocks Road, we turned east toward the water.    

Goose Rocks is a small community with a breathtakingly beautiful broad sand beach and saltwater marsh.  About the only business is a small general store that sells necessities and sandwiches. 

There is so little parking that people in the know arrive early in the morning to secure one of the precious permits that allow street parking for the day.  You can bring along your beach chairs, umbrellas, books and picnic supplies or just take off your shoes and walk on the sands.

For those who want to linger for days or weeks there is lodging available depending on preference and pocketbook.  The Tides Beach Club is right across from the beach or…

…there are summer cottages for rent.  Many units have been carved out of larger homes and are within an easy walk to the beach.

Goose Rocks Beach is big enough that you won’t be bumping into other people, but early morning and twilight are especially lovely times to enjoy its quiet beauty.

A perfect way to end the day’s drive is dinner at nearby Ramp Bar & Grill.

The food is good and the setting superb.  This is Maine summer at its very best. 

Recommended Resources:

 “History of Arundel.” Arundelmaine.org.  Accessed July 31, 2020.

Owen, Joseph.  “This Day in Maine.”  Press Herald, July 21, 1957. 

“Pulitzer Prizes.”  Pulitzer.org. Accessed August 1, 2020.

Roberts, Kenneth.  Chronicles of Arundel.  New York: Double Day & Co., 1933.

Maine – Kennebunk(s) and Walker Point

Driving from Ogunquit to Wells, Maine, much of the land is part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.   Carson (1907-1964) was born in Springdale, PA, about twenty miles up the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh, which in her day was a city filled with buildings blackened by smoke from the steel plants.  She worked for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, writing radio scripts, pamphlets, etc., and eventually becoming Editor-and-Chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  She also wrote for newspapers and magazines, and poured her passion into books, the best known is Silent Spring.  

This 5,300-acre Wildlife Refuge here in Maine is a tribute to her and the impact she has made as a writer, scientist and ecologist.  The land runs in quilted patches along the fifty-mile stretch of coast from Kittery to Cape Elizabeth. 

In Wells, the Refuge abuts City of Wells and State of Maine lands, and this is where the Laudholm Farm is located.  The farm happens to be the site of one of our favorite antique shows, and is the home of the Wells Reserve Estuarine Research Center.  Each summer on about the last weekend in June, dealers set up their wares on the grounds around the farm buildings and inside the ancient barn.  After searching for vintage treasures, we love to roam the grounds of this saltwater farm.   

Inside the farmhouse is a visitor center with displays and information on the salt marsh, tides, and ongoing conservation and research projects.  The reserve covers 2,250 acres and has over seven miles of intersecting trails that are open year-round from 7am to sunset.  The trails cut through all sorts of terrain from an abandoned apple orchard and an aspen grove to peat bogs and tidal pools to Laudholm Beach on the Little River, which depending on the tide, may be a sandy beach or just a narrow path along the shore.  Rachel Carson would delight in the birds and wildlife making their homes within this inviting, natural space.

I love the 1904 water tank with its 2,500 feet of piping that supplied water from the Merriland River.  The river’s current, assisted by an electric pump and a series of one-way valves, pushed water uphill to fill two tanks.  The tanks, one above ground and the other below ground, in combination hold 2,200 gallons of water that, in their day, supplied water to the house and the cows’ drinking bowls in the dairy barn. 

In contrast to the peaceful, quiet beauty of the farm just six miles up the road in Kennebunkport, tourist traffic clogs the streets all summer long.  The town marks its boundaries with the Kennebunk River on the north and the Mousam River on the south, and its name comes from a Native American word meaning ”long cut river,” referring to a high bank at the mouth of the river the tribes used as a navigation point.  In 1640 Jon Sanders built the first house at the mouth of the Mousam River and other’s followed, but by 1690 ongoing Abinaki raids had cleared the area of European settlers.  They stayed away until around 1750 when they could come back and live under the protection of the newly established Larrabee Garrison. 

There are few signs left today that tell of the early fishing, shipbuilding and shipping that supported the growing town…but if you look behind some of the waterfront buildings you can still catch a glimpse of what the town looked like when a catch was being offloaded or laundry was still strung between the old wooden buildings. 

What is left from those days are the beautiful old homes of the sea captains and shipping magnates.  Many of these homes are now comfortable B&Bs and many are located within an easy walk to Dock Square with its eagle-topped granite pillar and waving flag.  The interesting old storefronts lining the square are filled with shops and restaurants.    

By the early 1900s there was a major push to turn the town into a resort area to rival Bar Harbor and “The Village Improvement Society, packed with more summer people than year-round residents, had seen to it that the village had well-kept fences and hedges, clean streets and docks, neat iron railings, roadside landscaping, and an ‘entire absence’ of rubbish or unsightly advertising” (Calhoun 50-51).

Now, you may want to roll down your car windows as you take the two-mile drive to Walker Point.   Savor the fresh sea-tinged air and drive through Cape Porpoise, following any little road that takes you close to the water, and enjoy the salt-grass marshes.  Look for old water-stained pilings where the tides have left their mark over the years.  It is easy to imagine men building dories and other smaller vessels on those old piers.

The Walker family had already been vacationing in the area for about twenty years when they shocked the community in 1902 when G.H. Walker bought Cape Arundel Peninsula (now commonly known as Walker Point). 

Part of the shock the locals felt when the point was purchased came because they had always been free to picnic, fish and hunt on this eleven-acre rocky spit of land that jutted out into the ocean.  They were also concerned that it had been bought by folks “from away”…never mind the fact that the Walker family had been summering there for at least two decades.  Over the winter of 1902-03, seventeen railroad cars of lumber arrived and “nineteen carpenters worked through the winter, and by July one ‘cottage’ was ready to be occupied, with the other completed by the end of summer” (Calhoun, 51). 

Building on the point continued over the years and it is now a compound that became internationally famous as the summer home of President George Herbert Walker Bush.  Today, tourists still stop along the side of the road to take photos and hope to glimpse Bush family members enjoying summer in Maine.

Another favorite photo stop is at St. Ann’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church where the Bush family worships.  The open land between church and sea was donated to the church and was dedicated in memory of Loulie Wear Walker (1874-1951), President George H.W. Bush’s grandmother. 

In spite of the Secret Service and the intense security, the Bush family members have become familiar faces in the community.  A couple of years ago, I found a rectangular brass luggage tag in an antique shop down the road in Wells that reads “Mrs. Barbara P. Bush / 5838 Indian Trail / Houston, Texas 77057.” 

My husband encouraged me to write a letter to Barbara Bush to confirm that this tag had in fact belonged to her.  As it turned out, we ran into Mrs. Bush in another antique shop just a week or so later…before she even had a chance to receive my letter.  When we approached her, she calmed the ever-alert Secret Service Agents and I explained that I collect sterling silver luggage tags, but had purchased this brass one, hoping that it had belonged to her. 

Mrs. Bush was very gracious and was curious to see the silver luggage tag I was wearing as a necklace.  After our conversation, we parted company and a short time later I received a lovely note from her on stationery with a drawing of Walker Point.  She confirmed that the tag was hers and she wished me well with my collecting.  I treasure the tag, the note and especially my personal encounter with this warm and charming woman.

Back a few miles inland, in the equally historic town of Kennebunk, the streets are slightly less tourist-traveled and they are lined with flowers.   Most businesses have beautiful gardens or planter boxes…lampposts are hung with baskets of flowers, and there are even little “dory-style” planters filled with colorful blooms along the curbs.   

For those seeking Maine history, Kennebunk is a good place to look according to Charles Calhoun.  He points to 1790-1860 as “the founding years of the modern state, and much of Maine’s towns, industries, educational system, religious beliefs, and ways of everyday life took shape” within that timeframe (52).

 U.S. Route 1 goes right through the heart of Kennebunk, and in the park where the road crosses the Mousam River, there is a “Museum of the Streets” sign with a street map and twenty-five historic sites listed. 

The surrounding forests were rich in timber, so lumbering, sawmills and shipyards drew a large workforce, and ship building was the primary industry between 1755 and 1918.  The Mousam River, which appears to be quiet and pastoral today, “was used for grist mills, paper mills, twine manufacture, leather-board manufacture, matting factories, shoe factories and more” (Museum of the Streets).

Tourism became the secondary industry and the Kennebunk Inn & Restaurant opened in 1799 to accommodate businessmen and travelers.  Tourism is the largest industry Maine today and the Kennebunks draw a good number of visitors in the summer and fall every year.

The Brick Store Museum is located in town on Route 1 in a block of 19th-century buildings.  The museum has a fine collection of Federal period furniture and portraits and its rotating exhibitions focus on the art, history and culture of the area.    

One of my favorite exhibits featured antique quilts.  The pieces reflected a diverse range of designs, colors, fabrics and patterns. 

One of the most fascinating Maine quilts I have ever seen was described by the museum sign as a “cyanotype pictorial history quilt.”  It was made in the early 1900s by Mary Adams Potter, wife of Camden, Maine, photographer Herbert Jay Potter.  “The squares were printed using a glass transfer method of his negatives onto chemically treated fabric.”   The twelve photographs are of the “mid-coast area from Camden to Owl’s Head, several schooners, and a portrait of the quilt maker.”    The squares and the paisley back were machine stitched and finished. 

For visitors who enjoy fiber arts, Camp Wool is a must see shop with an outstanding stock of fine wool fabrics, patterns, and products for rug hooking.  They also have hand dyed floss and pearl cotton and hundreds of patterns for penny rugs, cross stitch, needle punch and braiding.   For some of our friends, Camp Wool is their first stop on any Maine visit.  

Evidence of the wealth and social development of Kennebunk is reflected in its public buildings as well as the Colonial, Federal, and Greek Revival homes that line the streets.  Since there is so much less traffic than in Kennebunkport, it is a pleasure to walk, bicycle or slowly cruise the streets to enjoy the handsome homes.

The most photographed house in Kennebunk is the Wedding Cake House.  It began its life as “a rather chaste Federal mansion of about 1825.  In the 1850s, owner George Bourne encased his dwelling and barn with exuberantly Gothic filigree woodwork.”  One theory is that “its builder, an otherwise conventional shipbuilder – found in its architectural details an escape from his problems, personal and professional.”  His shipyard business was in decline and there were “a series of family tragedies and in his final years he busied himself with his Gothic Pinnacles, arches and tracery, his crockets and quarterfoils and cusps, doing much of the intricate woodcarving with his own hands.”  The lighthearted exterior did not change his luck: “The work was completed in the summer of 1856.  By December, he was dead of typhoid fever” (Calhoun 52-54).

After touring so much history in one day, you are probably ready to backtrack a bit to a restaurant that caught your eye along the route.  The Kennebunk Inn’s menu is highly regarded or you may want to return to the shore and finish your day watching for wildlife activity in a saltwater marsh or eating lobster along the shore.  Whatever you do, take time to enjoy and reflect on this unique place.

Recommended Resource: Calhoun, Charles C.  Maine (Compass Travel Guide).  Oakland, CA: Fodor’s Travel Publications Inc, 1997.

Maine – Kittery: Fishing War to Flowers

Kittery is located at southern point of Maine’s coast and is 293 miles from Eastport, the most eastern town in the United State…but 4,568 miles of jagged coastline lay between those two points (Woodward, 32)

We usually enter Maine by way of the Piscataqua River Bridge, which opened in 1972.  I love looking at its beautiful arch as we approach on Highway I-95 then the road makes a gentle curve and we come under the openwork steel grid and see the sign for the Maine state line.  As a passenger, I have a minute to enjoy the river and the boat traffic below before we are across and approaching the first toll booth a few miles up the road. 

Two other bridges span that stretch of the river and they both have sections that lift to allow large boats and ships to pass.  The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge carries Route 1 Bypass traffic between Maine and New Hampshire.  Its first iteration opened in 1822 and the bridge has undergone major changes over the years, including its most recent reopening in 2018.   I was curious about the bridge’s name and found on Wikipedia that it was renamed in 1987 to honor a “50-year employee of the Maine-New Hampshire Interstate Bridge Authority who rose from a secretary at its creation to executive director.” 

The original third bridge opened in 1932 and was named to honor the World War I Maine and New Hampshire soldiers and sailors who gave their lives for their country.  In addition to carrying Route 1 traffic, this is the only one of the three bridges that allows pedestrians and bicycles to pass.

No matter which of the three bridges we have taken into Maine, for some reason we have never tarried in Kittery, but this time we were driving from South Berwick on Route 103 and Kittery was our destination.  We didn’t need to worry about exceeding the speed limit along this stretch of road because there is interesting landscape and plenty of 18th and early 19th century homes to discover along the way.   Then, just before we entered into the historic town of Kittery, we had a spectacular new view of the Piscataqua River Bridge. 

The point at which the broad Piscataqua River flows into the Atlantic Ocean made a perfect location for English to establish a fishing station in 1631.  A few hearty souls and their female servants were left to survive the winter and state a claim to the area’s rich fishing grounds (Woodward, 92).   It didn’t take long for Kittery to become a populated and bustling port with ship building, shipping and lumber added to fishing as its major industries. 

All was well and expansion boomed until the English, French and Indians fell into disagreement over control of the territory and serious battles ensued.  The Indian raids emptied the central part of Maine of almost all European settlers.  Even in nearby South Berwick, just twenty miles away, the attacks left some of the population dead and a mill destroyed while other residents were force marched to Canada and an uncertain future.     

Understandably, those living in the area around Kittery wanted to flee to safety in Massachusetts, but “Fearing the eastern frontier would become depopulated, the Massachusetts General Court forbade Mainers from relocating without their permission.”  Colin Woodward in his colorful account of this period reports that many of the remaining nine hundred residents turned to drink, supporting at least nine pubs and filling the “local court dockets…with alcohol-related crimes.”  He goes on to say that life on the “Maine frontier was a serious business, and those who survived under these conditions had to be stubborn, self-sufficient, and able to endure considerable physical and emotional punishment.”  (Woodward, 114-15)

Finally, in the early 1700s the warring turned into occasional sparring and Maine resettlement was underway.  Lumber, ship building and shipping brought prosperity to some, but another major battle was being played out for control of the North Atlantic and her fishing grounds…waters teeming with cod, haddock, halibut and lobster.  The French were so determined to win that they spent thirty years and a treasury of francs to build a fort in Louisburg, Canada, which was completed around 1740.  This was no ordinary frontier fort but a large, solid stone structure on the coast.  It was so large and seemingly impregnable that it was called the “Gibraltar of the West.”  Huge cannons were trained on the sea and the French Navy’s North American operations were based here as well as “a fleet of privateers, semiofficial birds of prey that darted out to plunder North Atlantic shipping” (Rich, 77).  

Maine fishermen bore the brunt of this aggression and their livelihoods were in peril, but the Massachusetts Bay Authorities didn’t see any need to send money or men to help protect them or these waters.  Through sheer persistence, lies and luck, a man named William Vaughn was finally able to get a measure passed by the Massachusetts Bay Authority to approve a campaign to fight the French, but there was to be no monetary support from England.     

The attack on Louisburg started in 1745 and took an entire year to bring victory.  The Governor of Massachusetts assigned Lord William Pepperell, a well-to-do merchant with no military skills, to lead a force of raw independent-minded fishermen, farmers, merchants and lumbermen and their “cockleshell fleet.”  The only qualifications for service in this ragtag regiment were 1) showing up and 2) owning a gun.  

Rich’s frequently hilarious telling of the “hen-headed scheme” helps soften the brutal conditions the men endured.  Her light-handed telling of this heroic saga does not in any way diminish the courage, determination and ingenuity the men displayed throughout the year, especially during the brutal winter and on into the mud-sucking spring of 1746.  I almost felt that she was writing through tears as she recounted the sad conclusion of this military victory (Rich, 76-86). 

 After holding his ragtag lot of men together and leading them to victory, Lord Pepperell returned to Maine a hero and a physically broken man.  He was made a baronet and died shortly thereafter.  But this unlikely military leader did more than win a major victory against the French; he also helped plant seeds for the American Revolution.  Mainers had been hung out to dry for years, so to speak, by the Massachusetts leaders who were supposed to be governing and protecting them.  Against all odds, this untrained but spirited force had taking on a powerful enemy nation and won.  This lesson was not soon forgotten and when the call to arms came twenty years later to fight against England, memory of this event stirred passion and encouraged people to believe a victory was possible.  

After his death, Lady Pepperrell was left with enormous inherited wealth from both her own and her husband’s families.  She chose keep the English title of “Lady” rather than assuming the American “Baroness.”  She also chose to remain in Kittery and in 1760 built a lovely Palladian house on a hillside overlooking the Gulf of Maine. 

Her home, which is now privately owned, is situated across the road from Kittery Point’s First Congregational Church (established in 1714)…

…and the Old Burial Ground is located alongside her stone-walled garden.

On my walk through the old burying grounds, I discovered Robert Browning’s epitaph on the grave of Celia Thaxter’s husband, Levi Lincoln Thaxter.

Once we returned home, research on this obscure piece of granite introduced me to the Isles of Shoals and to Celia Thaxter (1835-94), a painter, writer and poet who created renowned gardens (Calhoun 31-33).  At about the time when Lady Pepperell was overseeing house construction, Celia Thaxter’s father was hosting tourists miles offshore in his Appledore House on the island of that name.  There are nine islands that comprise the Isles of Shoals with four being a part of Maine and the other five under New Hampshire’s jurisdiction (Calhoun 31-33).  [On the map below, the islands are in the lower right corner.]   

Back in the 1800s, Isles of Shoals were visited by writers Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain and Sarah Orne Jewett as well as other creative luminaries. Celia Thaxter helped to make the island of Appledore famous through her poetry and her 1873 publication, Among the Isle of Shoals, “in which she described the pastoral side of island life and the poverty and drunkenness of its long-time inhabitants” (Calhoun 33).  

Impressionist and plein air painters loved her gardens.  Childe Hassam produced 400 or so paintings and drawings on the island and illustrated Thaxter’s 1893 book, An Island Garden, “one of the grittiest garden books of its day, full of slugs, gulls, thin soil and ceaseless winds” (Calhoun 33).  Thaxter was into reality and this popular book has been republished and is available for passionate gardeners as well as Hassam enthusiasts.

This year, because of social distancing and other restrictions, the ferry isn’t taking visitors to the Isles of Shoals and Thaxter’s gardens, but at least some of her flowers can be seen in Portsmouth, NH, at Prospect Park.  The annuals that were grown for the garden have been planted there instead.  In the park they have been arranged in long-established flower beds, but back on the island these sun- and wind-hearty beauties would be sporadically tucked in among rocks and perennials, adding unexpected dashes of color throughout the gardens.

Coming back to the mainland…a short stretch down the road from Lady Pepperell’s House is a military site that has served to defend Portsmouth Harbor from before the Revolution through World War I.  As early as 1689, earthworks and a small blockhouse were completed there and named after General William Pepperell.   In 1720 a new blockhouse was built to improve military defense and it also served as a toll station, extracting fees from ships entering Portsmouth Harbor.  In 1808, Massachusetts gave the land to the Federal Government, which then built Fort McClary on the site.  A brick Powder House and Rifleman’s House and a granite wall and earthworks are all that remain of the fort from that era.  Fieldstones at the far end of the parade ground are all that is left to mark a second riflemen’s house and a barracks also from that era. 

The magnificent block house remaining on the site was built 1844-46.  The first story granite walls stand on mortared fieldstone and the second story walls are built of squared logs.  At the same time, a granite Powder House was built behind and below the fort.  Fort McClary was officially deactivated in 1846, but it was called back into use after Confederate raiders seized a ship in Portsmouth Harbor during the Civil War.  The earthworks were extended during the Spanish American War (1898) and three large cannons stood ready.  During WWI the Powder House walls and roof were reinforced but again the fort wasn’t involved in any military action. 

The fort, with its surrounding twenty-seven acres, is a great stop for history buffs and it also makes a beautiful location for a picnic, a hike or just a good place to pause to enjoy watching the Piscataqua River.  Large stone blocks from some never completed project are strewn about on the grounds and make a fun place for children to play. 

The United States Navy has had a much greater presence in the Portsmouth area than the army.  The Piscataqua River, the Atlantic and other oceans and seas around the world have seen many ships that were built in Kittery.  John Paul Jones’ famous Ranger, the first ship to fly the Stars and Stripes, was launched at Kittery on May 10, 1777, and the U.S. Federal Government established the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Seavey’s Island in 1800.  

Again I have digressed and want to come back to Pepperrell Road.  On my list of things to see was the John Bray House, which has a bit of a convoluted story.  Bray did build a home on this property in about 1662, but it was not the existing house.  A 2-1/2 storey structure, possibly a meeting house, with a center chimney and granite foundation was built on the lot sometime around 1720-40 and it is one of the one of the oldest surviving buildings in the state. 

At first we couldn’t find the house but we accidentally turned into the driveway of this magnificent, strikingly modern home and then we retraced our steps and continued to look for the Bray House.  As it turned out we were within feet of the house as we were circling that driveway but didn’t realize it because the house has been much altered under the direction of its current owner, Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame.  The original 1700s “house” structure still remains, but it is now flanked by modernist, angular, starkly white-sided, grey-roofed components…a bit like a jumble of houses on a Monopoly board.  Not knowing the story, I asked Don to stop the car so I could take a photo of the house because of its interesting architecture.  A visit to the Jacobsen Architecture’s website will give you a photo of the original structure and extensive photos of the exterior and interior of the house as it stands today (jacobsenarchitecture.com).

It was finally time for us to make our way back to Portland, so we were again following Route 103 when Don saw a road on our right that looked interesting.  The roadbed was a ledge above a stream, and we spotted a few houses/camps squeezed against the steep bank between the road and the water below.  Beyond them a sign for Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier announced a colorful and sprawling operation that has been going since 1930.  It sits on a dock above the creek and is a fun place to stop and enjoy the view and a taste of Maine.  Parking is at a premium so an odd-hour visit is strongly suggested.

In spite of its rich history, Kittery is best known today for its outlet centers located right on Route 1.  Many visitors make this their first and only stop in Maine and leave the old parts of Kittery to be discovered by more history-minded travelers…but should you have a love of candy, you might want to stop at Yummies Candy & Nuts.  As my friend Nancy describes it:  “You are like a kid in a candy store only you are adult kid in a candy store with the means to make large purchases with no parental restrictions. Perfect!”

If you have time to explore, we encourage you to take one of the smaller bridges into Maine and give yourself time to savor the scenery and the history along the two-lane routes throughout the state. 

Recommended Resources:

Calhoun, Charles C.  Maine (Compass Travel Guide).  Oakland, CA: Fodor’s Travel Publications Inc, 1997.

Rich, Louise Dickinson.  State O’Maine.  New York: Harper & Row, 1964. 

Woodard, Colin.  The Lobster Coast.  New York: Penguin Books, 2004.

Maine – South Berwick: Cows to Classic Architecture

The tall, straight white pines of southern Maine’s forests caught the attention of seamen and the area became the prime source for masts on sailing ships that were plying the waters around the world.  The Salmon Falls River, which got its name from the abundant salmon leaping the falls during spawning season, provided transportation for the forests of harvested pines that were moved along its route to the Piscataqua River and on to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Instead of transporting enormous logs, the river is now the energy source for the Salmon Falls Hydro Station that provides power to homes and businesses in the area.

Legend has it that the machinery for what would become the first saw mill in the nation was unloaded in South Berwick from the Pied Cow in 1634…not exactly an auspicious name for a ship, but she must have been seaworthy because on an earlier visit that year she had brought the first cows to the East Coast, thus leaving Cow Cove named as a lasting tribute to her contributions.  As with the rest of Maine, South Berwick suffered through the turbulent years of French, Indian and English embattlement, but it eventually became a bustling place filled with ship builders, wharves, warehouses, chandlers, mills and merchants. 

Homes began to be built after the sawmill was in operation and the mill grew…its labor force enhanced by Scottish prisoners captured by Oliver Cromwell’s forces.  Indian raids in the later 1600s depleted the population, but by the early 1700s things stabilized enough that settlers returned and the town started growing again.   Berwick Academy was founded in 1791 to provide a classical education, and it is the oldest secondary school in the state.  The Fogg Memorial Building was built in 1894 to replaced the previous academy building that had been destroyed by fire.  The surrounding landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  Over the years, the institution has maintained a fine reputation, and today, the Academy has over five hundred day and boarding pupils in grades pre-K through 12th with students coming primarily from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

My first visit to South Berwick came three years ago when Don and I joined Historic New England, an organization dedicated to the preservation of early New England history and architecture.  We spent that summer driving back and forth across five states to visit their thirty-eight historic homes…two of which are located in South Berwick.  Most of the photos of the two homes in this piece come from that visit since the houses themselves are currently closed due to COVID-19, although the gardens are open to visitors.

American author, Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909), was born in 1849 in her grandparent’s circa 1774 home (right photo) and grew up in the house her parents built next door on the same property in 1854. 

The houses were in the heart of town, so she had ample opportunity to observe people as they came and went from the shops across Main Street and as they gathered for events at the Odd Fellows Building on the other side of Portland Street (right photo). 

Her father was a doctor and she often rode with him in his horse-drawn buggy down Maine’s narrow country roads to remote farmhouses or coastal cottages.  While he examined his patient, helped birth a baby or closed the eyes of those he couldn’t save, Sarah sat in the kitchen with the patient’s family and listened to their conversation.

She lived in her family home for the rest of her life and the town continued to evolve around her.  She stored those early impressions, her ongoing observations and lingering fragments of conversation until she began pouring them into her writing.  You may want to read The Country of the Pointed Firs in preparation for a trip to Maine…but to see Jewett’s Maine, you will want to visit places like South Berwick and other more remote communities miles away from the busy tourist towns. 

On a visit to South Berwick, it is easy to look at the old facades of the local stores and imagine what they would have looked like with pedestrians peering into shop windows while horse-drawn wagons lumbered past.  You might want to leave your car parked and walk a few blocks to look at the homes and gardens that populate the quiet streets.  Many of the people living behind those doors and windows speak in the distinctly Maine dialect Jewett’s characters use…words and inflections that are still spoken when locals talk to each other about the weather, their maladies and the neighbors…timeless topics that, in the hands of a great writer, make good stories.  Jewett’s writing exposes a private Maine that the tourist or new arrival may catch a glimpse of, but they will never be around long enough for them or their children to be anything but “from away.”

Last summer we learned how restrictive this term can be.  While we were dining in a restaurant on a popular and remote island, our server told us that at her wedding her new husband’s family criticized him for marrying a girl “from away.”  Our server had grown up just across the bridge on the other side of the waterway and her family had been living there in Maine for generations.   

Jewett’s home may have been built in classic Georgian style, but she did not feel compelled to keep every room furnished in that period.  We were surprised and delighted by the very avangard Arts and Crafts wallpaper she hung in the entry and the stunning William Morris carpet on the steps and landing of the handsome wide staircase. 

The parlor and dining room were more in keeping with traditional 18th and 19th century décor.

She positioned her grandfather’s desk on the second floor stairway landing and did the majority of her writing in this space.  From the window alcove above the house’s front door she had a constant view of the locals’ comings and goings. 

The South Berwick of Jewett’s youth was a busy place with mills, lumber, shipping and commerce but the Civil War changed that.  Maine lost more men per capita in the fighting during the war than any other state.  Without Southern cotton, once successful mills across the state closed, and formerly bustling sea ports became near-silent specters.  Large New England cities became heavily industrialized to meet war demands and society had changed as well in its aftermath.  The Colonial Revival movement gave those with nostalgia for earlier times an opportunity to recreate this environment for themselves by restoring Colonial homes and gardens.

Jewett watched her precious Berwick change and was especially alarmed when the Hamilton House, a Georgian mansion built in 1785 by Col. Jonathan Hamilton, reached a serious state of disrepair.

Hamilton was a Berwick native who had made his fortune as a privateer during the Revolutionary War.  In 1777, he bought an existing wharf and buildings, and then built a magnificent home situated on a rise above the Salmon River.  The property changed hands in 1839 when it was purchased by a farm family who worked the land (around 300 acres of forest and farm) until the end of the century when agriculture suffered and no longer provided a viable source of income.  (The source for the information on the Jewett and Hamilton properties came from our tour and the Historic New England website.)

By this time the house had fallen into disrepair.  Jewett loved the house and had even used it as a setting in her novels, The Tory Lover.  Rather than have the house fall into the wrong hands, she convinced her Bostonian friend Emily Tyson and her stepdaughter, Elise, to restore the house.  They purchased the property in 1898 and hired Herbert Browne of Little and Browne (Boston) to oversee the project.  The Tysons also had a garden laid out at the east side of the house and murals painted in the parlor and dining room, and as a final touch, they had a charming cottage built on the far side of the garden.  Historic New England has an extensive collection of photos taken of the restoration by Elise Tyson, who was an accomplished amateur photographer.

The home is so beautiful that these photos speak for themselves…the entry hall and dining room:

Parlor and dining room murals:

Upstairs:

Glimpses of the Garden:

The Cottage and its garden…

Cottage interior with paneling from a less fortunate Colonial home in New Hampshire…

After her stepmother’s death in 1922, Elise Tyson Vaughan and her husband Henry Vaughan were encouraged by William Sumner Appleton, the founder of Historic New England (HNE), to keep the house.  Elise summered in the home until her death in 1949 at which point it was transferred to HNE to be maintained as one of their properties. She also bequeathed 160 acres of land to the state of maine to be kept in its natural state.  That land became Vaughan Woods State Park, a glorious forest of towering hundred-year-old pines with almost four miles of easy to moderate hiking trails.

Back down the road at Salmon River Falls, the Counting House Museum is well worth exploring when it is able to reopen. We were advised by museum staff that the new feature exhibit will be about Scottish settlement in the area.

On an earlier visit to the museum, we learned the story of Mehitable Goodwin who was captured along with her husband, brother and his family during an Indian raid in 1675.  One day earlier, her father and two of her brothers had been slain by the attackers when they attempted to bury neighbors who had been killed in the raid.  The captives were forced to march at a fast pace (with the British at their heels) to Quebec where they were assigned as servants in Canadian homes.  After five years, the captives were ransomed and Goodwin was reunited with her husband.  They resettled in Old Fields (South Berwick) and she was buried years later in the cemetery there when she died.

Despite a somewhat sleepy appearance, we found South Berwick rich in history and well worth a visit.  The Hamilton House has reopened for scheduled tours on weekends (call Historic New England to book an appointment) The house, gardens and river setting make it well worth the drive. 

I’ve listed two books below for suggested reading.  Louise Dickinson Rich’s writing is both informative and entertaining.  She offers a Mainer’s perspective on the state’s history and writes in a fresh and lively style.  Sarah Orne Jewett’s characters speak in regional dialect, but the issues they discuss are still timely.  Jewett is also viewed as an early feminist writer…although strong women were easy to find in Maine communities where occupations like lumbering and seafaring took a toll on the male population, which was also seriously depleted by the Civil War.  Both writers are entertaining and perceptive and they provide distinctive and appealing introductions to Maine.

Recommended Resources:

State O’Maine by Louise Dickinson Rich, New York: Harper & Row, 1964.  Her love and passion for Maine and her lively writing style make this historic account of the state a page-turner that I couldn’t put down.

The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories by Sarah Orne Jewett, edited by Mary Ellen Chase with an introduction by Marjorie Pryse.   New York: W.W. Norton, 1981.  Certainly many fine versions of Jewett’s work have been published over the years, but I particularly liked Marjorie Pryse’s introduction.   Historic New England – Anyone planning a visit to New England should look into this organization and consider purchasing a membership.  For a moderate cost, their roster of thirty-plus homes is available to tour for no additional charge and their website and library are exceptional resources.

Maine – Ogunquit: “Beautiful Place By the Sea”

Route 1 comes into Maine at Kittery and follows the Atlantic Coast beyond East Machias until it comes to Whiting when it turns north and starts to parallel the Canadian border.  At a little place called Hamlin it loops west and meanders along the southern bank of the St. John River until it reaches Fort Kent.  The other end of Route 1 is in Key West, Florida.  This route has been a major north-south passage since 1926.  We can’t claim to have covered its full 2,369 miles, but we have covered a lot of its miles here in Maine.     

Back in southern Maine, along the last stretch of Cape Neddick before driving on to Ogunquit watch on the right side of the road for the low red building that is the home of Flo’s Hot Dogs.  Many summer visitors make this their first food stop in Maine…bypassing the lobster rolls and fried clams served up along the beaches in York…and I can understand why.  We try to plan our drives along this stretch of road so we get to Flo’s on Thursdays through Sundays between 11am and 3pm, the only days and hours they are open.  Florence Stacy bought the business in 1959 and the third generation of the family is still serving up their steamed hot dogs with Flo’s famous relish.       

After enjoying your hotdogs, you may want to backtrack a bit to York Beach and pick up Route 1A for the most scenic drive into Ogunquit, an Indian name meaning “Beautiful Place by the Sea.”  In town the two-lane road slows to a crawl in the summer but this is a town to visually savor.  It is worth finding…even paying for…a parking spot so you can visit Harbor Candy Shop, a family business that began as a fudge shop in 1956.

In my mouth-watering photos of the shop’s interior, we have an unusual guide.  On a family visit to California, Don’s great niece Sophia insist that we take her most favorite stuffed animal, “Plush,” with us on our travels.  For many months a blue elephant joined us and was photographed in the colorful settings we visited.  These photos were sent to Sophia so she could keep up with his cross-country and New England adventures.  Just before Christmas that year, we gently packed up travel-weary Plush and sent him home to rejoin his mistress. 

Across the street from the candy store, the little Leavitt Theater has been screening movies each summer for almost a hundred years.  We stopped there once to see one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.  It was fun to sit in this historic setting that had started showing silent movies with live piano accompaniment in the 1920s and see swashbuckling Johnny Depp taking on the ghosts of a haunted sailing ship that rose out of broiling ocean water.

Just about two blocks away is the Ogunquit Memorial Library with its Romanesque stone exterior.  If it is open, take a moment to pop in and savor its quiet, book-lined interior.   Nannie Conarroe had the library built in 1897 in memory of her husband, George.  The couple lived in Philadelphia, where Mr. Conarroe practiced law, and they summered in the Ogunquit area for many years.  In addition to having the building constructed, she donated 1,500 books from her personal library and established a generous trust fund to maintain it well into the future.  In 1914, the fieldstone building was enlarged to the size it is today. 

Ogunquit was settled in the mid-1600s and by the end of the century ship builders were making schooners, brigs and dories along the Ogunquit River.  Inland there was enough flat land and decent soil for farmers to be able to raise crops.  The first tourists began to appear in the late 1800s when cities had become such crowded, hot and dirty places in the summer that those who could began escaping to more scenic places with comfortable climates. 

In Ogunquit locals began to rent out rooms and sheds, which made the natural beauty of its coast and the picturesque farms and forests an affordable alternative.   

Boston artist Charles Woodbury (1864-1940) was already well established by this time.   Woodbury was well grounded in European style painting and was developing a more impressionistic approach to his work.  He felt that a painter should capture the big elements of a piece quickly on a canvas and then fill in only the essential elements.  While teaching his “Art of Seeing,” he met and married a woman from York, so the draw to Maine was natural and by 1898 he had established a studio on Perkins Cove and had organized the “Summer School of Drawing and Painting.”  Woodbury’s students and plenty of other artists erected their easels at sites up and down the coast to capture the magnificent waterfront and also went inland to record their impressions of Maine’s farms and forests.   

A current exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art has an entire wall presenting examples of “American Modernism” and it includes Woodbury’s “Winter Sea” (1910) and Clarence Chatterton’s “Road to Ogunquit” (1940) as well as examples of other artists who followed the impressionist philosophy.   

In 1902, Hamilton Easter Field, a student of Woodbury’s, bought a row of shacks in Ogunquit and rented them out to artists.  Nine years later, he and his protégé, Robert Laurent, opened the Ogunquit Summer School of Graphic Arts.  World War I and rapid social changes had affected many in the art world and their works were going in a new direction using in a bolder and more abstract style. 

Henry Strater, a former Woodbury student, opened the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in 1953 on land formerly owned by his teacher.  This museum is a place we love to visit even if we are not going to tour the current exhibits. 

We cannot resist the lure of the beautifully landscaped gardens, the sculpture-filled grounds and the dramatic ocean view.  Coming around the side of the building you are greeted by Cabot Lyford’s black granite “Otters,” and beyond them waves crash into the rocks in Narrow Cove. 

On a short pedestal near the otters is Robert Laurent’s 1940 sculpture “Mother and Daughter.” 

Days later we found his “Hero and Leander,” a 1934 carving on mahogany at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA).

William Zorach’s bronze armless “Victory” (1950) stands beautifully poised amid the plantings here in the garden.  His work is well represented both here at the museum as well and in the PMA collection. 

His wife, Marguerite, was equally prolific and several of her works are also in both museum’s collections.  These paintings are currently hanging in the PMA: “Les Baux (1910), “The Garden” (1914) and “Diana of the Sea” (1940).

A leisurely walk around the museum introduces visitors to a fascinating range of sculpture and conveniently labeled plants as well: “Lion” and “Rhino” by Bernard Langlais, “Morning” by John Flannagan and Brunnera Jack Frost. 

The two art schools turned Ogunquit into Maine’s largest art community….largest but not the only art community as you will come to see as we share more of our travels around the state.

Another essential stop on any visit to Ogunquit is Perkins Cove.  It is difficult to remember that this is still a working harbor in light of all the tourists crowding onto this little piece of land.   Lobster boats, tour boats and sailboats are moored in the sheltered water and the narrowing spit of land is filled with colorful shops and parking lots. 

We sometimes pause for lunch or an early dinner at Barnacle Billy’s because we love to sit on their terrace to enjoy the view of the cove and their magnificent garden. 

This is also a perfect starting point for the Marginal Way Walkway, the greatest gift the town of Ogunquit has ever received.  Conservationist Josiah Chase, Jr., donated the original mile-long parcel to the town in 1925.  Since then generous landowners and active fundraising efforts have succeeded in extending the walk to its current mile-and-a-quarter paved length.  There is no reason to hurry along this stretch with its magnificent unobstructed ocean views and dramatic rocky shores.  Benches encourage visitors to enjoy the sea breeze while they watch the spry from the waves smashing against the rocks while others explore tide pools. 

Those who are interested can learn about the history of the folds, dikes and polished surfaces in the rocks at their feet, beginning in the Cenozoic Era through today (a period of 416-444 million years). 

Another sign identifies the birds that make the shoreline their home…while a family of Eider ducks floats atop the waves nearby.

A few people brave the bracingly cold Atlantic waters in the little pocket beaches.

The other side of the path is lined with sea roses and gnarled shrubs until it becomes the trimmed lawns and blooming gardens of the homes and hotels that would have lined the shore had it not been for Mr. Chase.   

By the time we reach Lobster Point Lighthouse we are nearing the town itself.  This charming, petite lighthouse was built in 1948 and it is not all it seems.  When we read the fine print on its sign, we learned that it functions as a pumping station for the Ogunquit sewer system! 

On the last stretch of our walk we look across at three-mile-long Ogunquit Beach.  This slim sandy peninsula was formed between the Ogunquit River and the Atlantic Ocean and its easy access has made it a favorite playground for visitors who want sand and sun. 

At the end of the Walkway, it is only a short distance on into town or a little longer walk back to Perkin’s Cove by way of the sidewalk along the road.  In either case there are lobster rolls and ice cream cones aplenty for those who have worked up an appetite.

Maine – The Yorks: The Historic Southern Coast

Maine is a little miffed this year at being denied her big bicentennial birthday celebration.  Neighboring Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island were included in the original thirteen colonies.  Vermont was welcomed into the union in 1791, but Maine was not granted independence from Massachusetts until 1820…almost thirty years later. 

Don has been exploring and living in this part of the country since 1976, so I have an experienced guide who is always eager to take a drive to uncover new pockets of history.

The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier is a lively historical account of coastal Maine history by Colin Woodard, a native of Maine.  Woodard’s narrative begins, “Nearly a decade before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, European settlers were eking out a living on the rocky coast of Maine.  Their descendants fended off aggrieved Indians, French raiders, English lords, and greedy land speculators to found one of America’s most iconic and compelling cultures: the lobstering communities of coastal Maine. “  

The southern area of Maine was granted to Sir Ferdinando Gorges in 1606 by King James I.   Gorges early attempts to establish a foothold in this wilderness were not successful…ships went astray and never arrived; conditions were too cold and severe for farming; and the Wabanaki population was too strong and hostile for settlers to survive.  In 1620 Georges went back to the king and proposed a “Council of New England” be established.  In theory it granted greater powers than the earlier charter and even extended to taxing the fishermen who had been plying these waters since the 1500s.  By this time the Wabanaki populations had been reduced by European-introduced diseases and were no longer as much of a threat.  Georges’ tracts of land were too vast to oversee, so he focused on the area in the “Province of Maine” that he named Gorgena (which would later become York).  

The plantation that was established in York in 1624 was settled on the site of an abandoned Indian village and was populated by settlers from the West of England.  Many of them were fishermen, sailors and merchants and of a traditional, Anglican mindset.  Others were tenant farmers with strong farming roots who had faced such poverty in England that even the bleak conditions of this hardscrabble shore did not deter their efforts.   These people were distinctly different than the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony…a distinction that would play out in many ways over the years.  

In Massachusetts, towns were more like those in eastern England with central greens, salt-box houses, clearly delineated property rights and close connections to other towns and villages; whereas, in Maine, settlers “scattered themselves across the landscape, creating dispersed ribbon-like settlements of isolated homes fronting rivers or the sea.  Towns were far apart and separated by forests, swamps, and rivers, and almost all transportation was by boat or dugout canoe” (Woodard, 76-97). 

 The death of Gorges in 1647 and the execution of King Charles I in 1649 left the inhabitants of the Province of Maine with no real governance, so the residents essentially operated under self rule. 

With Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers slashing, killing, and burning their way through Ireland to bring those “heathens” into the proper religious fold, the Puritan Bay Colony leaders felt compelled to do the same for sinners on this side of the Atlantic.  They viewed their northern neighbors as “wild English” who needed to be shown the light…coincidentally, the Bay Colony was running out of space to expand their settlements.  The great expanse of Maine became land to be “conquered in God’s name” and for its untapped resources. 

Without strong governance from England, Puritan leaders felt they should take the leadership role in the colonies.  They reviewed their old royal charter and decided that they had “sovereignty over New Hampshire and southern Maine” (Woodard, 102).   Their first step was to send representatives to these areas with articles of submission, which were promptly signed by residents in New Hampshire.  Mainers were less receptive since they had been functioning independently for years and some of them had moved to Maine to escape the rigid and intolerant society in Massachusetts.  After heated debate and a lot of vicious, at times almost deadly, political chicanery, town by town the articles were signed and by 1657, Maine was a colony of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

Puritan purification, which had included beatings, jail, branding and death for perceived heretics, was even more severe when dealing with Native Americans.  Whole villages were attacked and the men, women and children were slaughtered.   Puritan leadership felt compelled to bring all their northern neighbors into step.  Strict governing mandates were sent out to Anglicans, Baptists, Quakers and other “religious savages” living in the hinterlands.  They were to follow these rules…or else! 

Mainers found themselves in a tenuous position.  They were unable to fight the many rules and complex land grant issues that were being used to beat them into submission.  At the same time they were being attacked by Indians who were enraged by encroachment into their lands and by the French who were pushing into Maine from the north.  Early Maine history is replete with accounts of Indian raids with survivors scurrying into New Hampshire and Massachusetts for safety. 

The worst incident came during the French Indian Wars.  During the Candlemas Massacre, January 1692, hundreds of Abenaki attached York, killing many townspeople, burning most of the buildings and forcing the survivors to walk to Canada (they were later ransomed and returned).   

Safely back in Massachusetts, Puritan leadership could look on such incidents as affirming their work since this must have been “the hand of God,” invoking his wrath on the heathens.  They also felt secure with Maine and New Hampshire helping to insulate their communities from attack. 

By 1726, after about forty years of conflict with the native population, the mid-coast of Maine was bereft of English settlement with only Wells, York, and Kittery barely surviving in the south.  At this point, English intervention helped quell some of the danger but brought new political struggles. 

Today, “The Yorks” is actually a collection of four communities: York Village, York Harbor, York Beach and Cape Neddick an area that spans from Kittery to Ogunquit.  York Village stands out because of its distinct historic feel with its collection of 17th– and 18th-century homes and buildings.  The Museums of Old York is an assemblage of eight buildings that present a picture of coastal village life in earlier times.  Elizabeth Perkins House is especially interesting because its restoration began in 1898 when Elizabeth and her mother chose to buy “a decaying property on the banks of the bucolic York River” rather than build a grand summer home on the shore as their fellow New York friends were doing (Calhoun, Maine, 41).    Elizabeth set out repairing the home and restoring it to Colonial Revival period condition, which was quite novel at the time.  She also created gardens and landscaped the grounds to complement the home.

Other buildings that are part of the Museum complex include: the Emerson-Wilcox House, a 1742 building that served as a tavern, general store, tailor shop, post office and private residence over the years and Jefferds’ Tavern was built by Captain Samuel Jefferds in 1750 in nearby Wells and moved to this site in 1939. 

The taverns’ new site is across the street from The Old Burying Yard and First Parish Church, which was established around 1670.  

A strole through the graveyard gives an interesting glimpse into former residents of the community like Abigail Carlile who’s stone tells that she died in 1797 at age 40 “without issue, a lively Christian.”  Some of the graves are even from victims of the Candlemas Massacre in 1692.

The Old Goal was established in 1656 and used as a jail for over two hundred years.  The 1719 structure is furnished according to the inventory of William Emerson, who was the “gaoler” in 1790.

Another museum building just a short drive away is the John Hancock Warehouse.  It is situated on a bank of the York River and was owned by the famous Declaration of Independence signer until 1794.  It is one of the oldest surviving commercial buildings in Maine.

Although the museum complex is closed for now, we are eager to return when it reopens.  As with much travel these days, it is necessary to call before planning a visit.  Many websites are not up to date and hours and closings are subject to change, so be sure to check before starting on any museum visit.

A drive or walk along the streets of York take visitors back in time and give testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of those who settled and continued to dwell and make a living in this beautiful yet harsh environment.  Watch for placards with names and dates on the older homes to discover some of the history that is wrapped within the lovely white wooden sided walls many of them wear today. 

Driving up the coast through York Harbor, you see some of the grand summer “cottages” that Elizabeth Perkins’ friends and others from Boston and Philadelphia were building in the late 1800s and early 1900s.   Maine’s beautiful coastline and its cooling breezes gave them the opportunity to escape the heat of the city in the summer.  Now these old rambling two- and three-story Victorian structures have more contemporary and still grand neighbors that continue to be built whenever a suitably sized piece of land comes available. 

Summers were a very social time back at the turn of the century with friends and family gathering for events at places like the York Harbor Reading Room.  The club was established 1897 in a rented facility, which it quickly outgrew.  Their “new” clubhouse was built in 1910, and this still private venue is now a popular for weddings and other celebrations.

The Sayward-Wheeler House, built in 1718, is an interesting home we had previously visited.  Jonathan Sayward was a third-generation Mainer (born in 1713) who acquired the property from his father and lived there until his death in 1797 at the age of 84.  Jonathan was elected to be the town constable when he was 28 years old, and he commanded the Sea Flower for his Majesty during the 1745 British raid of Louisburg, Nova Scotia. 

He continued to prosper in his business enterprises and rose in community status, serving as a judge and in other appointed offices as well, but in later years he lost his financial and community status because of his loyalty to England; although, unlike many others, he was still allowed to live in the community (Historic New England property sign). 

In light of his political viewpoint, it is not surprising that I spotted this quote among some photographs on display.

Beyond York Harbor the rocky shoreline changes into one of the few long stretches of sandy beach in Maine.  York Beach is a situated on Long Sands and Short Sands Beaches with the colorful Nubble Lighthouse (Cape Neddick) at something close to its midpoint.  The light stands dramatically on its rocky, wave tossed island and has been a beacon on the shoreline since 1879. 

The beaches have long been a summer playground for locals and a popular destination for tourists from across the country, Canada, and around the world.  The Union Buff Hotel built was built in 1875 to help provide lodging for the growing influx of tourists.  The original wooden structure was destroyed by fire in 1987 and rebuilt and reopened in 1989.  When visitors are not swimming or sunning, they can walk the colorful streets that are full of shops selling saltwater taffy, ice cream and souvenirs or spend some time in air-conditioned comfort at the Seaside Bowl and Fun-O-Rama. 

As inbound visitors are promised when they cross into the state over the Piscataqua River Bridge, Maine is a “Vacationland.”

Massachusetts – Rocky Neck: Travel without Encounter

On our first New England daytrip during the COVID-19 shutdown, we faced a different kind of touring.  We would normally be visiting museums and capital buildings and popping into antique shops and anything else that looked interesting, but due to the virus these were all closed to us.  After being sequestered without stepping out of our front door for two solid weeks, we were in desperate need of fresh air and adventure.  A drive to Rocky Neck, a picturesque Cape Ann in Massachusetts, and then to meander back to Maine following coastal roads sounded like the perfect adventure.  Along the way, we routed ourselves so we could stop in Danvers, Massachusetts, to pick up a book from a friend…and typical of travel in New England, we stumbled into history. 

In Danvers (formerly Salem Village), at a corner where we were supposed to turn left, we caught sight of the sign for the Rebecca Nurse Homestead and turned right onto its gravel drive instead.  Of course the property was closed, but we were able to get a glimpse of the restored home with portions of its core dating back to the 1600s. 

A quick Google search identified Rebecca Nurse as being one of the Salem witches.  Although people came forward to speak on her behalf at the time of her trial, she was deemed guilty and was hung in 1692 at the age of 71.  Sadly, her innocence was confirmed just twenty years after her death.  The house has been restored and its surrounding acreage is now operated by a non-profit Danvers group.  

After fetching the book that we had come for, we drove on to Cape Ann, a rocky promontory northeast of Boston that stretches into the Atlantic and marks off the top of Massachusetts Bay.  Two ships had arrived in what would become Gloucester in 1632, before the Massachusetts Bay Colony was even established.  They bore fishermen and planters who were the first settlers.  These men had been charged with starting an English plantation for King James I.

In Gloucester, which is now the largest town on the cape, banners declare the city as the “Oldest Seaport.”  On shore the “Fisherman’s Memorial” stands dramatically in all weather as a tribute to the thousands who have lost their lives while working to earn a living on the ocean with its challenges and dangerous conditions.  “They that go down to the sea in ships” are the words taken from Psalm 107:23 and chiseled into the statue’s granite base.

Narrow streets and homes dating back to the 1600s and 1700s confirm that this has been a bustling community for a long time. 

The harbor is still filled with fishing and lobster boats, and it is surrounded by fish processors, warehouses and seafood restaurants. 

Along one of the wharves, a series of billboards show historic photos of the harbor and tell about the history of the Gloucester fishing industry: the types of commercial fishing boats used for different catches (lobster boats, tuna boats and long-liners); changes in fishing practices for improved sustainability like new drag nets; and the challenges faced by fishermen today. 

As we drove away, we spotted a sculpture on a rocky outcropping above the harbor, so we parked the car and climbed the granite steps up the hill to explore.  Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-65), a Gloucester artist known for his marine paintings, is forever posed with his sketchpad in hand in a bronze by Alfred Duca.  (On the rock in the foreground are cast copies of Duca’s sandals.  He died before he could see the sculpture completed.) 

Lane’s paralyzed legs limited his options, so after a brief time as an apprentice shoemaker, he followed his instincts and went to Boston for art training.  Through his paintings and his creative imagination, he more than made up for his limited geographic sphere.  Lane had this granite block house built here on Duncan’s Point and lived in it until he died in 1865.    

My favorite part of this area is Rocky Neck, a spit of land just across the way from Gloucester’s city center.  This “neck” became known as for its artists’ colony that dates back to the mid-1800s.   

Out here, the road feels threatened by the ocean on each side.  The strong tidal surges and vastness of the water beyond underscore the rugged nature of this place.  In contrast, its narrow streets are lined with colorful studios, cafes, homes and a even a thriving boatyard that make it clear that this is a thriving community.  

John Nesta (1945-2017) is a favorite artist of ours who spent forty years living and painting on Rocky Neck and the surrounding areas.  His sturdy build, well-tanned skin and wind-tousled hair gave him the look of a sailor, and he enjoyed recounting tales and talking with visitors to his gallery/home.  When asked about a favorite work, he would always say “I am in love with my next painting.”  

In the early morning throughout the year, he could be found somewhere  in the Rocky Neck/Gloucester area, sitting at his easel and working on a new plein air piece with his “Studio On Wheels” van parked nearby.  

It is fun to drive around the area trying to find the exact spot where he might have been sitting when he was painting a particular piece…the scenes are that recognizable.  Don had even found the location Nesta used for this large landscape.

Rockport is another Cape Ann community that is best visited early in the summer season because it is so popular with tourists that it becomes overrun later in the season.  The historic buildings lining the main streets are filled with shop, cafes and gallerie,s so parking is almost always at a premium.  Only because the virus was keeping so many would-be visitors at home were we able to secure prime parking and window shop at our leisure. 

In spite of the restrictions, lobster rolls still sell…and the owner of this little bookstore was standing at his open-top Dutch door, talking with customers and helping them make selections in spite of their inability to walk the aisles. 

We weren’t wearing masks, so the driver of a city vehicle stopped and kindly handed us a brown bags, each with a mask and a printout of the town’s face covering guidelines.  Thankfully, there was plenty of space for social distancing so we were free to continue enjoying the sunshine and sea breeze.

There was also plenty of space on the beach for social distancing and some people were taking advantage of the beautiful weather to be out enjoying a day on the shore. 

As he was driving, Don caught sight of an old masted vessel and wanted to get a closer view, so we found ourselves wandering in a boatyard in Essex on our way home.   The masts he saw were attached to the “Sylvina W. Beal.”  On the Wooden Boat Magazine website, she is described as an 80-foot converted sardine carrier that was built in 1911 and registered with Bar Harbor as her home port.  Here she looked abandoned and forlorn.  We are hoping someone will get her righted and into a cradle soon so she can be out of the mud, repaired and repainted, and back sailing the waves again.

I wandered around a bit, drinking in the setting.  The buildings were wonderfully weathered, and I couldn’t help enjoying the sense of standing in a place so steeped in history and purpose.  

Another old boat caught my eye and a sign announced that the “Evelina M. Goulart” is 83-foot long and was launched June 29, 1927.  She is described as a transitional fishing vessel.  In summers, up until around 1950, she carried a crew of 11-14 fishermen who harpooned swordfish.  She continued working up until 1985 dragging for cod and haddock with a crew of 9-10 men aboard. 

After leaving the boatyard, we continued our drive along the coast, taking in the historic towns, the changing shore line and the sea air.  We arrived at home well satisfied with our plein air adventure.  In spite of the restrictions, we had enjoyed a stimulating day exploring a very special piece of New England.

Georgia – Cartersville: Booth Museum of Western Art

We happened upon the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia, in 2011 on a return trip from Atlanta.  We still had plenty of time left that day and the museum’s name appeared on one of those brown signs alongside the highway…the signs that denote cultural attractions in the vicinity.  The collection was so large and appealing that we spent the rest of the afternoon touring the galleries.  As we were leaving, we picked up a brochure with a list of sister museums that comprised “Museums West,” a consortium of thirteen institutions who’s collections focus on the people, art and history of North America’s West.   

Over the next eight years we crossed the country to visit each of these museums.  We traveled from Cartersville to Cody and Jackson, Wyoming…from Los Angeles to Corning, New York, and as far south as Orange, Texas.  Through these visits, we were introduced to artworks old and new that expanded our understanding and appreciation of the culture of the American West.  Each of the other twelve museums had held magnificent collections of Western Art, and they had all had substantially different focus, approach and presentation of their holdings. 

Now we were driving back from Orange, Texas, and the last museum on our list, the Stark Museum of Art…and our route took us back to the Booth Museum.  Over the years since our first visit, things had changed: the museum had almost doubled in size and the collections had expanded to fill that new space.

Outside the museum’s entrance we paused to admire Austin Barton’s sculpture “Attitude Adjustment.”  The sign reads: “This confident cowboy, aboard the spirited horse, is engaged in a test of wills.  As the viewer, can you decide who is adjusting whom?”  With this question planted, we begin our return visit to the Booth, knowing that we too could have our attitudes adjusted though our encounter with new art and ideas.   [NOTE: All subsequent quotes come from museum signs.]

“A Meeting in Time” is an enormous painting that introduces visitors to the eighteen United States Presidents of the 20th century.  This expansive work is a perfect segue to the Carolyn & James Millar Presidential Gallery that holds a collection of original one-page, signed letters from every U.S. President, with an accompanying portrait and other memorabilia. 

Nearby, an earlier companion painting completes the presidential roster.

Standing silently in contrast to the jovial politicians is Glenna Goodacre’s bronze “He Is, They Are.”  The juxtaposition of this bound Native American and Presidents underscores the artist’s view that “we banished the Native American’s from their lands and tied their hands at the same time.”

Andy Warhol does not immediately come to mind when I think of western artists and the Warhol and the West exhibit quickly changed that.  As a child books and television introduced him to cowboys and Indians and they became a life-long interest, especially in his later years.  Warhol became an avid collector of Native American art, jewelry, weavings and artifacts.    

His early portraits of western television and movie stars feature Dennis Hopper, Howdy Doody, Elvis and other luminaries.

Probably due to his untimely death in 1987, his 1986 “Cowboys and Indians” series is not well known except for a few pieces.  This traveling exhibit is intended to bring overdue attention to this area of his work and to secure for him a much-deserved standing in the genre of Western art. 

Of course, Western art has been fascinating the public since the days of the early American explorers.  The artists who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their trek across the country to reach the Pacific Northwest and those who endured the hardships of Powell’s explorations of the Grand Canyon brought back images of lands and peoples that sparked interest in these previously uncharted lands.

Fact merged with fiction and illustrated magazine and book covers helped sell the Western action stories within their covers.  These stories, set in this rough, mysterious, and lightly populated land, moved to the big screen of the movies, and Gunsmoke and Bonanza became enormously popular and enduring television series…and Western legends continue to hold fascination today. 

I found myself wondering why I am so drawn to this genre.  I think it is because Western art is so approachable and evocative.  The works I like the best seem to plant the seeds for a story and encourage my imagination to pick up and travel from there.   

Western landscape paintings transport me to places with endless sky.  Dan Namingha’s “Reservation Dusk” with its narrow strip of mesa and Kevin Kehoe’s “Book Club” from his “Western Therapy Series” are both reminders of our role in the “big picture.”  Kehoe believes: “Feeling significantly insignificant is the West’s wonderful way of wow and wonder, while simultaneously resizing life’s trials and tribulations.” 

In “Dust to Dusk,” Billy Schenck expresses his view that a great vista reminds him of a symphony.  While artist Z.Z. Wei, feels that light and color tell their own stories about the interaction between nature and the human spirit.

In “Before White Man,” Michael Poulsen imagines Cody, Wyoming, as this small band of Native American’s would have seen the landscape. 

Many of the images and artifacts in the museum’s collections reflect Native American history and the changing character and traditions of the tribes over the years. The materials in these artifacts help historians piece together the lives, customs, travels and social encounters of these early peoples. 

While painters use oil and canvas to create their images, other artists express themselves in everything from cast bronze to delicate manipulated paper.

Prior to this return visit to the Booth Museum, we had been doing a lot of travel in the South, a region permanently marked by the impact of the American Civil War.   The Museum’s “War Is Hell” exhibit includes works that document a broad range of wartime experiences and emotions…from detailed documentation of the uniforms, arms and armaments of battle to haunting images of death on the battlefield…from the colorful jingoistic works that stir young men to enlist to the grim final days of the fighting.     

Some of these works are so intense that they reflect one survivor’s description of the fighting: “It was impossible to breathe without inhaling a bullet.”

Other pieces tell individual stories like “The Letter” or show the brotherhood of those bonded into close relationships by what they endured together. 

Finally, the end comes as shown in these two emotional works by Mort Kunstler.  In his painting “War Is Hell,” Kunstler captures the burning of Atlanta and reminds us of General Sherman’s pledge: “I want to make Georgia howl.”  Contrasting that is “We Still Love You, General Lee,” which shows the Confederate soldiers’ respect and affection for their leader when he returns from surrendering to General Grant at Appomattox. 

The Booth’s collections recognize and honor the past while presenting images of the changing lifestyle and landscape of the West today.  The landscape is still vast and beautiful, and men and women still work hard to raise livestock, farm and earn a living from the land.

Nelson Boren’s “Wishful Thinkin’” shows a real working cowboy reading about the glamorous lifestyle he is reputed to be living…a life that doesn’t match the realities, hardships and harsh conditions that fill his days.

In all weather there is work to be done.  In “Breaking Light” a cowboy sets out in the early dawn to face a long wet day in the saddle.  Whether saving a calf or hauling bales of hay in the snow, winter is long and challenging…

…but the job comes with a sense of freedom and satisfaction as seen in the four riders in Bruce Greene’s “Far From Phones and Freeways” and in Duane Bryers’ “A Day’s Work Done.”

The museum acknowledges that women were not just minding the home front, cooking and raising children…Girls, TOO! are artists and cowgirls.  For Texas artist Nancy Boren, the windmill in her painting “Aloft in the Western Sky” is a “circular symbol of sustenance, energy, life and empowerment.” 

Plenty of other women pull on their boots and saddle up to participate in ranch activities.

On the drive home, after touring the much expanded Booth Museum and spending time with its superb collections, we found ourselves already talking about a return visit.  That is the true stamp of a good museum.  They feed and engage me while I’m within their walls then memories of the artworks give rise to thoughts and reflection…and they invite me to return again and again to renew acquaintances with favorite works and to expand my artistic horizons.

Georgia – Warm Springs: F.D.R.’s Peaceful Refuge

Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Warm Springs for the first time in 1924.  He came seeking relief from the crippling effects of polio…but as it turns out this quiet rural enclave gave him so much more. 

In the comforting waters of the pools, he was free of the braces, canes and wheelchairs that both aided and hampered his physical movement. 

Buoyed in the warm, comforting water he relaxed, splashed, played and was even occasionally dunked by enthusiastic young participants.  Polio had no favorites; it struck people of all ages and was oblivious of social privilege.

Although he found no cure, Warm Springs became a comforting haven for FDR.  In 1927 he bought a formerly-popular inn with its surrounding 1,700 acres and began plans to build a personal retreat.  A small clapboard house with outbuildings was completed in 1932 while he was still serving as Governor of New York.  He employed Henry Toombs, do the design. The construction included a cottage, garage, servant’s quarters and guest house, all completed at a cost of $8,738, including landscaping.  This retreat was a far cry from the grand surroundings into which he had been born in Hyde Park, New York, on January 30, 1882.

Also in 1927, Roosevelt and some of his friends founded the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation to help provide support for care of those suffering from the effects of polio and for research to help stem its spread.  With Roosevelt’s support the organization grew and a national campaign called the “March of Dimes” began in 1938.  The polio epidemic had already taken thousands of lives and left many people with permanent physical disabilities. 

The “March of Dimes” campaign had been started prior to FDR’s birthday in 1938 with much publicity and support coming from motion picture celebrities and studios.  Radio broadcasts promoted the campaign and special events were held across the country to raise money for the cause.  The appeal was extremely popular with both young and old especially since a dime was within the reach of all who wanted to donate.  Thousands of people responded by mailing cards and letters carrying dimes (and more) to the White House.  The response was so great that it swamped the White House mailroom and raised over $85,000 dollars that year. 

In Roosevelt’s radio broadcast on his birthday (January 30, 1938), he reported the delivery to the White House of forty to fifty thousand letters the previous day…making this the finest present he had ever received. 

The museum has two of his vehicles FDR used while he was in Warm Springs: a custom built 1940s Willys Roadster…  

…and a 1938 Ford convertible that was specially equipped so he could drive the vehicle himself.   

As he drove over the clay roads of rural Georgia, he would stop and talk with local people.  His passion for the people of the area grew during these travels as he learned first-hand of the effects of poverty and the devastating and lingering effects of The Depression.  Although more populated areas of the country were experiencing signs of recovery this wasn’t true for those isolated areas.  These encounters helped shape his thinking as he developed the policies and social programs that were eventually included in “The New Deal.”  One of the most obvious outcomes of those policies was the spreading of the electric grid all the way out into these hills.

When we left the museum, the first building we came to was the Servants’ Quarters where his cook, Daisy Bonner, stayed as well as FDR’s valet, Irving McDuffie, and his wife.

Government officials, cabinet members and other visiting dignitaries stayed in the one-bedroom Guest House.

A short walk from these two buildings was FDR’s beloved Little White House.  Here he was able to work without the ever-present distractions of Washington, and he was also able to relax and visit with friends and family.  

We entered the home through Daisy’s kitchen where she prepared the president’s meals.

The heart of the house is a wood-paneled combination Living Room and Dining Room, mostly furnished with pieces built in a factory established during the Great Depression for unemployed craftsmen by his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt.

To each side of this area were two bedrooms.  The president’s room holds a single bed and his working desk.

The demands of the office, especially the United States’ involvement in WWII, left FDR exhausted and in failing health.  In spite of this, he pushed on against his doctor’s advice and his best personal interest.  He attended the Malta Conference in January 1945 where he met with Winston Churchill and military leaders to plan the final campaign of the war against Germany.  Exhausted after Malta, he returned to these quiet hills and his beloved home. 

On April 12, 1945, FDR spent a peaceful morning in the company of family, friends, advisors, and his dog, Fala.  He was also scheduled to sit for a portrait that his long-time companion, Lucy Mercer, had arranged.  While Madame Elizabeth Shoumatoff painted, FDR sat at a table in his living room, editing the Jefferson Day Address that he was scheduled to give the next day.  Shortly after lunch he complained of a headache and collapsed. 

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died of a massive stroke there in his beloved Little White House where “The Unfinished Portrait” hangs today. 

The following are words from the Jefferson Day Address that FDR was editing at the time of his death.

Georgia – Columbus: Part 3 Camellias and Art

After touring the Naval Museum and the Infantry Museum, we drove a little in downtown Columbus and stopped at the info center where we picked up an armful of brochures.  A visit to the Visitors Center convinced us that there is a lot more to see so we already anticipate a return trip…but for now the Columbus Museum is next to be explored.

The museum opened in 1958 in what had been businessman and philanthropist W.C. Bradley’s home.  Today it is hard to discern the portion that was the home since it has been surrounded over the years by significant additions.  When we arrived the entire entryway was lined with potted camellias and people were loading plants into their cars.  The entrance and the parking lot looked like a nursery.

What timing!  We had arrived on opening day of the Chattahoochee Valley Camellia Society’s annual show. 

The great hall and its side galleries were lined with tables that were topped with uninterrupted rows of red, pink and white camellia blossoms, each neatly labeled and organized into categories.  A committee of judges was milling about, analyzing each blossom based on a roster of criteria: petal, anther and filament colors; vigor, size and growth pattern; and blossom structure.  There was such a variety with flowers ranging from flat, bowl-shaped blossoms to semi-double with large outer petals and smaller center cluster to doubles that ranged from peony to anemone to rose forms.  This was no simple beauty contest. 

When we could finally pull ourselves away from this evocative floral scene, we came to a series of displays that featured chairs.  Since I had spent several years selling chairs in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, this exhibit was of particular interest to me and it peaked my curiosity as to why so much museum space was devoted to this subject.   

The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman were displayed with the modern colors that were emerging in the late 1950s.  Visitors were invited to sample some of the seating as well as view it.

Photos and paintings drew our attention to the chairs rather than the subjects we would normally be seeking out, but I couldn’t miss James Dean’s photo.  Who knew he wore glasses?

It was fun to compare the sculpting and fabric from the Victorian Era and Charles Rohlfs’ unique cutout design from the Arts and Crafts period with the sleek design of Eero Saarinen’s scarlet sculpted wing chair and ottoman.

When I called the museum weeks later during the COVID-19 closures, the phone was answered by the chief of security.  He told me that he was the only person in the building and that the museum was “frozen” in time at that moment.  He explained that the chairs were not a permanent display and that they would be in place only until the staff was able to safely return.  This made me think about the impact of the virus on museum schedules all around the globe and the organization and precision needed to transfer art works between institutions to create these traveling displays.  It will be interesting to see how these very creative people deal with yet another challenge in their already demanding work. 

The museum’s Legacy Gallery traces the “human story of the lower Chattahoochee River Valley of Georgia and Alabama” beginning with the clash of cultures that began when settlers began moving into the Muskogee homeland.  “Creek” was the term that became used for Indians living in the Southern states and the Muskogee were one of the Native American groups within that alliance.

The Native American’s way of life ended with the Creek War (1813-1814) and the Trail of Tears (roughly 1831-35) when over 60,000 men, women and children were forced to march hundreds of miles to reservations in the newly designated “Indian Territory” in Oklahoma.  The Columbus Museum has long been involved in helping to preserve the culture of the Muskogee peoples.

The town of Columbus was named after Christopher Columbus and it was planned and established under the auspices of the Georgia legislature in 1828.  This is also the year when “Fanny” arrived.  She was the first steamboat to venture up the Chattahoochee River to Columbus from the Gulf of Mexico and many more like her were to follow, all eager to gain access to the abundant cotton crop awaiting them on the wharves of the city.  The railroad arrived in the 1850s further increasing the vitality of the community.

By 1860 Columbus became known as the “Lowell of the South” because its textile mills had surpassed production of those in Lowell, Massachusetts, which had long been famed for its textile production.  The growth of its mills and industry had been helped by the city becoming a transportation hub, making it easy to move manufactured goods to markets both near and far.  The demand for cotton was more than local and bales from across the region were transported to Columbus for shipment down river to New Orleans and from there on to New England and Liverpool, England. 

The Civil War brought even more industry to the city and Columbus became one of the largest suppliers of more than textiles…it became a center for the manufacturing of cannons and machinery, firearms, swords, bayonets, munitions and other items needed by the Confederacy.  In spite of serious shortages of supplies and manpower, the factories in Columbus continued production throughout the war. 

On April 16, 1865, after the General Lee had surrendered and President Lincoln had been shot, a Union detachment, unaware that the war had ended, attacked the essentially undefended city and set fire to many of the industrial buildings.  This was to be the “Last Land Battle” of the Civil War. 

Both Columbus and Phenix, Alabama, located just across the river, quickly began rebuilding and the mills were brought back to life.  World War I brought Camp Benning, a U.S. Army training facility to Columbus in 1918.  The city was on a growth track that would continue for years. 

The Legacy Gallery had provided us with this encapsulated history of Columbus and we were now ready to begin exploring the museum’s broad span of American Art. 

One of the first art galleries we entered held unusual works of modern art and glass.  This exotic display is difficult to photograph but fun to enjoy in person.  Colorful glass fish “swim” in an ocean environment within an elaborately framed gold case. 

Another fascinating glass work is Dale Chihuly’s “Boat Installation.”  This large scale piece is based on an incident that happened in 1995 when Chihuly was visiting Finland.  He tossed some of his blown glass figues in a river and watched them float downstream…later he encountered children playing with their wooden boats, which were now bearing his bright glass works. 

I have a special love of textiles and was delighted to find recognition of fiber arts included in several areas, ranging from traditional quilts to pieces in the gallery of Outlier Art (a doll quilt, a friendship piece and a woven sampler).  Also included are works in the contemporary realm with an abstract wool rug painting by Anna Betbeze’s titled “All That’ Left.”     

Rembrandt Peale’s portraits of George and Marta Washington greeted us in the gallery dedicated to more historic works as did Thomas Moran’s powerful piece “Sunrise at Mid-Ocean.”  We especially enjoyed the enviable scene of domestic bliss in Thomas Hovenden’s “Contentment.”

We learned that American Impressionists kept more of the reality of the scene in their works than European artists did.  John Henry Twachtman was one of the leaders of the Impressionist movement in this country and I have always been particularly drawn to his pieces, so I was happy to find his painting of “Horseneck Falls” on display.  

I also am fascinated to see how artists create works in white.  It is amazing how many colors and shades it takes to create the snow in Willard Metcalf’s “The Thawing Brook” and John Grabach’s “Orchard in Snow.”

Other works also raise questions: How does an artist make a piece appear three-dimensional and appear to rise up off the canvas?

Who would think to create a sculpture from just Mylar and glue…and how do you keep it dust-free, even in a glass case?

How does art history influence contemporary artists?

As with all good museums, the Columbus Museum provided images and information…and it gave us much to ponder.  We were well satisfied with our visit and it was time to move outside again.  Don had caught a glimpse of a garden adjacent to the museum and we needed to satisfy his curiosity.

On our way out of the museum, the camellia judges were still at work studying and evaluating flowers.  What pressure they were under to select the blue ribbon winners from among so many exquisite blossoms.  

The Bradley Olmsted Garden is an urban jewel that has been sculpted in the steep landscape to one side of the museum.  It was designed in the 1920s by the firm of Olmsted and Olmsted.  Their design populated the dramatic ravine with massive plantings punctuated with plants that add seasonal colors and textures. We were fortunate to visit during the height of azalea season. 

As I mentioned earlier, Columbus and the surrounding area still has much we haven’t seen so I anticipate a return visit this fall when we may make a few stops on the “Cola Trail.”  Columbus is the home of both Coca Cola and RC Cola.  We also want to spend some time downtown visiting the restored, repurposed and preserved historic brick mills and warehouses that are now becoming shops, galleries and offices…and we need to take a walk on part of the 22-mile Chattahoochee River walk to honor the natural force that contributed so much to Columbus’ vitality over the years.