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.
“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.