In the Heart of Harpswell

Harpswell Historic Park

Up hill and down dale, by meadows and stands of forests, Rt 123 meanders down the Harpswell peninsula.  Leave Brunswick on Rt 123, the Harpswell Neck Road, and almost immediately you are in a rural area.   There are no fast food drive-ins or strip malls; this is the way life used to be.  The Harpswell peninsula is very narrow and occasionally it is possible to catch glimpses of the ocean inlets on either side.

This is a very pretty drive.  On the left side out of Brunswick there are two ponds filled with rose-colored lilies.  Several horses are frequently grazing in a meadow, again on the left side out of Brunswick.   On the right side, a large, white barn sets atop a hill overlooking an apple orchard (a gorgeous site when in bloom.)  Old farms abound on both sides of the roadway.

About ten miles down Rt 123 is a cluster of historical buildings that I call the heart of Harpswell. Meeting House. Situated very close to a curve in the road, Harpswell’s Old Meeting House is on the right.  Built between 1757 to 1759,  the meeting house has some interesting features. The pulpit rises ten feet from the floor to be on the same level as the gallery. Was this so that the preacher could be better heard by those seated in the gallery, or so that he could better watch over those in attendance?  There is one floorboard in the Deacon’s Box which is said to be 29-1/2” wide. At the time the Meetinghouse was built, there was a King’s law that trees measuring more than 24” in diameter were reserved only for masts in the King’s Navy.  It’s interesting to speculate on the reason for flouting this royal decree!

In 1968, the Harpswell Meeting House was designated as a national historic landmark. Today the Old Meeting House serves as town offices and polling place.Harpswell Cemeery  During the summer months, it is open to the public.  The old burying ground behind the Meeting house contains the graves of early settlers.

 

 

The granite posts in front of the cemetery are hitching posts to secure horses.Hitching Posts

 

 

 

Across the street is the Elijah Kellogg Church Congregational, built in 1843/44.  This church is a prime example of the many white Congregational churches found throughout New England.   It has been well maintained over the years and is currently undergoing renovations.Church 2

 

 

 

Harpswell CemeeryTo the left of the church, set back from the roadway perhaps 100 feet, is the Harpswell Cattle Pound, erected in 1793.  Pounds were deemed necessary in colonial times to corral stray cattle and to keep them from trampling and damaging settlers’ crops.

 

Across the street is the Harpswell Centennial Hall and Harpswell Historic Park.  The building, built in 1829, was used as a school until 1913.CentennialHall2

 

A beautiful garden and park are in the forefront of the hall. The colorful Garden3garden and walking paths provide a peaceful spot for quiet contemplation.

 

 

 

These few buildings provided the necessary support for a New England community to thrive.  A drive here seems like time travel   As I walk around the buildings in this area, time seems to stand still.  We are indeed fortunate to have areas like this preserved so that we can appreciate our heritage.

Continue down Route 123 and enjoy the lovely old farmhouses and views of the ocean on both sides of the peninsula.  If you turn right onto the Basin Point Road and then right again onto the Ash Point Road and travel about
a mile to the end, you will arrive at The Dolphin Restaurant and Marina.  DophinThis is one of our all-time favorite seasonal restaurants.  The setting, at the end of the point with views of the Atlantic all around, is superb.  And the food is fabulous.  They are famous ( and my favorite) for haddock chowder and blueberry muffins.

For a memorable summertime excursion, a road trip to Harpswell and The Dolphin Restaurant is unbeatable.

 

 

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The Wild Roses of June

 

Roses

June is the month when wild roses bloom on roadways and country lanes and their sweet fragrance wafts through the air.  Their robust pink color bursts forth as the longest days of the year arrive.  Wild roses seem to thrive near the seashore.  A trip to any beach is sure to pass clusters of the fragrant blossoms. Roadside The wild roses that proliferate here are also known as rugosa roses and beach roses.  After the blossoms pass, the fruit, known as rose hips, begins to develop.  In late summer after they ripen, the bright red hips can be used in teas, jams, jellies, soaps and other applications.

 

On a recent day we drove to Hills Beach in Biddeford and found the most extensive display Road.rosesof wild roses I have ever seen.   It was a pure delight to drive along a road bordered by both rose and white-colored wild roses.

 

 

 

Stands of roses in the foreground of a brilliant blue ocean created spectacular Seasidee boatoceanscapes.  What a beautiful reward for enduring the weeks of cold and dirty black snowbanks we endured this past winter.

 

 

 

 

We are truly blessed to live near so much beauty that Seaside 4can be enjoyed free of charge.  Now is the time to make at least one excursion to see the wild roses of June.

 

 

 

 

Our drive took us through Biddeford to Route 9 which we followed until the left turn toward the University of New England.  An interesting sidelight of the trip is to see how this small college has emerged as a thriving university campus.  A bonus: in addition to the wild roses, there are many houses along this road that have very beautiful flower gardens.       Continue travelling down the Hills Beach Road to the end and enjoy the wild roses of June along the way.

If the sea air whets your appetite, Buffleheads RestaurantBuffleheads is located on the right side of the road as you travel toward the oceanfront.  This charming little restaurant serves lunch from 11:30 to 2:00 pm and then reopens at 5:00 pm for dinner.  A visit to Buffleheads is a must visit for us at least once every summer.

 

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Tarry – A – While By the Pineland Pond

TARRY-A-WHILE BY THE PINELAND POND

Pond Expanse

Spring at last! After being held hostage by snow and cold during the grueling winter, we craved warm sunshine. So on a recent 60+ degree day, we headed out to Pineland Farm in New Gloucester for a much needed respite.

We drove onto Route 115 in Yarmouth and continued up Route 231 to New Gloucester. Although the trees are still leafless, the sky was a spectacular cloudless blue and the wind was dormant – just a gorgeous day to be outside.

The approach to Pineland Farm in the direction we were heading is impressive. Rounding a corner, the road crests on a hill and then declines amid fields crisscrossed by white fences. A large red barn is on the right and Pineland’s Equine Center is on the left. We continued straight on 231, past the main Pineland Campus to The Pond at Pineland on the left. There is a small parking lot by the pond and we parked there.


The Pond is small but sets at the end of the campus lawns next to the forest. There are log
Pond 2benches on one side and stone benches on the other. What a beautiful setting to enjoy the bird song, warmth of the sun and fragrance of the spring air! The ice was gone from the pond and minnows darted about.

 

 

 

Gazebo 2A scenic gazebo basks in the sun on the lawn beyond the pond, while a rustic bridge
leads from the area of the pond to the campus. There is a patch of daffodils just coming into bloom beside the pond.

 

Rustic Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

A picnic table next to the pond invited us to Pondsit and dine. The Welcome Center at Pineland offers sandwiches, soups, salads and baked goodies. We made a visit there and chose a lunch to go and returned to the picnic table to dine in Nature’s ambience.

 

Restaurant

 

The Welcome Center also sells fresh produce, Pineland cheeses and meats, Maine made crafts, books and toys. There is a large, interactive display board of the entire Pineland Campus. A visit here is a pleasant way to shop and spend an afternoon.  

Inner Welcome

 

A few hours in the serene setting of the Pineland Pond was a splendid way to welcome Spring. In late spring and summer there is a beautiful garden across the road from the pond. We will return to Pineland in a couple of months to enjoy the garden and will post pictures.

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Remember Those Who Served

 


Military OutsideSnow, snow everywhere, with nary a sprig of green to be found.   What to do?  We were feeling buried in a snow cave and wanted some diversion.  On a recent afternoon we decided to visit the Maine Military Museum on Peary Terrace in South Portland.   Tucked onto a small plot of land in a residential area of South Portland is this gem of a museum.

 

In approximately 6,000 sq ft of space, are uniforms, weapons, photos and much more.  These artifacts belong to Lee Humiston, curator and director, who is a  retired Air Force veteran.  Museums are often tedious, full of dusty heirlooms.  But Mr. Humiston knows DSCN0555
every single item in the museum and can relate the history of each.  That is where this museum really shines.  He will tell you about the person each uniform belonged to and how and why it has reached his care.  And care he does.  Every artifact is clean, polished and carefully displayed.  The stories make these artifacts come alive and speak to you.

There is the WWI uniform with mortar holes; Lee will tell you of the recovery of that soldier who was from Maine.  There is the canon ball from the bombardment of Portland (then called Falmouth) during the Revolutionary War; that cannonball was found in the timbers of a house undergoing renovation.  There are the pictures of a woman and children that were found in the uniform of an unknown Union soldier.  The photos were publicized and within six months,the soldier was identified as one from Maine.

??????????There is the metal plaque, No. 44 of 1000, made from metal salvaged from the Battleship Maine sunk in the Spanish-American War.


 

 

Military POW - CopyPerhaps the most poignant and haunting display is the exact-in-size and every other aspect – replica of a prisoner-of-war cell from the Vietnam War.  Twenty former POW’s have been here and have seen the cell.  Mr. Humiston will tell you their stories and how they reacted to seeing a cell again.  Those stories are sober and mordant.

 

 

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As you enter the museum, there are over 450 metal plates, fastened around the perimeter of the attached banquet hall.  These commemorative plates are engraved with the names of military personnel from the Spanish American War to the present.  It costs $50.00 to have one added; visitors to the museum frequently purchase one for a current or deceased family member of the military. Lee himself is descended from generations of military members and each has a plaque.

Mililtary Display

Mr. Humiston proudly explains that every item in the museum is authentic, with the exception of two Revolutionary War uniforms.  Could there be a more gratifying way to spend a frigid winter afternoon than a visit to this unique museum?   There is no charge, but donations are welcome.  During the winter months, the museum is officially open on Saturdays and Sundays, but Mr. Humiston will meet you there at other times by appointment.

 

Located at 50 Peary Terrace, (off Broadway near Cash Corner) South Portland 767-8227.

 

 

 

Located at 50 Peary Terrace, (off Broadway near Cash Corner) South Portland 767-8227.

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Mile By Mile

Plaque

 

Travel in colonial times was extremely uncomfortable and unpredictable. Many roads were little more than dirt tracks filled with ruts that became virtually impassable during rainy and snowy weather. Depending on road conditions, travelers could become lost as there were not road maps and the informational signs that we have today.

In the mid 1700’s British officials recognized the increasing need for a more reliable  network of roads in the American colonies.  Planning and construction of a road from Boston to Machias began and was called the King’s Highway.

Meanwhile in the colonies, Benjamin Franklin was appointed joint postmaster general by the British government.  As part of his duties he conducted inspections of the roads that were used for delivering mail.  Since one method of charging for postal service was by mileage, Franklin invented an odometer to more accurately measure mileage.  This device was used to delineate mileage on roads that were designated as Post Roads.   In Maine the road known as the King’s Highway was used to deliver mail from Boston to Machias and each mile was marked by Mr. Franklin’s new odometer.  Thus, the King’s Highway morphed into the Post Road.

A marker, usually a stone, was erected at each mile and was chiseled with the number of miles it was from Boston. Town records indicate that these markers were placed in the early 1760’s. Some of these stones, pre-dating our Revolutionary War, are still in existence today – almost 250 years later!

These markers also served as beacons to assure travelers they were still on the correct road and to let them know how far they were to or from Boston,  or from an inn.

I recently decided it would be fun to see how many of the existing markers we could find and so we made several sleuthing excursions.

Marker in Wells On  Old County Road (which runs off CaptainThomas Road) Ogunquit, Maine  there is a marker on private property.  It is marked with 69 – meaning 69  miles to Boston.

 

 

100_1963In South Portland another marker is located on Westbrook Street, near the  golf course.  This marker is very close to a private driveway; it’s marked with  B 122 (122 miles to Boston on the Old King’s Highway.)

Note that each of these locations has a plaque saying the marker was erected in 1761 by order of Benjamin Franklin.

Marker 135Markers for miles 135 and 136 are located in Cumberland.  No. 135 is in front of the property known as Top Knot Farm on the Middle Road.

 

 

Marker 136

No. 136 is located on Route 88 near the Town Landing Road.

Note that the plaques in South Portland, Cumberland and Yarmouth indicate that they were erected by Cumberland County,.

 

 

 

In Yarmouth, we found No. 137 and 138.Marker 137

 

No. 137 is on Route 88 on the left side, heading north.  If you view these markers close up, the mile number is clearly legible. They don’t stand out as well in the size of the pictures here.

 

Marker 138

 

 

No. 138 is on Pleasant Street and is embedded in a wall in front of a house there.

My car’s odometer registered 1.1 miles between 137 and 138.   I think that extra .1 of a mile is acceptable,  200+  years later.   Today’s Pleasant Street is  curved probably adding a little more distance between the two markers.

It is a fun afternoon excursion to travel to these markers and reflect that it would have taken many more hours, probably more than one day, to make this journey in 1761 when these markers were erected.

Since these markers are located in several different towns,  I am leaving it up to you to choose a restaurant or ice cream stand for your meal.  It will add to your fun to choose a new restaurant to visit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Saltwater Farm in Freeport

House Front 4

 

Saltwater farms have always held a special place in American lore. The romantic ideal of a farm by the sea was considered the ultimate pastoral dream for bucolic life.  A saltwater farm was the best of both worlds; to own a farm that overlooks the blue ocean where you could farm the land in the golden sunshine was the ideal.

Pettengill Co ve 2

Pettengill House White SignThe Pettengill Farm in Freeport is an authentic saltwater farm that has been preserved by the Freeport Historical Society. The saltbox–style house, built around 1810, sets on 140 acres that overlook an estuary of the Harraseeket River. In the midst of a wildflower carpet, the house is situated on a slope that sweeps down to the water.  As you walk around the farmhouse you can feel an aura of serenity in this space that is devoid of wires and all the disfiguring encroachments of modern society.  Time seems to standstill here as you listen to the calls of birds and chirping of crickets.

Approaching 1

Mildred Pettengill and her brother, Frank, lived and worked the farm until Frank’s death in 1960.   Mildred remained there alone until 1970.   The farm was acquired by the Freeport Historical Society and has been listed in the National Register of Historical Places since 1973.  Once a year, in October, the farmhouse is opened to the public. A tour of the house, without electricity, plumbing or central heating, illustrates how hard life was for older generations.  There are remarkable etchings, called sgraffitti, of sailing ships dating from the War of 1812 on some of the second-floor walls.

When we first started visiting the farm about twenty years ago, there were several outbuildings in a dilapidated condition which have since been razed.  The Society has an ongoing restoration project to restore the farm to its former state. A small milk shed was rebuilt as an Eagle Scout project and the barn was just rebuilt last year.

Yard amd FlowersA small apple orchard is on one side of the property; it should be a gorgeous sight when the blossoms are in bloom. The surrounding fields were farmed with corn, millet, oats, beans and other vegetables.  The Pettengills kept pigs, horses, cows and oxen on the farm and harvested marsh hay and clams from the cove.

 

In the back yard is a flower garden that was cultivated by Mildred.  She lovingly tended the garden and used discarded bricks to make paths, still visible today, that encircled the flowers.

Dappled LaneA gravel road, about one-half to three-quarters of a mile leads from the parking area on Pettengill Road through a splendid woodland to the farm.  It takes about fifteen minutes to walk in.  This walk is part of the mystique of visiting the farm.  You pass stands of hemlock, pine, birch and oak trees; (see how many you can identify.)   Listen to the calls of several species of birds, including the staccato tapping of woodpeckers.  Check the banks along the road for wildflowers.  Look at the dappling patterns of sunlight streaming through the tree branches.  There is an area of stone bluffs rising from the side of the lane that are extremely scenic.  As I walk the path, I always wonder if Mildred and Frank had a car or if they travelled by horse and cart down the lane. Pettengill Sign

 

This farm is a wonderful resource and example of a lifestyle gone by.  It is well worth a visit for the beauty and to ponder life on a saltwater farm.

 

From the center of Freeport, take Bow Street for about 1.2 mile to Pettengill Road on the right.  There is a small parking area there and an informational sign. The gravel road begins there.

Muddy Rudder 2After your walking visit to the Farm, you will probably be ready for a meal.  We suggest the Muddy Rudder on Route 1 in Yarmouth just beyond the Freeport line.   The beige-shingled building, on the CousinsRiver, is classic New England style, and theinterior with its soothing greens and windows on the water has an ambience that is soothing andrelaxing. They serve lunch and dinner, offering seafood, beef and vegetarian entries, with daily specials.

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The Ships of Liberty

THE SHIPS OF LIBERTY

Memorial Plaque

 Set in the midst of a pine grove on the shores of scenic Casco Bay is a memorial to the Liberty Ships built on this site during World War II.

Ship Mockup 2

Facing out to sea, there is a full size steel mock-up of the bow of the ships. There were 266 of these ships built between 1941 and 1945 at this 140 acre ship yard. Approximately 30,000 men and women worked here on as many as thirteen ships at one time. The Liberty Ships were cargo vessels carrying crucial supplies to the European Allies; without these supplies the Allies could not have won the War.

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Inside the mock-up is a plaque with the names of the 266 ships built here. That number, 266 ships, is just a number. But the long plaque engraved with all the names of those ships helps us to convert that number to actual ships.

Boards Long View

There are also three informational double-sided boards with engrossing facts, figures and reproductions. My father was one of the 30,000 who worked here. When I look at the informational boards, I remember stories he told me about working here. The pictures and reproductions of newspapers bring this era to life and help us to have a greater appreciation of those years. It is so important for us to have memorials like this one so that we don’t forget crucial episodes in our history.

Board 3

 

Board 3 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board 2

 

 

 

 

Prior to the War, this area was known as Cushing’s Point which was a tranquil fishing community in South Portland. The land was appropriated and the natural harbor there ???????????????was filled in to make enough land for the shipyard to operate. At the entrance to the park, there is a polished black marble marker dedicated to the Cushing Island community.

The home of the Liberty Ship Memorial on the site of the shipyard is now known as Bug Light Park. The views of Casco Bay from the park are stunning. This gorgeous park is one jewel on the necklace of public parks that range from the Eastern Promenade in Portland to Bug Light Park and Spring Point in South Portland to Fort Williams and Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth.

Park in Snow

Even though there are large patches of white on the landscape, the turquoise beauty of Casco Bay is still dazzling on these cold, winter days. There is a walkway here along the shoreline. When you visit, leave enough time to walk here and enjoy the beauty of this area.

 

From this site, there is a very good restaurant just about a mile away; the Saltwater Grille, ????????????????at 231 Front Street, South Portland. The Grille is a full service restaurant on the waterfront, with an outside deck for summer dining. At nighttime the lights of Portland on the other side sparkle across the bay. Their lobster corn bisque is a favorite of mine.

Include a visit to this restaurant after you view the memorial.Saltwater Sign

 

Directions to the Liberty Ship Memorial: In South Portland drive to the end of Broadway and turn left on Breakwater Drive. Then turn right onto Madison Street which curves to the left. Turn right off Madison Street before the entrance to the boat launch. The Cushing’s Point marker is located here and the ship memorial is straight ahead.

To reach the restaurant, backtrack to Broadway and turn right at the blinking light to Sawyer Street. At the end of Sawyer Street, turn left onto Front Street. The Saltwater Grille is just a few feet to the right.

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