The air on top of Ricker Hill, where the Poland Spring Resort is located, is as fresh as the water from the spring under the hill. We drove up there on a beautiful blue sky day to tour the Poland Spring complex. If you haven’t been there, it is well worth the trip; there is so much more to Poland Spring besides water.
The site of the once world-famous resort sets on top of Ricker Hill off Route 26. On the way up the hill there are two pillars announcing this as a “Stress Free Zone.” As you drive through the expanse of green lawns and flower beds you find yourself relaxing; the sign is right!
As you arrive at the top the hill, the Maine State Building is on the left and the All Souls Chapel on the right. The chapel, whose first service was in 1912, is a splendid little church surrounded by green lawns and a colorful garden. There are stained glass windows and a charming interior made of Maine granite, marble and wood, and is open to all denominations. Over the decades this chapel has been the site of countless weddings and christenings. One can easily see why – the site is simply gorgeous.
The quirky-looking Maine State Building, with its garrets, balconies and conical tower-tops, is a true gem and has a remarkable history. It was constructed for exhibition at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. The building is octagonal in shape and was made of Maine granite and wood by leading Maine craft manufacturers of that era. After the exposition, Hiram Ricker of Poland bought the building for $30,000. He had the building taken apart; each section was marked and then all was transported back to Maine by train. Then it was erected again on the grounds of the Poland Spring Resort. A third floor was added and some other alterations were made.
Today, the MaineStateBuilding is a museum with a variety of exhibits. One room contains pictures of weddings in the All Souls Chapel going back to the 1940’s; another is dedicated to the Columbian Exposition. Still another room has memorabilia from the Poland Spring House, the very large hotel that mysteriously burned in 1975. The menus are particularly entertaining to read. There is one room dedicated to Poland Spring Water. Letters are displayed attesting to cures after drinking the water, along with various bottles issued over the years. Then there is a display of advertisements used over the years to promote the Poland Spring Resort. The resort was heavily publicized as a winter destination complete with a toboggan slide and skating ponds.
In addition to those displays, the Museum also houses the Maine Golf Hall of Fame with many golfing artifacts and pictures, including George H.W. Bush’s golf bag.
There is a $3.00 charge to enter the Museum and it is open from Memorial Weekend to Columbus Day, but closed on Sundays and Mondays. Be sure to allocate plenty of time because the Museum is lots of fun to tour.
We’re not through yet, as there is still more to see. Keep driving ahead under the arch that says “Preservation Park.” In the early 1900’s, the Spanish-style building with the tower was built to house the water-bottling business. It is now the Poland Spring Museum and Environmental Education Center. The Museum features exhibits on the history of the bottling operation. There is a very enlightening display of how water travels through the sub-strata of the earth to become Poland Spring Water. Pictures line the balcony showing photos of the many famous people who visited the resort in its glory days: President Taft, President T. Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Mae West and Judy Garland are just a few. Don’t by-pass this building; it is very informative.
The smaller building to the rear is known as “The Source.” It is the site of the original spring. The interior is elegant in white marble. Be sure to check this out. Both “The Source” and the Museum building are free to tour.
The Park has five miles of beautifully manicured walking trails where you can breathe the fresh air and savor the views.
The next time you reach for a bottle of Poland Spring water, remember that there is a lot more to Poland Spring than just the water. Make a note to visit and see for yourself.
As for the meal – we discovered a new restaurant to put on our favorite list – Cyndi’s Dockside, located on Route 26 about a mile north of the Poland Spring Resort. It sets on the shore of Middle Range Pond with outside tables, perfect for the summer season. Open year-round, the restaurant has a pine-paneled dining room with a fireplace for winter and fall visits. There were four in our party; we all ordered something different and were all completely satisfied with our meals. The menu offers plenty of seafood in addition to steak, chicken and BBQ. At some times of the year it can be closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Call 207-998-5008 to be sure they are open before you head out. Cyndi’s was the perfect ending to our day of exploration at the Poland Spring Resort.