For quite some time I have wanted to visit Paris Hill, an historic village that is part of So. Paris, Maine. In 1973 it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. So earlier this summer we made the trip.
After passing through the town center of South Paris on Route 26, the road to Paris Hill leads to the right. You can’t miss it as there is a sign designating the way to the historic village. The road rises gradually to a higher elevation. As you reach the top of the hill, you enter an area of stately homes with wide green lawns and tall shade trees. Most of the homes here were built between 1805 and 1885. Several of them have descriptive names: Crossroads, The Birches, Lyonsden.
This was an era of gracious living, when each home had a parlor used only for very special and serious occasions. My imagination takes over here and I picture ladies in a carriage, drawn by a horse trotting smartly down the road, on the way to afternoon tea.
The classic village green is located in the center of the district with streets located around the perimeter. On one corner is the impressive FirstBaptistChurch, completed in 1838. The bell in the tower is one of the surviving bells cast by the Paul Revere Foundry. There is a story that one Fourth of July the bell was kept ringing by boys working in relays.
Hannibal Hamlin, Vice President under President Abraham Lincoln, was born here in Paris Hill in 1809. His birthplace is a grand white house facing the village green at the top of Paris Hill. The views of the White Mountains from this location are spectacular. The village green bears a plaque in remembrance of Hannibal Hamlin.
Near his birthplace, there is a small building housing a community library and a museum. Made of granite blocks, this building was the Oxford County Jail from 1822 to 1896. A plaque notes that a descendant of Hannibal Hamlin presented it to the Ladies of Paris Hill in 1901 and it has been operated as a library since that time. As you enter the library today, one of the first things you see is a large sign, a throwback to the time when it was the jail: “ALL PERSONS ARE POSITIVELY FORBIDDEN TALKING WITH THE PRISONERS.” It is well worth spending time inside the museum viewing the exhibits.
Most of the houses in the district are classic New England clapboard structures. However, a handsome brick house situated near The Common was built in 1826 and was the office of OxfordCounty until 1895. Today it is privately owned and not open to the public.
Much to my dismay, after we had visited Paris Hill, I found an on-line site that offers a map for a walking tour of Paris Hill. I would recommend going to this site http://www.hamlin.lib.me.us/walkingtour.html and printing out the map. I’m planning to do just that and make another visit to Paris Hill. This time we walked without the map and absorbed the serenity of the area.
As you stroll around Paris Hill, you feel a sense of peacefulness and tranquility. Life in nineteenth century Paris Hill was genteel and that gentility is still reflected here today. Skateboards or graffiti are out of place here. Paris Hill is a grand, gracious, genteel experience.
Cross the footbridge to the other side and you will find riverside trails. Also on the farther side there are remnants of mills that once operated there by means of water power.
A visit to Snow Falls Gorge is the perfect continuation of a visit to Paris Hill. With fall foliage season soon to be here, schedule a visit to Paris Hill and Snow Falls Gorge.
Now, where will we eat? We are not very familiar with OxfordCounty locations, so we surfed the web for restaurants in this area and chose the Smilin’ Moose Tavern at 10 Market Square in South Paris. The décor is moose here, moose there and moose everywhere. Can’t get more mid-Maine than that. The restaurant was clean and we felt welcomed into a friendly, neighborhood eatery. We ordered hamburgers and were pleased with them. This was a fun place to end our day of excursion to Paris Hill.