Cross Over the Bridge

 Overall Bridge 1

Where Route 1 winds close to the Androscoggin River in Brunswick, there is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over to the Topsham side of the river – the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge.  It’s free, it’s open to all and it’s fun!

This bridge was built in 1892 by John A. Roebling’s Sons Co., the same company that built the BrooklynBridge in New York. It was originally built with wooden towers, but they were replaced with steel in the early 1900’s.  In 2006, the bridge was renovated to its present On the Bridgecondition. The wooden deck of the bridge is approximately 560 feet across, and the towers are approximately 332’ high.

The bridge was built so that workers could cross from their homes in Topsham to the stores and mills where they worked on the other side in Brunswick.  Most of the factory workers at that time were not prosperous enough to own cars; this bridge was indeed a boon to them.

On each side are small parks with brick-paved approaches and commemorative plaques. As you cross the bridge, there are picturesque views of the river.  On the Topsham side there are trails and rocky outcroppings that are particularly photogenic in Boulderssummertime or right after a snowfall.  From the bridge the views of the Androscoggin are uniquely beautiful. There are plans to connect the Topsham approach to the bridge with a riverside walkway.Swinging Bridge Pathway

There is actually very little “swing” if you walk normally across on a not too windy day.  If you want to experience crossing in “ Indiana Jones” style, you could move so that it would have some swing. So add some adventure to this boring winter, pretend you are Indiana Jones and head out for the Swinging Bridge.

The bridge has been declared a Maine Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and has been added to the National Androscoggin Swinging Bridge.Plaque

We are so fortunate here in Maine that we can experience an outdoor adventure, sometimes within city limits, such as this bridge.

After your adventure, head to The Great Impasta at 42 Maine Street in Brunswick.  Note that the interior of this restaurant is very cleverly designed to appear much larger than it is.  Everything we have eaten here is delicious and the Italian dishes are superb.  I’m The Great Impastaespecially fond of their dessert brownie which makes the perfect ending for any meal.

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It’s High Time

It’s High Time

Emmons long view
Kennebunkport on Dwellable

Now that the hectic Holiday season is over, it’s time for a jaunt to check out another interesting site in Maine.  Over the years, I have had occasion to travel on Route 9 to Kennebunkport many times.  I have always been intrigued by the large white farmhouse with the high clock tower on The Goose Rocks Road where it crosses Route 9 in Kennebunkport.  This seemed like a good time to solve the mystery of why the clock and tower are there.

On one of the near-zero days that we have experienced recently, we braved the polar atmosphere and set out for Route 9.  As I have gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate the surrounding landscape in all seasons and at all temperatures.  The temperature was frigid, but the sky was electric blue and the fields were shimmering meadows of white satin, contributing to the mystique of winter.

This time, as we approached the intersection where the farmhouse is located, we turned right from Route 9 onto Goose Rocks Road.  Facing the farmhouse front on, we Plaque on Barncould see a plaque on the barn which identifies the house as the “Emmons Clock Farm.”   This farmhouse is a handsome white frame building of which the earliest part was built in 1773, with additions added during the next century. It has been kept in excellent condition. The attached barn supports a high tower with a very large clock.

With the name of the farmhouse, I was able to do some research and easily found the story of the clock on the tower.

In the 1890’s the farmhouse was owned as a summer residence by the Emmons family of Massachusetts.  Mr. Grosvenor “Gros” Emmons owned a factory in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  He must have been well-liked as an employer because records show that his employees contributed $250 and bought a clock from the Howard Clock Co. for their boss.  Mr. Emmons built a tower on his factory and had the clock installed there.  However, the clock proved to be a source of disagreement as the employees felt that it didn’t keep time accurately.    Mr. Emmons decided the way to end the dispute was to move the clock to his summer home in Kennebunkport.

The Howard Clock Co. was employed to move the clock and prevailed on Mr. Emmons to spend $1000 to upgrade and get a better clock!  He did so and built the tower on the barn to display the new clock.Emmons3

Another interesting fact I discovered is that the farmstead was threatened by the fires of 1947.  An adjacent building known as the “servants”quarters” was destroyed, but the Clock Farm itself was saved because a smaller fire was started to create a backdraft that spared the farm.

Now I can cross another item off my “wish I knew” list as I know the story of the clock in the high tower.

As usual, we used this trip as an reason to visit a new restaurant in the area. We chose Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery in one of the old mill complexes in Saco.  The interior of the restaurant has the original hardwood floors and brick walls.  There are many old artifacts, including mill pictures, which contribute to the historical ambience.  There were four in our party and we all 101_2106enjoyed quite different meals.  Organic produce is offered when possible and the menu has a variety of selections. Run of the Mill is also a micro-brewery with a wide selection of brews.  We are happy to add Run of the Mill to the menu of restaurants that we intend to visit again.

Run  Exterior

Run of the Mill Restaurant is located at 100 Main Street, Saco, not far from the Downeaster Train Station.

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Christmas at the Monastery

Every Christmas I like to find some new event or place to visit to keep Christmas special and a little bit new.   This year on a cold, blustery Sunday we visited St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunkport.  The estate of William Campbell was purchased in 1947 by exiled Lithuanian Franciscans and converted to a monastery.  The park-like grounds, which sweep down to the KennebunkRiver, are very handsome and invite walks and meditation.

100_2007In front of  Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine, set in a wooded grove, the Monastery has displayed a very striking, life- size Nativity scene.  The Nativity, in its tranquil setting in front of the impressive grotto-like shrine, is captivating. While we were there, two other people arrived and also took pictures.

100_2013As you enter the grounds, a sculpture, known as “The Triad” is on the left. It was sculpted by a Lithuanian, Vytautas K. Jonynas, for the Vatican Pavilion at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York.

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St. Anthony’s Chapel, built in 1965-66, has magnificent interior decorations also designed by Mr. Jonynas.

100_2008There are several other religious structures on the grounds, all Lithuanian in style. This whole complex is very interesting, but because of the frigid wind when we visited, we didn’t explore as much as I would have liked.

100_2010

The Tudor-style main building is now a guest house used by visitors to Kennebunkport.    The restaurant is open to the public for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:30 to 9:00.   A gift shop on the lower level of the church sells a wide variety of religious items and books.

As part of the Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude celebration, there will be a carol sing on Friday,  December 6, at 6:30 at the entrance to the monastery grounds.

A visit to St. Anthony’s Monastery can provide a serene interval in the hectic Holiday season.

 

St Anthony’s Monastery is located at 26 Beach Avenue, Kennebunk Beach, Maine.

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Stonehenge in America?

  • Before there were paper calendars and before there were computers, people kept track of the months and seasons by astrological means.  The ancient peoples noted that the sun and moon were always in predictable locations at the same time every year.  Most civilizations built structures to keep track of the movement of the sun and moon.  Everyone has heard of Stonehenge in England, but did you know that right across the border in New Hampshire there is a megalithic stone site?

Overview

Located in Salem, New Hampshire, the site, estimated to be at least 4,000 years old, is known as America’s Stonehenge.  Carbon dating that has been done in several places confirms walls as old as 2000 BC.  This site has also been used by Native Americans and in the 1700-1800’s by a family named Pattee.  There are many stone caves, huts and walls and Mr.Pattee apparently used some of the huts for storage. 13 South Facing Chamber Some of the chambers and walls appear to have been constructed on a particular astrological axis, both east-west and north-south.  Markings on some of the stones are similar to those found in ancient sites in Europe.  One particular hole is similar to some found in Malta.  When this site was re-discovered in the 1930’s, speculation was that the site was built by Irish Culdee Monks. Unfortunately, there has been some disturbance of the original site by Mr. William Goodwin, who was the main excavator at that time. There seems to be no definite conclusion as to who actually built the structures on the site.  As I walked around the huts and walls, I marveled as I always do, that I was walking where people had lived and walked thousands of years ago.  To me, that is awesome! Pathway to OracleChamberWhoever has occupied the site over the years does not distract from the ancient datings and the alignment of the stones.  There are even petroglyphs in some of the huts.  Again, while they have been studied by experts, there is no consensus on who made them. Sacrificial SlabThere is a sacrificial table with a channel, possibly a drain, carved along the top.  This slab is near the “oracle speaking tube” and chamber.  This is a stone-lined tube exit through which sounds travel.  Someone could be in the chamber above and speak into the tube and the words would appear to come from under the sacrificial slab – hence an “oracle” could be speaking. East-West Chamber Sacrificial Slab 2 Inner Chamber This whole site is absolutely fascinating.  There are so few truly old structures in North America and this site is ancient! Alignment Monolith Astronomical ChartThe astronomical arrangement of monolithic stones was proven in ”1979 to be accurate for both Spring and Fall Equinox sunsets.” It takes about 15 minutes to follow the astronomical trail to view the True North Stone, the Summer Solstice Sunrise Stone, the May Day monolith, the November 1st Stone and several other markers. The ancient peoples were experts on viewing and interpreting astrological patterns. America’s Stonehenge is open year round, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the winter they offer snowshoeing around the woodland site.  (As a sidelight, there is a small herd of alpacas here to entertain you with their perpetual smiles!)  This whole site is Alpacaabsolutely fascinating. For an interesting and entertaining excursion, you won’t regret a trip to these rocky remnants from pre-history. Directions (from their brochure) From I-93: Take I-93 to Exit 3. Follow Route 111 east for 4.5 miles. Watch for our sign just past North Salem Village Shops. Turn right at the intersection with the traffic light. Follow this road for 1 mile. Entrance is on the right.From 495: Take Exit 50 to Route 97 North towards Salem. Follow approximately 4 miles. At your first set of lights (97 Shoppes will be on your right), turn right and follow approximately 4 miles. America’s Stonehenge will be on your left. Warren'sAfter  this walking and viewing, we’re hungry – on to Warren’s Lobster House in Kittery. Warren’s is one of our favorite restaurants – maybe our most favorite.  They have an extensive salad bar with to-die-for pumpkin bread!  This salad bar accompanies meals or you can have it alone or with my favorite, grilled shrimp.   Scrumptious desserts are served in smaller portions  (less calories) so everyone can enjoy one.  No trip to the New Hampshire border is complete without a stop at Warren’s.

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The Three G’s of Paris Hill

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.

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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 House 5enter 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 House 6over 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 Church 4impressive 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's birth palceHannibal 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. Hamlin LibraryMade 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.

Brick HouseMost 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.House

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.

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Falls Park

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.

Moose Restaurant

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.

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There’s More to Poland Spring than Water

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.

Stress Free ZoneThe 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 All SOuls Chapel (3)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.

Maine State BuildingThe 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 archPreservation Park 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 Orig Bottling Plantenlightening 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 Housespring.  The interior is elegant in white marble.  Be sure to check this out.  Both “The Source” and the Museum building are free to tour.

Path2

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.

Cyndi's DocksideAs 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.

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It’s 10:00 PM; Do You Know Where Your Cows Are?

It’s 10:00 PM; do you know where your cows are?

This might seem like a silly question, but in colonial America,  stray animals were a serious problem.  Individual farms were close together, dictated by the need for security. Fences were rare because they used valuable resources and valuable time to build.   If IMG_1773crops were trampled and destroyed by cow, sheep or horse hooves, it could mean near-starvation for the coming winter.  It was a serious offense to let your animals wander at will and destroy your neighbor’s crops

To control this truancy, strict rules were promulgated and stone enclosures called cattle Pownal Pound 1pounds, were built.  Specifications were drawn up and were recorded in town minutes. The following quote from The Town of Pownal records specifying the size and materials indicates how important the pound was to the town  “…to build said Pound thirty-six feet square in size. Voted the wall of said Pound to be four feet thick at the bottom and eighteen inches at the top and six feet in height with a cap of timber nine inches square on the top of said wall with a good gate.” The records also show that the town voted fifty dollars to build the pound and chose Thomas Cotton as the first Poundkeeper.

Other towns that have pounds show similar specific instructions for their construction. They came in all shapes: square, oblong, round.  Fines were established and owners had to pay to retrieve their animals; the Poundkeeper had to be a tough enforcer.  Some of Pownal’s fines in the year 1835 were: “For each horse, 25¢ for every 24 hours.  For each cow, 13¢ for every 24 hours.”   Cold, hard cash; the Poundkeeper was not a popular man!

One of the earliest pounds in Maine was the one in Harpswell, built in 1793.   Two walls had Harpswell Pound 1to be reconstructed and today the pound stands as a prime example of this forgotten and overlooked part of our history.

The town of Turner had a Poundkeeper as early as 1788 and an early pound in 1795.  In 1816, the town authorized a new pound which was built at the intersection of the General Turner PoundTurner Road and the “Kennebec Trail.”   This pound has been restored and can be seen     today.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

An interesting sidelight of these “livestock lockups” was the practice of notching cattle’s Creature Marksears for identification.  The town of Pownal called these “creature marks” and maintained a “Book of Creature Marks.”   All owners of cattle were required to mark their animals with the mark assigned to them by the Poundkeeper.   He could then identify the owners of the impounded animals and levy the appropriate fine!

Since I discovered the cattle pound in Pownal, I have been fascinated by them.  I think this is because, compared to Europe, there are so few truly old structures in America.  We have colonial houses dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, but cattle pounds are unique in structure and purpose.  They originated in Europe and the idea was brought to the New World by the early settlers.  In 1821, the Maine state legislature mandated that each town erect a pound to control wandering animals.

For an interesting excursion to see something new (that you may have seen before, but not 101_1748realized its significance,)  take a drive to one of the pounds near you. There are about two dozen identifiable pounds left in Maine.  Some of the locations of pounds  that can be visited are: Acton, Bethel, Orrington, Jefferson, Deer Isle, Waldoboro, Vienna, Porter, Pittsfield, Lebanon.  When you find one, take a few minutes to picture it in its heyday (this could be a pun!) when cattle were lowing and the poundkeeper was berating the scofflaw farmer while exacting the fine.  Not very different from scofflaw misdemeanors of today!

.Nezinscot3As always, we end our excursion with a meal.  This time we chose Nezinscot Farm, an organic farm and café located at 284 Turner Center Road in Turner, about 10/15 minutes from the pound.  Everything they serve is made or grown right there on the farm.  The café serves brunch, lunch and tea. The farm raises cows, hogs, goats, sheep, chickens and sells and serves the meat and poultry products.  They make their own cheese and bake bread and tempting bakery items.  Samples of cheese, sausage, jams and jellies and baked goods are plentiful.  You may come hungry, but there’s no excuse to leave that way!

There is an apothecary selling soaps, personal care items, herb based teas, lotions, bath ..Nezinscot1salts.  Herbal consultations and courses are offered. The second floor has an extensive yarn shop (made from their own sheep, llamas and alpacas,) spinning wheels and accessories.

A perfect excursion for a summer day would be a trip to view the pound in Turner and then move on to the Nezinscot Farm to enjoy an organic lunch and maybe get a head start on Christmas shopping!

Location of pounds pictured here in order of their appearance:

 1)  East Eliot –  Between mail boxes 222 & 224, Goodwin Road

2)  Pownal – Rt 9, Bradbury Mtn Road, just beyond entrance to Bradbury Mtn Park

3)  Harpswell – Rt 123,  Harpswell Center

4)  Turner – Intersection of General Turner Road and Kennebec Trail

5)  Acton – East side of Milton Mills Rd, South Acton

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