“Breathtaking views and fascinating history at America’s last standing maritime signal tower.”
The second place we stayed on this trip was in Maine and had the delightful name of Merrymeeting Retreat. It’s named after the nearby peninsula and bay of the Kennenec River to which it’s possible to walk, through woods, to see eagles nesting and other wildlife.
Our host told us that the house, below, was built in 1780 by Captain Samuel and Hannah Hinton Lilly. It stands next to the very quiet Route 128 (River Road) about 12 miles north of the historic town of Bath and about 8 miles from the equally historic (by American standards) town of Wiscasset to the east.
Crocker seems to have been a popular name around Barnstable, MA, where we stayed on our recent trip to New England. Our AirBnB was the annexe of Henry Crocker House (Item 2 on Page 2) and just across the road is the Crocker Tavern House. And there’s an Historic New England property in nearby Yarmouth Port The Winslow Crocker House. We’ve visited this area before. In fact, we’ve stayed in Barnstable a few times and I wrote about it here in 2012.
On our last full day in New England, before heading off to LLBean, I joined a morning tour of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, located right in the middle of Portland on Congress Street. The house is not his birthplace. Although he was born in Portland that house has now been demolished.
“Faithfully restored to the 1850s, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House was the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Built in 1785-86 by the poet’s grandfather, the house is decorated with original furnishings and family memorabilia. Tours offer a unique glance into the poet’s family, as well as into the cultural and social history of mid-19th century Portland.” [Information Board outside the house]
Yet again I enjoyed an entertaining and informative tour. No photography was allowed but there are pictures and descriptions of the rooms on the website and postcards of a selection were available in the excellent bookshop attached to the house.
Postcard shows the interior of Wadsworth-Longfellow House
Zilpa’s Sampler (still on display in the house)
Peleg (love that name!) and Elizabeth Wadsworth, Henry’s grandparents, built the house in 1785-86 and Henry, born in February 1807, lived there from just a few months later throughout his childhood. With 9 siblings his father Stephen (and mother Zilpa) extended the house by adding another floor. Henry entered Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME in 1822. After graduation in 1825 he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where his home there is also a national historical monument and open to the public : Longfellow National Historic Site, 105, Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA. He made regular return visits to his family home although, except for once, he and his wife never actually stayed there overnight.
Henry’s sister Anne lived here for almost all her long life; and when she died in 1901 left the house to the Maine Historical Society (MHS) requesting that the rooms “be kept with appropriate articles for a memorial of the Home of Longfellow” insisting that certain items be left where they had been during Henry’s residence.
There were interesting displays in the museum next door concerning the Emergence and History of Portland and about the Wadsworth-Longfellow Family.
I also learned that :
In 1884, Longfellow became the first non-British writer for whom a commemorative sculpted bust was placed in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey in London; he remains the only American poet represented with a bust. [Wikipedia]
“The over life-size white marble bust of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was unveiled in Poets’ Corner Westminster Abbey in 1884, on a pillar near to the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer. It is by the sculptor Sir Thomas Brock and the main inscription reads:
“LONGFELLOW. This bust was placed amongst the memorials of the poets of England by the English admirers of an American poet.1884″
On the left and right sides of the plinth is inscribed:
“Born at Portland, U.S.A. February 27th 1807. Died at Cambridge, U.S.A. March 24th 1882”.
Longfellow’s ancestor, William Longfellow, had emigrated to New England in 1676 from Yorkshire. His parents were Stephen, a lawyer, and Zilpah. Henry taught at Harvard University and his prose romance Hyperion was published in 1839 after the death of his first wife. Ballads and other Poems includes ‘The Village Blacksmith’ and ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’. The Song of Hiawatha is one of his best known works and he was second only to Lord Tennyson in popularity. His grave is in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
A photograph of his bust can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
“England’s homage to Longfellow” by E.C.Lathem, 2007”
[source of text and photo]
Before the tour, after the tour or at any time during opening hours anyone may visit the Longfellow Garden behind the house.
“The secluded Longfellow Garden located behind the House is an oasis of green and quiet in the heart of downtown Portland. Beautifully landscaped, the public is welcome.” [Information Board]
Looking back up the garden towards the house
The members of the Longfellow Garden Club have tended this oasis of peace and calm in the centre of the bustling city of Portland for 90 years. These volunteers weed the beds, prune the overgrowth, plant annuals, maintain the soil and much much more. In 1924 Mrs Pearl Wing set about restoring the garden. She encouraged the local community to help her and to donate plants and create a fountain in the garden. She also established the bye-laws and operating principles of the Club.
Present day fountain
Naturally, there have been changes in the area and garden surroundings since then. Until 1980 the garden was only visited by those touring the house but the Club convinced the MHS to allow public access during house opening hours. It is a popular quiet retreat and “hidden treasure”.
“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books”
The weekend after we arrived home from New England at the end of September I spotted a small listing in the newspaper for the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. At first I thought the play was due to tour and was actually coming to Leeds but an online search proved fruitless so I checked the dates again and saw that it was showing at The Almeida Theatre in London during dates I was going to be in town.
The notice had particularly caught my eye because the week before in Vermont we had made an excursion into New Hampshire from Brattleboro which is literally on the border between the two states. They are separated only by the Connecticut River.
The Connecticut River
The Brattleboro Road Bridge Linking VT and NH
Our intention had been to visit a mountain we had seen on the previous day from another trip to Wilmington VT and the viewpoint at Hog Back Mountain.
View from Hog Back Mountain – 100 Mile View
But when we arrived at Mount Monadnock the State Park Warden told us that, although it is the most visited mountain peak in the USA [A magnet for hikers, Monadnock is said to be the world’s third most climbed mountain, following Japan’s Mount Fuji and China’s Mount Tai.], we might find ourselves limited by time (it’s really a full day hike) and advised us to drive a few miles further to Miller State Park where it is possible to drive right to the top and take a shorter trail from the peak car park.
View from Miller State Park
“Miller State Park is located on the 2,290-foot summit and flank of Pack Monadnock in Peterborough and is the oldest state park in New Hampshire. A winding 1.3-mile paved road leading to the scenic summit is open for visitors to drive in summer and on spring and fall weekends. Three main hiking trails ascend Pack Monadnock to the summit. The best known is the Wapack Trail, which is a 21-mile footpath that extends from Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, Massachusetts to North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield. It is believed Native Americans named the area’s mountains, and that “pack” means little. On clear days views reach to Mount Washington, the skyscrapers of Boston, and the Vermont hills.”
Boston Skyline just visible (slightly right)
Yes, indeed, it was amazing to see the skyscrapers of Boston on the horizon from a distance of 55 miles away!
Could this be Mount Washington?
We were fascinated by the Audubon Hawk Watch set up in a clearing. It reminded me of the Malhamdale Hills and Hawks Walk in July. Just like the RSPB The Audubon Society had set up an area with information boards, information table, binoculars and telescopes on tripods and staff and volunteers ready to answer questions and tell about the project. We felt very under-equipped!
A Serious Twitcher
As we left the park and drove back towards Brattleboro I suggested we stop at the town of Peterborough. A good friend and reader of posts here, Sarah, had told me some time ago about the pretty town which served as the inspiration for Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town”.
Views of Peterborough
“We all grow up, we fall in love, we have families and we all die. That is our story”
And that is the story of “Our Town”.
The Beach at Falmouth
It’s time to re-visit my summer holiday and go right back to the first week and a half that we spent on Cape Cod. We had marvellous weather and it’s strange to us but after Labor Day (the first Monday in September) many places close down and the locals more or less have the place to themselves again. It’s the way we like it. The weather is still good but you can find a table at a restaurant without queuing, the roads and beaches are almost empty but most of the local shops are still open.
The Estuary at Fairhaven
We don’t usually travel far from our digs but we always make one excursion out of our Cape Cod Comfort Zone and that is to visit my online book group friend sherry who lives in Marion, Massachusetts on the other side of Buzzards Bay. This time our excursion included a new activity as my husband has taken up sailing and as it was impossible for us to find a sailing school open on the Cape he signed up for 16 hours tuition over two days (and including a one hour written exam at the end) at Sail Buzzards Bay (Fair Winds and We’ll See You on the Water!) based in Fairhaven, Mass. just a few miles from Marion.
Sail Buzzards Bay HQ, Main Street, Fairhaven
Preparation for Sailing School
Needless to say the watery theme continued throughout the trip. One day we took the ferry to nearby Martha’s Vineyard. The ferry from Falmouth to Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard takes just 35 minutes and during the autumn season there are just two sailings in each direction each day (Monday to Thursday – more sailings at the weekend). We understood that it was worth taking the bus to Edgartown where we had lunch, watched the three vehicle five minute journey Chappaquidick Ferry and had a wander around the compact centre of town.
The Main Street, Edgartown, MV
Here’s how the tourist leaflet describes Edgartown :
“One of New England’s most elegant communities, Edgartown was the Island’s first colonial settlement and it has been the county seat since 1642. The stately white Greek Revival houses built by the whaling captains have been carefully maintained. They make the town a museum-piece community, a seaport village preserved from the early 19th century.”
The Tiny Chappaquidick Ferry
The Grand Daniel Fisher House (1840)
I’d hoped to visit the Whaling Church but it was included on an organised tour from the museum (which also included a visit to Daniel Fisher House) and we just didn’t have time before taking the bus back to Oak Bluffs for our return to the mainland.
The Very Old Vincent House Museum
The Impressive Whaling Church
On several days we would drive down to Woods Hole the village attached to the extensive Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute that dominates the area. There are some good seafood restaurants with docks onto the marina – all very nautical.
Dining at Woods Hole Marina
“This 1/570 scale model of the Titanic stern is on loan to WHOI from Roy Mengot of Plano, TX. Roy’s model is based on WHOI data and imagery and is among the best representations of the Titanic wreck as it was found during the 1985 and 1986 WHOI expeditions. The completed bow and stern models took 3,000 hours to build.”
In addition to the Oceanographic Institute Woods Hole is also home to The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), The National Marine Fisheries Service, the Sea Education Association, The United States Geological Survey and the Woods Hole Research Center. Wow! That’s home to a lot of eggheads.
There’s a memorial statue to Rachel Carson author the far-reaching text “The Silent Spring”.
“I had my first prolonged contact with the sea at Woods Hole. I never tired of watching the tidal currents pouring through the Hole – that wonderful place of whirlpools, and eddies and swiftly racing water” Rachel Carson, author of The Sea Around Us; The Edge of the Sea; Under the Sea Wind; Silent Spring. Scientist, writer and colleague at MBL, NOAA and WHOI 1907-1964
Rachel Carson on the hot seat!
Finally, I still haven’t got round to reading it but maybe I should read this first :
Don’t you just love this cartoon which I saw in The New Yorker earlier this year? It really sums up the last full day of our holidays this year. We stayed at a rather smart hotel in Portland, Maine for the final two nights and spent the afternoon at one of our favourite stores. It’s an amazing place and this was our third visit.
To make sure you don’t forget anything
About a twenty minute drive north of Portland is the town of Freeport. And Freeport is the home of LLBean. In fact Freeport is given over almost entirely to shopping (there are many outlet and other stores) with some hotels and restaurants thrown in. I suppose some people live there but you wouldn’t notice.
The Flagship Store : we visited on 11 September 2009 (hence the flag at half-mast)
The Main Entrance
“L.L.Bean, Inc. has been a trusted source for quality apparel, reliable outdoor equipment and expert advice for over 100 years. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company began as one-man operation. With L. L.’s firm belief in keeping customers satisfied as a guiding principle, the company eventually grew to a global organization with annual sales of $1.56 billion. Our company headquarters are in Freeport, Maine, just down the road from our original store.
With over a century in business, a satisfied customer is still our most important goal. We’re proud of our heritage and values, and we invite you to celebrate with exciting events and activities throughout the year. In the meantime, you’re welcome to browse the stories, facts and figures in this section and learn more about our company, our heritage and our history.” [From the website]
LLBean never closes! There are no locks on the doors and it’s even open on Christmas Day. However, although all of this sounds like a gimmick the goods are all excellent quality and, with the current exchange rate, reasonably priced. I came away with a couple of pairs of walking trousers (trail pants) and another fleece (I have bought four of these altogether on different visits). In the past I have bought a tote bag, waterproof over trousers, other casual trousers etc all of which are still in use.
But the main store is not just of interest to me as shopper. There’s also lots of history : how they enjoyed the outdoor life in the past and how it’s all come a long way since!
Fly Fishing Artefacts
One of LL’s early camps “The Dew Drop Inn”
The Nearest I came to a Bear!