Portland’s West End

The West End is a downtown neighborhood in Portland, Maine. It is located on the western side of Portland’s peninsula primarily on Bramhall Hill and is noted for its architecture and history. The neighborhood is home to a large number of historic homes and parks and, in 2010, it was called “one of the best preserved Victorian neighborhoods in the country”. We had decided in advance to spend just one night in Portland, so the West End neighborhood, with its mix of comfortable homes, apartments, bed and breakfast accommodations, and easy walking access to town, seemed like the logical choice. We stayed at the West End Inn, the left half of the twin townhouses below.

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Five city parks are located in the neighborhood, including the nearby Western Promenade, an Olmstead addition. After our time on the road, we decided that a bit of walking / sightseeing was in order. The obviously a prosperous neighborhood features a lot of solid brick construction and wooden features like porches and bay windows.

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In a few cases the add-ons have been developed in brick, like the bay windows below.

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This house also included a carriage house off to one side, although it was obvious that it had at some point been turned into a separate residence.

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Occasionally, an oddly sized or shaped lot opened up an opportunity for a bit of special treatment, like this small, rounded wing with its own observatory on top.

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The Western Promenade Historic District encompasses a large late 19th to early 20th century neighborhood in the West End of Portland, Maine. This area of architecturally distinctive homes was home to three of the city’s most prominent architects: Francis H. Fassett, John Calvin Stevens, and Frederick A. Tompson, and was Portland’s most fashionable neighborhood in the late 19th century. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. There are high-quality architect-designed examples of Second Empire, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Shingle styles, with a particularly fine row of houses facing the Western Promenade.

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The park celebrates a local politician.

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Thomas Brackett Reed (October 18, 1839 – December 7, 1902), occasionally ridiculed as Czar Reed, was a U.S. Representative from Maine, and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1889–1891 and also from 1895–1899. He was a powerful leader of the Republican Party, and during his tenure as Speaker of the House, he served with greater influence than any Speaker who came before, and he forever increased its power and influence for those who succeeded him in the position.

The view from the park looks towards the White Mountains of New Hampshire –

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though not the day we were there. So Jane checked out the local birds; and then we headed for a small ethnic restaurant, Chaval, serving French and Spanish inspired seasonal specialities.

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Next time, The Portland Museum of Art

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Queen Anne Greenways Playstreet

This year, Queen Anne Greenways decided to see if we could pull off TWO Playstreets – and found that we could – although at times we felt as if we were in an upside-down process, along with our young customers.

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Our Playstreets focus on using a block of a street that passes through a civic campus

(City Pool, Community Center, Middle School, Sports Fields and Farmers Market)

for activities focused on families and children.

We promote them in advance;

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and consciously hold them in conjunction with the Thursday Farmers Markets.

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This gives us an automatic audience and gives that audience some added attractions.

The market includes a truck food court with lots of interesting menu choices that

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makes it possible for people to hang around for a while and enjoy the busker entertainment. To see some of the fun activities such as the climbing wall, the Northern Flicker, Mud Junket Band and Ride’Em Racetrack, hit this link:

Queen Anne Greenways Blog Posts

 

Queen Anne Playstreet – July 2018

Our third Queen Anne Greenways Playstreet took place during a Seattle heat wave so everyone looked for shade while enjoying this year’s activities.

We ran an outreach campaign a few weeks ahead.

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The Queen Anne Community Center provided some promotion as well. They are our primary collaborator since we have clear, overlapping missions.

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We organize the Playstreets to run at the same time on Thursdays as the adjacent Queen Anne Farmers Market, since the market draws a steady flow of families.

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Many parents combine events, shopping for produce at the stalls, sampling the food trucks for dinner, and jumping into the Playstreet activities.

To see the rest of the story, go to:  https://qagreenways.wordpress.com/2018/08/

Route 1 to Portland

On the road once again, we left Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island and pointed the car south on Route 1, the historic predecessor to Interstate 95.

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It’s just two lanes in most places and winds its way through the many small towns and way-stations that grew up along it but no longer depend on it the way they once did.

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The same story holds true for many of the small farms that don’t fit into the corporate scale of agribusiness as it’s currently practiced.

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I hadn’t truly realized, before this trip, how much the Maine coast is fractured into long fingers that stick out into the Atlantic. Communities along this coast tended to form around the points where rivers flowed into the inlets between these fingers, places where flatter land and fresh water could be combined for agriculture, and where lumber and ship-building businesses could safely thrive. The major north-south roads and railroads stayed inside these inlets as well, as you can see on the map below where I marked our route in red.

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Since each inlet was typically fed by a river or stream, keeping the road inland generally meant that it could cross the rivers with shorter bridges. In a few cases though, the rivers were large enough that real money had to be spent. One of these was at the Penobscot River, leading from the ocean to Bangor. An earlier bridge there has been replaced with a two-pylon cable-stayed bridge, for an elegant crossing.

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We had to get a bit past the bridge to truly appreciate its delicate form. And from this viewpoint we could also see a bit downstream.

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It’s tough country in which to be cutting stone and building roads and bridges.

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It took plenty of blasting to cut the nose off this mountain enough to fit the road in.

Shortly after this drama we arrived in Belfast where we were aiming for coffee breakfast at the Chase’s Daily restaurant which my brother had recommended.

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Located at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Belfast Bay and Penobscot Bay, Belfast is the county seat of Waldo County. The seaport has a wealth of antique architecture in several historic districts.

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Wikipedia photo

Getting to this point, though, has been a tumultuous process. The area was once territory of the Penobscot tribe of Abenaki Native Americans, which each summer visited the seashore to hunt for fish, shellfish and seafowl. In 1630, it became part of the Muscongus Patent, which granted rights for English trading posts with the Native Americans, especially for the lucrative fur trade. About 1720, General Samuel Waldo of Boston bought the Muscongus Patent, which had evolved into outright ownership of the land, and was thereafter known as the Waldo Patent. Waldo died in 1759, and his heirs would sell the plantation of Passagassawakeag (named after its river) to 35 Scots-Irish proprietors from Londonderry, New Hampshire. Renamed Belfast after Belfast, Northern Ireland, it was first settled in 1770, and incorporated as a town in 1773. The village was mostly abandoned during the Revolution while British forces occupied Bagaduce (now Castine). The British military burned Belfast in 1779, then held it for five days in September 1814 during the War of 1812.

Following the war, it developed into a shipbuilding center, producing hundreds of three, four and five-masted schooners. Materials for wooden boat construction were shipped down the Penobscot River from Bangor, the lumber capital of North America during the later 19th century. Wealth was invested in substantial buildings.

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Wood ship construction petered out about 1900 but with the advent of refrigeration the economy shifted to harvesting seafood for east coast markets. After World War II, however, the Belfast economy was driven by its poultry industry, including 2 of the state’s larger processors, Maplewood and Penobscot Poultry. Waldo County farms supplied the factories with up to 200,000 birds a day. The annual Broiler Festival became a popular summer event, attracting both local people and tourists.

In true boom and bust fashion, the poultry business collapsed in the mid-1970s during a national recession, devastating the city and surrounding towns. In the early 1980s, the defunct chicken-feed silos at the foot of Main Street, that once fed millions of chickens, were demolished. There was an exodus of people seeking employment prospects elsewhere. In the early 1990s, credit-card giant MBNA established two facilities in Belfast, and Jobs provided by MBNA, which was recently acquired by the Bank of America, helped increase Belfast’s population significantly. Finally, in true circular fashion, in 1996, shipbuilding was re-established on the Belfast waterfront with the opening of French & Webb, Inc., classic wooden yacht builders and restorers. Following in their footsteps, Front Street Shipyard opened a major boatyard on the Belfast Bay in 2013. Together, the two boat-building companies have restored Belfast’s working waterfront and helped revive the city economy as well as appeal to tourists, like us.

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Along with that sort of transition comes a certain amount of shopping-oriented things that, if you think about it, you don’t really need. But the presentation was hand-some.

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It’s also a pleasant environment for just walking and sightseeing.

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One consistent clue that reveals on-going gentrification is the addition of creative signage. I’m in favor of this graphic type of retail signage – it has a long historic lineage.

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It did seem a bit odd to see a Cape Cod style house lifted atop a masonry base.

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We were also glad to catch up with a bit of fall color.

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It’s hard to tell without research what’s original below; but it looks as if third floors have been added to historic two-story buildings. They’re generally successful; but they show how much a seemingly minor detail like a balcony railing – on the left – can affect an historic roof line in an unfortunate way.

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Here’s a real fall window box.

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Our coffee stop was definitely a nice road-warrior break.

After another drive we stopped for a quick lunch break in Bath, Maine, county seat of Sagadahoc County and a real river-front town. Abenaki Indians called the area Sagadahoc, meaning “mouth of big river.” It was a reference to the Kennebec River.

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I’m not sure what the road-planning choices were for this bridge and viaduct; but they blast a giant hole through the center of the community, not to mention the noise and pollution they leave behind. I suspect that it was simply a case of building the new bridge in the same place as the old one as the obvious solution. At least, along the riverfront below, there’s a pretty nice pedestrian park.

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The city is home to the Bath Iron Works and Heritage Days Festival, held annually on the Fourth of July weekend. It is commonly known as “The City of Ships.”

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Several industries developed in the city, including lumber, iron and brass, with trade in ice and coal. But Bath is renowned for shipbuilding, which began here in 1743 when Jonathan Philbrook and his sons built 2 vessels. Since then, roughly 5,000 vessels have been launched in the area, which at one time had more than 200 shipbuilding firms. Bath became the nation’s fifth largest seaport by the mid-19th century, producing clipper ships that sailed to ports around the world.

But the most famous shipyard is the Bath Iron Works, founded in 1884 by Thomas W. Hyde who also became the general manager of it in 1888. It has built hundreds of wooden and steel vessels, mostly warships for the U.S. Navy. During World War II, Bath Iron Works launched a new ship an average of every 17 days. The shipyard is a major regional employer and operates today as a division of the General Dynamics Corporation.

None of this really shows near the center of town where small pleasures suffice.

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Past and present wealth and civic commitment have resulted in a well-built and generally well cared-for downtown – including the City Hall.

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Bath City Hall

Our next stop was in Freeport – or rather at the real place everyone goes to in Freeport, the L. L. Bean outfitters store. L.L.Bean was founded in 1912 by its namesake, hunter and fisherman Leon Leonwood Bean.

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L. L. Bean convincing a customer

The company began as a one-room operation selling a single product, the Maine Hunting Shoe (also known as duck boots). Bean had developed a waterproof boot, which is a combination of lightweight leather uppers and rubber bottoms, that he sold to hunters. He obtained a list of nonresident Maine hunting license holders, prepared a descriptive mail order circular, set up a shop in his brother’s basement in Freeport and started a nationwide mail-order business. By 1912, he was selling the Bean Boot, or Maine Hunting Shoe, through a four-page mail-order catalog, and the boot remains a staple of the company’s outdoor image. Defects in the initial design led to 90 percent of the original production run being returned: Bean made good on his money-back guarantee, corrected the design, and continued selling them.

The current business is a long way from that basement beginning, comprising a multiple building campus with each building focused on different types of merchandise.

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They haven’t forgotten their beginnings, though, and those duck boots create a popular focal point next to one of the entrances.

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Selfie heaven !

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The basic store seems like most suburban department stores, this department featuring their well-know canvas carry bags.

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On the other hand, some of the details add uniqueness to the experience, celebrating both the wildlife (that you’re going to hunt) and letting you put your hands on both tools of the outdoors and crustaceans.

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The connections between buildings softened the barn scale of the architecture with smaller scale elements such as porches.

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These elements were also used to create welcoming entrances – and at the same time keep snow from drifting up against the buildings in the winter.

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In this case, the crustacean doors led to a home improvements store, where along with furniture and fittings, you could also buy bedding and map-of-Maine quilts.

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After this respite we made one last, relatively short drive to Portland and the West End Inn where we would spend the night. More about that next time.

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Acadia National Park – Loop Drive

Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is a bit of history about the park:

Acadia National Park is a United States national park located in the state of Maine, southwest of Bar Harbor. The park reserves much of Mount Desert Island and associated smaller islands along the Atlantic coast. Initially created as the Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, the park was renamed and re-designated Lafayette National Park in 1919, and then renamed once more as Acadia National Park in 1929. Over three million people visited the park in 2016.

The area was originally inhabited by the Wabanaki people – see my post on the ABBE Museum and Wabanaki people here.

While he was sailing down the coast of what is now Maine on 5 September 1604, Samuel de Champlain observed a large inshore island. He wrote:

“That same day we also passed near an island about four or five leagues [19 to 24 km] in length, off which we were almost lost on a little rock, level with the surface of the water, which made a hole in our pinnace close to the keel. The distance from this island to the mainland on the north is not a hundred paces. It is very high and cleft in places, giving it the appearance from the sea of seven or eight mountains one alongside the other. The tops of them are bare of trees, because there is nothing there but rocks. The woods consist only of pines, firs, and birches.”

He named it Mount Desert Island, shown below, with the park area shown in green.

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The portion outlined below in red is the most-visited part of the park; and the red line itself represents the drive we took through this part – going clockwise.

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The beginning of the loop took us past a small lake, almost domestic in scale.

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These views also illustrate clearly that these are rolling mountains of modest elevation and not sharp peaks towering over the landscape.

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Within those rolling shapes there has been a lot of granite under pressure.

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The forms speak clearly of layers and movement; and plants and trees have to be able to cling to the results in order to thrive.

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On the map our route appears to simply wind along the shore; but in fact it winds up and down as well, giving a broader overview and revealing one of the oddities of the area.

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The national park does not control all the land on Mount Desert Island; so there are quite a number of locations where private property and the park merge in ways that are hard to discern. The private homes, on the other hand, are pretty easy to discern – especially since they have intentionally been placed in open spots to take advantage of the view.

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It’s hard not to have mixed feelings about this, especially since most of these homes are often not used at all for a good part of the year.

At various points, some large, some small, small parking lots and fenced walkways have been built along the road to provide access to the shore.

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As we are well aware in the Northwestern states, crowds in popular sites require management, to prevent random trail creation, undue erosion of sensitive soils, and hiking challenges for those unfamiliar with being out in the forest.

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The park service is good about giving both an overview of the setting and tips and warnings about both safety and potential for damage to the environment.

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The built environment combines a sturdy infrastructure that can stand up to wind and waves and tourists, with a use of simple, natural materials that can weather in concert with the forest and the rocks around them.

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Another sign explains the beach where you have landed,

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and gives some understanding of the dramatic coastline on which you’ve arrived.

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The beach provides easy walking; but exploring here also has very clear limits. Even if you want to try out your parkour skills here, you have to watch out for the incoming tide that can put a quick end to your adventuring.

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We backtracked up the path to the road,

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Where an opening in the trees revealed a view of Cadillac Mountain,

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and finally (this being mid October) a sampling of fall color.

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I believe that the way in which the roads open up the tree canopy makes it easier for the deciduous trees to get more sun and also respond more readily to the change of season.

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At another stopping point, we decided to see what the excitement of the “blowhole” was all about. The configuration of rocks here has been sculpted by the constant wave action.

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In places the rock has been undercut and opened up so that when strong waves come ashore they sweep in under the rock and get ejected up through the openings. As you can see in the photo above, it’s been necessary to build a concrete walkway and steel railings to keep people from being hurt or swept away. Of course on a warm sunny calm day, the picture is somewhat simpler.

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No cannonball blasts of salt water for us – but not a bad view from the platform.

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Down the road another short distance we came to a bay (and in the distance you can see another private home).

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This bay dipped in to a cove with a causeway with arched openings beneath it that drained a nearby lake – located in the “Heart of Acadia”.

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This wooded, relatively level part of the park occurs at the bottom of a valley on the west side of Cadillac Mountain

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While still rocky here, the landscape has a smaller, more intimate scale. People were picnicking and hiking the relatively flat trail that looped around the lake.

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Another lake was attached to the first one. It had similar features.

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The information panel below explains a bit about the setting and shows from the air essentially the same view of the photo above.

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We didn’t stop at the Jordan Pond House or ride in a carriage, though apparently stopping for tea and a stroll here are popular things to do. We were headed for the top of Cadillac Mountain to take in the view. It turned out to be a different kind of adventure.

Visiting the top of the mountain sits at the top of everyone’s list; so we joined a long, slow line of cars and buses winding its way back and forth up the rocky west side of the mountain. We discovered that there are no facilities at the top (eg, no lodge) and, given the demand, not any too much parking. So on our first pass we looped by the high point and back to the west side where we found a place to drop the car. Luckily, the views from the west side were worth it. Here are a couple:

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Mounted on a rock in this area was a centennial plaque honoring the formation of the park by private citizens in 1916.

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Everywhere in the park there’s an underlying sense of how man is changing the basic environment and habitats in places like Acadia – through actions in this case that took place initially in the midwest. Note that there are TWO pictures below, the lower one showing how much you can’t see when air pollution from power generation in the midwest makes its way this far north and east and condenses in the cooler air here.

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Of course, tourists bring some of it with them (as did we in our car)

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Below is a panel showing features of the mountain. The road ends in a big loop with parking strung out along the road. It’s not a horrible situation – just one that can’t keep up with the volume of visitors.

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Finally we got to look around at the top – this view to the east.

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Here’s a look back at Bar Harbor – note that the most striking elements are the large white cruise ships sitting off shore.

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People wandered out into the landscape – it’s hard to resist.

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It’s hard to see all the islands when you’re there unless you have a telescope.

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Below you can see the cove and causeway we passed on the way around the park.

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Here is a view to the west that gives a sense of the islands.

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and finally, a presentation of how much life there actually is up here –

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and a sense of the struggle to maintain it when tourism season, construction season and fall coincide so precisely.

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Next stop – down the Maine coast to Portland

 

 

 

 

Bar Harbor – ABBE Museum

Inspiring new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit

“The Abbe Museum will reflect and realize the values of decolonization in all of its practices, working with the Wabanaki Nations to share their stories, history, and culture with a broader audience”. We entered not knowing what to expect.

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The Abbe Museum was founded in 1926 and first opened to the public in 1928. (Much of the following information comes from the museum’s website.)

The museum is named for its founder, Dr. Robert Abbe (1851-1928), an eminent New York physician known for his pioneering use of radiation therapy.

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Dr. Robert Abbe (1851-1928)

A beloved summer resident of Bar Harbor, during the 1920s Dr. Abbe assembled a collection of early Native American artifacts found in the Frenchman Bay area. He persuaded others with similar collections to join him in establishing a museum that would protect these objects and display them for public education and enjoyment. Early supporters included George B. Dorr, “the father of Acadia,” and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

The museum opened as a private museum at Sieur de Monts Spring in Lafayette National Park (later renamed Acadia National Park) on August 14, 1928. It was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Abbe, who had died in March of that year.

The museum opened as a private museum at Sieur de Monts Spring in Lafayette National Park (later renamed Acadia National Park) on August 14, 1928. It was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Abbe, who had died in March of that year.

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By the 1990s, the Abbe’s 2,000-square-foot museum at Sieur de Monts Spring had become inadequate to house the growing collections and provided no space for indoor programs, changing exhibitions, or research. Because of its location, it could only operate seasonally. In 1997, the Abbe purchased the former YMCA building in downtown Bar Harbor.

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The Abbe opened its downtown museum on September 29, 2001, with permanent and changing exhibitions including the major installation of Wabanaki: People of the Dawn. All exhibitions at the Abbe are accompanied by a variety of educational programs for adults and families. The Abbe downtown location presents special programs for school groups designed to meet the objectives of Maine Learning Results. It serves the community year-round, while the trailside Abbe at Sieur de Monts Spring is open seasonally from mid-May to mid-October.

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People of the First Light, the Abbe Museum’s new core exhibit, introduces visitors to the Wabanaki universe, engaging them with the culture and history of a people that is unfamiliar to many. Bringing together oral traditions, personal stories, cultural knowledge, language, and historical accounts with objects, photographs, multi-media, and digital interactives, People of the First Light shares a wide variety of content and perspectives around more than 12,000 years of history, conflict, adaptation, and survival in the Wabanaki homeland. It begins by introducing the Wabanaki,

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and then the local tribes like the Passamaquoddy.

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As you can read above, the panel anchors the tribe in both its past and present locations. From these panels you can build up a sense of the larger region and also picture of some of the contemporary descendants.

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Here’s a map that ties all the tribes together. It’s a composite of Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia (including Cape Breton Island), and Prince Edward Island.

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For the Wabanaki, the circle represents the wholeness of life – and movement, especially, as noted below, the cycles of life.

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The exhibits attempt to present a sense of that wholeness.

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Masqewuloq – a Boat of Birchbark – 2013

The Reis Education Canoe was constructed on site at the Abbe Museum, the first birchbark canoe to be built on Mount Desert Island in over 100 years. It’s made of birchbark, spruce roots, cedar and maple. It took 200 hours just to gather the materials and 500 hours to do the actual construction. There was too much other material there to document all of it; but one room stood out.

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Abbe Museum Circle of the Four Directions

The Abbe Museum Circle of the Four Directions captures the importance of the circle to the Wabanaki people – as also expressed in symbols and their calendar.

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Naming the year by its moons, a common native tradition in many tribes

Needless to say this was a difficult space to photograph.

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The sloping top and clearstory windows added a lot of drama.

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The exhibits seemed a bit accidentally displayed; but the work was gorgeous.

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I did make a trip out behind the museum to see the form from the exterior.

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and I found this graphic at the museum’s website

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Here are a few samples of the other exhibits on display, the first a story wall, at which you can also listen to native speakers of Wabanaki languages.ABBE_0642_1000

and one of the stories

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Snowshoes – they don’t make them like this anymore.

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a Ledger Drawing – Nicotiana Tobacum – Chris Pappan – 2017

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An unusual environmental comment.

And finally, three paintings by young native student artists.

I loved the color – and I let them speak for themselves.

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A really wonderful way to finish our day – unless you count the fabulous lobster rolls we had for dinner at the restaurant across from our hotel. You’ll unfortunately have to use your imagination.

Next time, we make a loop through Acadia National Park.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor is a town on Mount Desert Island, Maine with a population of 5,200. It’s a popular tourist destination in the Down East region of Maine and home to the College of the Atlantic, Jackson Laboratory, and MDI Biological Laboratory. Prior to a catastrophic 1947 fire, the town was a famous summer colony for the super-affluent. We stayed at the Central House, a small hotel in the center of town (red dot).

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It’s very likely that it had been someone’s estate but now it was full of tourists.

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We had a room under the dormer on the third floor. There’s no elevator so it entailed a bit of schlepping of bags but otherwise was not an issue.

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The common spaces were obviously furnished to be comfortable and casual.

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The sun porch was popular for many for take-out meals and I used it a couple of times to sit with my laptop and edit photos.

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Wikipedia provides some background about the town. The town of Bar Harbor was founded on the northeast shore of Mount Desert Island, which the Wabanaki Indians knew as Pemetic, meaning “range of mountains” or “mountains seen at a distance.” The Wabanaki seasonally fished, hunted and gathered berries, clams, and other shellfish in the area. They spoke of Bar Harbor as Man-es-ayd’ik (“clam-gathering place”) or Ah-bays’auk (“clambake place”), leaving great piles of shells as evidence of this abundance.

In early September 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain ran aground on a rock ledge believed to be just off Otter Cliffs, and when he came ashore to repair his boat he met local natives. Champlain named the island Isles des Monts Deserts, meaning “island of barren mountains”—now called Mount Desert Island, the largest in Maine. The community was first settled by Europeans in 1763 by Israel Higgins and John Thomas and incorporated on February 23, 1796.

By 1880, there were 30 hotels, including the Mira Monte Inn. Tourists were arriving by train and ferry to the Gilded Age resort that would rival Newport, Rhode Island. The rich and famous tried to outdo each other with entertaining and estates, often hiring landscape gardener and landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, a resident at local Reef Point Estate, to design their gardens. We observed that the current mix of housing has a wide variety, some of it re-purposed.

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Yachting, garden parties, and carriage rides up Cadillac Mountain were popular diversions. Others enjoyed horse-racing at Robin Hood Park-Morrell Park. President William Howard Taft played golf in 1910 at the Kebo Valley Golf Club. On March 3, 1918, Eden was renamed Bar Harbor, after the sand and gravel bar, visible at low tide, which leads across to Bar Island and forms the rear of the harbor. The name would become synonymous with elite wealth.

In mid-October 1947, Maine experienced a severe drought. Sparks at a cranberry bog near Town Hill ignited a wildfire that would intensify over ten days, and not be declared out until mid-November; this was one of several wildfires in the state that year. Nearly half the eastern side of Mount Desert Island burned, including 67 palatial summer houses on Millionaires’ Row. Five historic grand hotels and 170 permanent homes were destroyed. Over 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of Acadia National Park were destroyed. Fortunately, the town’s business district was spared. Today, it’s a mix of historic and commercial / historically-inspired buildings composed of collections of details. I prefer the real thing, like the Morrison, but even it has its limits.

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The dilemma of course is that enough fake-historical elements (wrought-iron balcony and nailed-on mini-shutters) have been added that the original sturdy facade is now confused. The clock looks added as well.

Other buildings downtown are less confusing – pretty much all “created-history” – though the car diving through the one building is more 20th century amusement park.

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It’s fun the first time through but a bit wearing after while. Down the street we got ourselves oriented in relation to our B and B by a map located in front of the post office.

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The post office itself clearly comes across as one of those sturdy government buildings that have anchored so many small towns in the US.

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The irony of course is that many functions of the postal service have been bypassed by on-line communications, so that these community anchors function less and less as such. Across the street, the Atlantic, a contemporary coffee house, was housed in one of the few relatively modern buildings that we came across.

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But generally, Bar Harbor’s downtown seems comfortable with historical gestures, since they satisfy most of the needs of the tidal flow of tourism.

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We did find that as we moved towards the harbor, elements were more meaningful.

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I’m not sure when the fountain was installed; but it seems to have been cared for over an extended period of the town’s history.

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There’s no question about the value of sail boats; but there is a vigorous debate about cruise ships – or rather their accommodation.

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Currently, there is no pier large enough to handle them, so passengers have to be shuttled back and forth on small boats (like the one in front of the cruise ship). The local merchants, seeing opportunity in the periodic tidal flow of customers, want to have an old pier enlarged. Those people more protective of the traditional Bar Harbor ambiance would like to leave the system alone. They prefer to see Bar Harbor as described here: as a Museum in the Streets,

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and as illustrated by this hotel just beyond the sign, with its harbor view.

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We made a loop around downtown, passing through a pleasant residential area,

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before coming to some iconic New England structures – and a surprise. The Bar Harbor Congregational Church contributed the classic white steeple in green trees.

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A village burying ground provides a resting place for many unknown, or at least unmarked, citizens including “selectmen and legislators”.

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St Saviour’s decided on an Arts and Crafts style for their church – not unheard of but unusual for a small town in such an isolated setting.

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I was struck by the industrial quality of the carillon with the bells intertwined with some of the diagonal bracing of the structure. It’s out of character with the church and the kind of detailing normally used even with ‘ordinary’ structures.

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The interior had a heavy, dark quality – suited to a winter style of worship.

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Across the street was the surprise, the ABBE Museum.

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It took over a former YMCA building that had been built to consciously to fit into the style of the neighborhood; but it’s goals were of a different nature. There’s enough there that I’m going to give it its own post – next time.