Letters to the Editor
Read what our readers have to say about Maine.
Where in Maine?
I recognized the picture of the “Where in Maine?” segment in the October issue of Down East. It is the suspension footbridge at the confluence of the Wild River and Evans Brook in Hastings. It is located on Route 113, which runs through the Evans Notch region of the White Mountain National Forest on the Maine side. Route 113 actually goes back and forth into New Hampshire and Maine along the route.
We have been hiking and exploring the Evans Notch area for many, many years now. We live in Boxford, Massachusetts, but always love to head to Evans Notch! Our three girls have also grown up hiking the mountains in that area — Blueberry, Speckled, East Royce, to name a few — and we always take a trip to the footbridge on the river at the end of the day. It is a beautiful bridge and has wonderful trails on the other side of the river. We have a lot of pictures of our favorite bridge!
In September, my husband and I headed to Evans Notch for yet another wonderful day of hiking. We made our way to the footbridge at the end of the day for our usual visit to this beautiful spot. We were so shocked and saddened to see that it had been completely destroyed by the recent Hurricane Irene. We arrived to find the bridge completely in pieces. It had been such a sturdy bridge; it always seemed like it could weather any storm. But apparently, Irene was too much for it.
We are very hopeful that the bridge will be rebuilt. It is a beautiful, peaceful spot and there are many wonderful trails to access on the other side of the river.
It is unexpected to see the photo in this month’s “Where in Maine?” of the suspension bridge over the Wild River south of Gilead. We in western Maine like to think of it as our secret, scenic shortcut to North Conway. The Wild River in Evans Notch is a branch of the mighty Androscoggin, flowing south along Route 113 from Gilead in extreme western Maine. That road is a favorite, slow, stunning motorcycle ride of mine as it cuts through the White Mountain National Forest offering great views at a serene thirty miles-per-hour speed limit. You are correct in that most people don’t realize that the White Mountain National Forest encompasses this area in Maine surrounding the town of Batchelders Grant. Here’s another secret: Route 113 was re-paved this spring, making it an exceptional ride now.
—Heidi Woodbury Sweetwater
You asked the following question on the cover of the October issue last month: “If money were no object, what would you build?” Without discussing the exact design details, I can tell you that I would adhere to the following principles:
1. Employ Maine craftsmen and laborers.
2. Utilize Maine raw materials and sustainable building products whenever possible.
3. Install renewable green energy (solar, wind, and/or geothermal).
4. Choose a home design that blends into the surrounding environment.
5. Keep the main house less than two thousand square feet.
Obviously Paul Coulombe’s priorities are very different from mine. Kudos to him for using Maine craftsmen to build the ultimate Maine cottage. Unfortunately he did not follow through with the use of Maine raw materials. Eight tons of imported Portuguese limestone was used to build his elaborate new home!
From the photos depicted in the article I found his “cottage” to be rather unattractive and uninviting. The installation of thirty-five televisions makes me think that his compound is nothing more than a glorified hotel. Perhaps Mr. Coulombe’s guests will be impressed, but I believe that a cottage or home should not compete with its natural surroundings; especially on the beautiful coast of Maine.
Less can indeed be more.
All this excessive opulence in a seasonal residence is just mind-boggling. We have driven the Maine coast on vacation for approximately twenty years. What has made the coast special is the relative lack of these pleasure palaces, except in a few locales. It is wonderful that Maine craftsmen could land such an extensive (read, expensive) project — and were able to practice their considerable skills. But how many Down East natives could afford even one garage stall of this house? If it were us, and money were no object, we would build a very small house, with the smallest possible impact on the land and the view. Perhaps we all should heed a comment by the British writer G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) that has been posted on our home bulletin board for several years: “There are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
—Gail Anderson & Bill Effner
It has taken me some time to think of an appropriate response to the article about building whatever you want if there were no financial restrictions. Mostly because I have never spent any time thinking about being in the position you mention, (too busy with family and working), and, secondly, I am not the type of person who could completely overlook and totally disregard Maine’s reputation for good old Yankee thrift.
I read, with some disdain, of the thirty-five televisions, etc., and would not ever think that this kind of house would be a good idea anywhere on a planet whose resources are stretched to the limit. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that there is much joy and thoughtfulness (not to mention craft) employed in the construction of our (mostly) more modest-sized homes here in Maine and elsewhere. I would guess that we are quite happy to have them and enjoy them even more when we find them filled with running children and grandchildren. After all, it is the people who are jammed in around our tables that is most important, not the size or the materials used in constructing our homes.
I am of the opinion that no one “needs” this kind of space to live a happy and wonderful life. As evidence of my thinking, I would direct you to two very nice books to help get you started on the road to recovery from “Square Foot Addiction” (SFA): The first is The Cabin by Mulfinger and Davis and the second is The New Cottage Home by Tolpin. Both are from The Taunton Press of Newtown, Connecticut. I’ll be happy to send Paul Coulombe copies of both. It would be my small contribution to saving the Maine sea coast from the blight of SFA. It is too late for his project, but perhaps he could begin a SFAA (“Square Foot Addiction Anonymous”) program. Who knows? He may have friends and associates he could talk out of similar projects once he has recovered from his case of SFA. I can only guess that this fellow has lost his way and could use a week or so in a cabin with a fishing rod, a canoe, a good book, and a few good friends or family. Here’s to good health for Maine housing. May we always enjoy our more modest way of living.
While your cover story focused on the size and scale of Paul Coulombe’s Southport Island home, what it failed to uncover was the size of his heart. The construction of his home provided essential jobs and incomes for hundreds of Maine artisans and their families in these tight economic times. And beyond jobs, he enabled them to demonstrate that Maine’s carpenters and craftsmen, builders and landscapers are among the finest in the world.
In addition to being one of the largest taxpayers on our island, Mr. Coulombe’s generosity extends to good causes and community assets throughout the state. He is a generous contributor and active fund-raiser for the Cuckolds Light Station rescue and restoration, the YMCA, the local library, and his own project, rescuing and rebuilding Gus Pratt’s General Store and other amenities at Southport’s Cozy Harbor, funding the entire cost for planning, permitting, designing, constructing, and maintaining this community treasure.
Mr. Coulombe, a lifelong Mainer, is interested in helping improve the business climate and economic circumstances of this region. As a business owner himself, he has grown his White Rock Distilleries in Lewiston to one of the top one hundred Maine-based businesses, employing 225 people.
While some might find his home too extravagant, it is of a style and quality that I believe will, a hundred years from now, be recognized as one of the “Grand Estates” in the style of the great entrepreneurs who helped build our country. This, too, will stimulate the economy in future generations. While Mr. Coulombe can afford to live anywhere in the world, we are fortunate that he chooses to make his home, and open his heart, in Maine.
—Janet R. Reingold
Southport Island, Maine
The Bird Artist
In your September 2011 issue, I read with interest an article on seventeen-year-old Luke Seitz who is an artist, photographer, and avid birder. I was impressed by such a young man’s enthusiasm and appreciation for birds and birding and how he has channeled this into photographing and painting birds. Not to mention how many bird species are already in his life list! Imagine my surprise a few days after reading the article when I was out on a solitary bird walk and I ran into a man and, I assumed, his son, going the opposite way on the path. We chatted for a moment about bird sightings and then they continued on. A little while later, I turned around and started back in the direction they walked. Just as I came to a patch of woods, the father stepped out and told me there was a hooded warbler close by and that Luke was trying to photograph it. Since I never had seen one before, I followed him a few feet into the woods and there was his son sitting on the ground patiently waiting for the shot. While sitting there, the son pointed out other warblers to me as they flew around us. Soon enough, the hooded warbler landed in a tree branch at eye level only a few feet away and the father made sure to point it out to me so that I got a good look. As I thanked them, I thought the young man was very familiar. Suddenly, the name “Luke” clicked and I realized that Luke was the Luke Seitz in your article. I confirmed with him that he was indeed the subject of your article and thanked them both again for their help. As they left, I could not help but think how kind they were to share such a memorable bird with a total stranger. It’s nice to know that in addition to his incredible talent, Luke is a very nice person. After meeting him, I have no doubt that he will have a most successful future.
I am always glad to see articles bring attention to the fact that people — and Mainers in particular — love birds! Anything that focuses attention on their beauty, habits, need for protection, feeding, identification, or anything else, is a very good thing! However, I must take issue with the subheading on your article: “Feathered Favorites” in the September issue. What you featured are indeed, “ten of the Birds Mainers love best,” but I have to question your data for the right to make the statement that “Here are the ten birds that Mainers love best.” If you add an “of” and change the position of “the,” you are right. Otherwise, what of the osprey, the tufted titmouse, the nuthatches? All favorites. All worthy.