Adult EducationAn old-school rocker buys Maine's oldest home.
For people of a certain age, adolescence was defined by the blue-eyed soul of Hall & Oates. Songs like "Maneater," "Sara Smile," and "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" might even remain guilty pleasures to this day. And maybe, just maybe, a certain associate editor at the Magazine of Maine could have purchased Rock 'n' Soul Pt. One: Greatest Hits recently, the better to motivate herself during summertime jogs around the neighborhood.
All of which means that Daryl Hall (the blonde one) and John Oates (the mustachioed one) occupy a distinct place in the old memory banks - they're forever the super-smooth, parachute-pantsed Philadelphia rockers. So it was a bit of a shocker to learn that Hall, he of the feathered hair and the silky voice, is the new owner of Maine's oldest home. A few months back, Hall was the high bidder - at a reported price of nearly $2 million - at the auction of the Bray House, the shorefront Kittery mansion built by English shipwright John Bray in 1662.
How's that for cognitive dissonance - the mind behind "Rich Girl" and "Private Eyes" is also a historic preservationist. And a serious one, too; Hall owns historic homes in Millbrook, New York, and London, and has worked with teams of craftsmen to restore them to their original splendor. Even better, his winning bid for the Bray House beat out several others who intended to tear down the historic property and build new.
Now, if only Hall can apply those preservation skills to his own career. . . .It Takes a VillageA Hallowell landmark rises from the ashes.
When Slate's restaurant burned to a charred shell one cold evening in February, Hallowell residents stood on the sidewalk across the street and cried. The popular eatery had been an Augusta area institution for twenty-seven years, a place where lunch or dinner might find half the legislative leadership conferring with the other half from adjoining tables while locals hashed over neighborhood gossip and town news. Budding artists often got their first wall space in Slate's, and live music was a weekend standby. It was the place to launch a political campaign, hold a fundraiser, or celebrate an anniversary. Waitstaff and cooks became personal friends who knew more about your tastes than you did.
So maybe folks shouldn't have been surprised when a homegrown support and recovery effort began even before smoke stopped curling out of the wreckage. "It was awful watching it burn," recalls Susan MacPherson, a Friday night regular who once lived in one of the upstairs apartments. "Then a bunch of us came back to my house and everyone started brainstorming."
By the morning after the fire, "e-mails were flying all over town," recalls MacPherson. Three people had been burned out of their apartments and forty Slate's employees were without jobs. The fear was that the community would lose the creative crew of waitstaff and cooks who had made Slate's so special. At a meeting held within days of the fire, more than fifty people showed up to pledge their support for the restaurant's owner, Wendy Larson, and her employees, not just with warm thoughts but cold cash.
In the months since, Slate's supporters have raised and disbursed - through a quickly formed nonprofit organization - almost ninety thousand dollars earned from benefit concerts and other fundraisers to help employees supplement their unemployment checks and rebuild the lives of tenants who lost everything in the fire. Owner Larson describes herself as "completely humbled. It makes you very proud to be part of a community like this."
Larson has been able to keep Slate's bakery operating in a space next to the damaged building. If all goes well the restaurant itself will reopen in the reconstructed building in late summer or early fall with almost all of the old staff in place. And Susan MacPherson will walk through the doors on a Friday night and have dinner. "I can't wait," she says.A Stained SkyMaine sees more than mercury from the Midwest.
Summer visitors and residents have long noticed the whitish haze that obscures distant views from Maine's mountaintops during the warm-weather months.Com
posed of dust, pollen, industrial pollutants, vehicle emissions, and even forest fire smoke from states south and west of Maine, it's a major reason photographers prefer to take their blue-sky summer photos in June. By July, the sky has a hazy whiteness that fades out our classic cerulean hue.
But on a mid-April visit to northern Maine we noticed from the top of Mars Hill that even the crystal clear air of early spring had a brownish tinge along the horizon, like a water stain on a sheet of paper. "Pollution from the Midwest power plants," we were told by locals. "We see it all the time."
The sight was a jarring reminder of Maine's place at the tailpipe of America. "Principally it's sulfur emissions from large coal-fired power plants," explains Jim Brooks, director of the Bureau of Air Quality within the Department of Environmental Protection. "It has less to do with cars, although it all gets mixed into the same soup."
Airborne mercury from those same power plants has contaminated Maine's freshwater lakes and rivers to the point that the state advises some people not to eat the fish caught in them. We recognize the need for our fellow Americans to have electricity and all the benefits of civilization that come with it, but the technology to clean coal plant emissions is well known and relatively inexpensive, especially compared to what it is costing Maine. Polluting our water is bad enough. We don't need a stain on the sky.Hold the Pickles, Hold the LettuceFast-food chains can't get a lock on Maine.
Maine is a slow-food suburb in our fast-food nation. According to the most recent national survey of quick-service restaurant patrons, the Portland area came in at the bottom of the list of fast-food markets, sixty-first out of sixty-one. Only 27 percent of fast-food patrons in Portland eat out at least a dozen times a month, compared to 47 percent nationally. And apparently one of the reasons is that we have a lot of leftover hippies.
"New England in general has lighter quick-service restaurant usage than any other place in the United States," notes Jeff Davis, president of Sandelman & Associates, of California, which researches trends in the restaurant industry and released the survey. Davis credits the presence of "lots of strong, local, independent, mom-and-pop delis and restaurants that fulfill that need for a quick meal." He also notes that Maine in particular hasn't attracted a lot of attention from the fast-food chains because of its low population. "The migration to the Sunbelt in the last thirty years created a lot of opportunities to develop quick service restaurants in high-growth areas," Davis explains.
"The consumer trends are a factor in Maine, too," adds Davis, who summers in Rockport. "There's an attitude up there that values freshness, all-natural, and healthiness toward food. I guess you could say the granola crowd is pretty strong. I would even say there's some anti-chain sentiment. People like to support local places."
Maine is definitely running against the trend. In the top fast-food market, Greenville, North Carolina, 59 percent of patrons ate in a quick service restaurant at least twenty-four times a month, many once a day.Com
pare that to the McDonald's restaurant in Greenville, Maine - it closed several years ago for lack of business.Inn DeepTwo Dutchmen turn their quest for a business into compelling reality TV.
Kennebunk's Inn at Goose Rocks appears on the TV screen. From across a grassy field the inn appears charming and scenic. But then the Dutch word AFGEKEURD is splashed in red across the image. The same thing happens at the Greenleaf Inn at Boothbay Harbor. At one Maine inn after another, after initially promising images (or, in one case, seemingly acres of dark pine paneling) the word "DISAPPROVED" is emblazoned on the screen.
What you're watching, if you're a TV viewer in the Netherlands (or perhaps a Maine magazine editor with an advance copy), is the pilot for a reality TV show starring Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest, a Dutch couple who moved to Maine a few years back in pursuit of their dream of becoming New England innkeepers. The cameras follow them from the sale of Verest's pharmacy in the Netherlands through a trans-Atlantic flight and the subsequent hunt for a suitable property to buy. The episode ends with a cliffhanger: Will the duo get the gorgeous midcoast inn they fell in love with?
For Mainers, the question might be a bit simpler: Why would Dutch viewers want to watch a show about two guys buying an inn on another continent? "First of all, because of my famous mom - that helps a lot," says Brunyanszki, whose mother, Tineke Schouten, is a comedienne who's among the most famous of the Netherlands' sixteen million residents. That makes Brunyanszki a public figure, too, so when TV in-dustry types heard he was leaving the country, a few of them knocked on his door with proposals to follow his journey.
But even more appealing to the producers than his notoriety, says Brunyanszki, was his destination. "In the last two decades, New York, California, and Florida were the main markets for European travelers," he notes. "But now New England is more in the picture. And Maine especially is beautiful to film. I've seen hours of the footage they filmed here, and it's just drop-dread gorgeous."
As of early summer, Brunyanszki and Verest hadn't heard if the pilot had been picked up. They weren't too worried, though, since they were neck-deep in the $1.8 million renovation of their recent - and approved - purchase, the Camden Harbour Inn.
Just don't ruin the surprise for your television-watching friends in the Netherlands.Monumental MysteryThe search for remembrances of a past war.
When Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., collects Maine history, he doesn't think small. These days Shettleworth, director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, is collecting monuments, big ones, to a war long gone but never forgotten.
Maine lost proportionately more of its soldiers in the Civil War than any other state in the Union, and towns and cities commemorated those losses with monuments on town greens, city squares, and tiny cemeteries all over the state. Shettleworth wants to find them all, and so far he has personally visited more than 130. He suspects there are many more out there, mystery monuments known only to a few elderly locals. "We're finding new material all the time," he notes. "I just recently found the monument to the Fourth Maine in Rockland."
Shettleworth is undertaking the project wearing his hat as Maine state historian, and eventually he hopes to post a list of all the monuments and their locations on the Internet. Surprisingly, the monuments weren't all built in the years immediately after the war ended in 1865. "The first was erected in Bangor in 1864 in Mount Hope Cemetery because people had set aside a section of the cemetery for the war dead," he explains. The most recent monument is a granite soldier in front of the town hall in Vienna that went up in 1983.
He stumbled across one of the most striking and challenging monuments in the back of a cemetery in Monroe. "It's a cast iron monument, with an extraordinarily beautiful statue and pedestal, overlooking the town of Monroe," Shettleworth recalls. A memorial stone shaft in Milo had more of a back story - erected in 1931, it was engraved with the dedication only in the 1990s. "Apparently they had some trouble agreeing on the words," Shettleworth observes dryly.
For all that he has found so far, Shettleworth is convinced there are more to be chronicled, especially in less obvious spots such as long-unused rural burying grounds that once served large farming communities. A good many of those farm boys who went off to war never came back, and Shettleworth is ensuring they won't be forgotten.
If you know of a Civil War monument in your town that might not be widely known, contact the Maine Historic Preservation Commission at 207-287-2132 or by e-mail at Earle.Shettleworth@maine.gov Bottoms UpA Scarborough company makes redeeming your bottle deposit a little easier.
An unpleasant certainty of Maine life - especially when one is overrun with Geary's-swilling houseguests - is the regular run to the grocery store or redemption center with a trunk full of rattling returnables. Sure, there's the thrill of receiving several bucks for nothing more difficult than drinking up. But the prospect of getting your hands covered in questionable gunk while you load sour-smelling empties onto the counter doesn't provide much incentive for crossing this task off the to-do list.
And you're not the only one who loathes the chore; Mainers consume about a billion individually bottled beverages annually, only about 700 million of which are redeemed. The other 300 million are variously sitting in a fragrant bag in your garage, chucked into garbage cans, and, worse, strewn by the side of the road. It's no wonder a Scarborough company thinks there's money to be made in improving the bottle redemption process.
At Clynk, which occupies a small building near the town's Hannaford, regi-stered shoppers can drop off their pre-bagged bottles and cans. Clynk takes the bags, which are labeled with each shopper's unique barcode, back to its warehouse, where three large processing machines automatically sort the contents and credit the deposits to each shopper's account. Shoppers can let the funds accumulate - company spokesman Frank Whittier says kids have begun using Clynk as a de facto savings account - or cash them in by swiping their Clynk card at a special kiosk inside the Hannaford.
It's a logical concept; as Whittier says, "Maine is leading the nation when it comes to recycling, but we were using bottle redemption systems that were thirty years old. With some automation and the use of modern technology, we realized we could make it fast and easy for consumers. And people will recycle more when it's easy."
Sounds like another Maine idea worth exporting.Time CapsuleHow to preserve Louise Dickinson Rich's Rangeley homestead?
For the past forty years, Forest Lodge, the North Woods camp made famous by Louise Dickinson Rich in her classic 1942 book We Took to the Woods, has survived because of one person, owner Aldro French. Now the well-known Rangeley region fishing guide and conservationist is working with a group of like-minded supporters to preserve Forest Lodge for the future.
The Friends of Forest Lodge hope to put together a deal that will allow the house and its surrounding outbuildings and land to come under the stewardship of the Maine Department of Con-servation, says Bill Pierce, a member and longtime friend of French who works for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "Aldro has been the curator of this living museum for more than four decades," Pierce explains. "It's a time capsule of Louise Dickinson Rich's life, with many of the items sitting right where she left them."
Rich, who died in 1991, wrote We Took to the Woods about the years she and her husband, Ralph E. Rich, lived on the Rapid River. She moved away after his death in 1944, and French's father bought the property from her family, according to Pierce.
"Forest Lodge is the most significant piece of private property on the Rapid River corridor," Pierce notes. The river is nationally famous for its rare native brook trout fishery, and the state of Maine has worked for years to protect the 3.5-mile river from develop-ment and its trout from the effects of smallmouth bass that were illegally introduced into the watershed in the 1980s.
Depending on the outcome of a possible land swap, Friends of Forest Lodge need to raise $600,000 to $1 million, Pierce says. When the project is completed, Pierce hopes the property becomes the centerpiece of a tourism itinerary focused on Rich's life and the river.
"This is a real opportunity for the state, a property on the order of the Chamberlain House in Brunswick and the Longfellow House in Portland," he explains. It would also be a fitting final chapter for both Rich and the man who has preserved her memory for so many years.
For more information about Friends of Forest Lodge, contact Steve Wight, president, at 207-824-2410.Maine Lingo:Bogan:
A still water or oxbow in a river. Heard often in Aroostook County. "You know that bogan
over behind Joe's farm? I just pulled his cow out of it."