Down East 2013 ©
Talk about the best seat in the house. As if this 1898 swing erected at the summit of Mount Battie in Camden were not the perfect perch, photographer Theresa Parker Babb decided to have some fun by leaning a ladder against the rough-hewn posts. She then persuaded these three unidentified ladies to climb the ladder backwards, creating the illusion of the women practically standing on top of each other. A three-masted schooner is visible in Camden Harbor, at lower right, completing its final fitting-out at Holly Bean’s yard on Sea Street. Meanwhile Steamship Landing, just right of the swing, awaits the next ferry from Boston or Bangor.
Babb, whose husband was superintendent of the Knox Woolen Mill, would have had no trouble finding models for her photograph (one of many such images included in a forthcoming book from the Camden Public Library). Just the year before Babb composed this scene, Columbus Buswell had improved the path first used in the War of 1812 to haul cannons to Mount Battie’s summit and built the Summit House, a full-service hotel catering to Camden’s increasing tourist traffic. Interest in the new hotel was short-lived, however, and Buswell was forced to sell it just a year later because he couldn’t turn a profit (rooms cost a dollar a day). A group of summer residents maintained the building as a clubhouse until 1920, when it was finally razed. “The elements and hoodlums have wrought havoc with the building,” mourned one contemporaneous newspaper article.
While this swing and the Summit House are long gone, evidence of them remain on Mount Battie. Observant visitors (who no longer have to travel by buckboard, but can instead use the circa-1963 paved road off Route 1 to climb 787 feet to the top) can still find eyebolts in the granite slabs, used to secure the cables shown here and to keep the Summit House itself from blowing away. Even the round tower designed by Parker Morse Hooper and erected in 1921 pays tribute to Buswell’s vision, as it was built with stones salvaged from the hotel’s foundation. Whether from the seat of a swing, the dining room of a hotel, or the top of a granite tower, this view is one that impresses everyone fortunate enough to take it in.