Miracle-Cure Believers Sought the Healing Power of H20 Here

Miracle-Cure Believers Sought the Healing Power of H20 Here

The 19th-century hydropathy institute remains an elegant Waterford landmark.

a 1797 one-story house built by Eli Longley that was once home to the Maine Hydropathic Institute


From our Summer 2023 issue

Mid-1800s newspaper ads proclaiming “WATERFORD WATER CURE!” beckoned the sick and feeble to the Maine Hydropathic Institute. There, they would receive treatment, as the New York Tribune put it, “in the midst of the grandest mountain scenery, on the road from Portland to the White Mountains, where the springs cannot be excelled for coldness and purity.”

Hydropathy claimed to cure all ailments with water, either by drinking it or immersing oneself in it. Common “therapies” included head dunking and wet-sheet wraps. Waterford’s institute opened in 1847, in one of the town’s oldest buildings: a 1797 one-story house built by Eli Longley, who operated a tavern there. Eventually, a two-story, gable-front addition was tacked on. After Dr. William Shattuck took over in 1854, renaming the clinic the Maine Hygienic Institute and catering exclusively to female patients, the structure likely received its double-height porch with decorative sawn-wooden trim, along with a corner tower that rose three stories high.

After Shattuck’s death, in 1887, the town sought to lure visitors with water of another form: nearby Keoka Lake. In the 1890s, the former institute began welcoming summer boarders as the Lake House. The building later functioned as a hotel, restaurant, and residence. Alterations have been made over the years (including the removal of the tower), and the structure has stood vacant since 2011, but the Lake House moniker remains.