Elmer’s Barn is Among Maine’s Most Peculiar Stores
From a Shriner's fez to 19th-century quack medical equipment, here's what we found there.
The rambling building on Route 17 was originally home to Howe Fur Company, which sold hunting and trapping equipment. Today, as a sign over the entry proclaims, it contains “three floors of odd and unusuals"
By Virginia M. Wright Photographed by Tristan Spinski
Browsing the maze of old things in Elmer’s Barn, I spotted a 1910 rowing machine like those in the Titanic’s gym, a crateful of railroad spikes, a $2 hammer, a doll whose face has been crumpled in gassy misery for 60 years, and a pristine Shriner’s fez with case. I held onto my cash until I idly opened an unlabeled beat-up metal filing cabinet. Within were dozens of antique doorknobs, and I snagged a few for my old house. That’s how it goes at Elmer’s, founded by the late Elmer Wilson 45 years ago and now run by his daughter, Ivana Wescott. No matter how many times you’ve looked up, down, over, and under, you’ll see something you hadn’t noticed before. Leave empty-handed? As if!
CLICK IMAGES TO EXPAND
Clockwise from top left: In the early 20th century, faradic batteries were believed to cure all sorts of ailments by delivering a small electric shock. The white tag on this one reads “medical quackery.” | Colored-glass insulators were made to stop electricity from leaking to the ground as it passed through wires on utility poles. Collectors use them as candle holders, coat hooks, vases, and more. | “I love the sound of money,” squawks the arcade-machine parrot when you feed him a quarter. Next, a plastic ball rolls into the dispenser. The bird cocks his head. “Here is your present,” he says. | Creative customers snap up these faucet handles, pop them onto stakes, and “plant” them in their gardens as ornaments, Wescott says. | This beautifully embellished 1906 brass cash register is in near-pristine condition. A key labeled “GROC” suggests it was used in a grocery. Asking price: $695 (yes, you can dicker at Elmer’s).