Rachel Carson Slept Here!

From our 100 Maine Books package, seven landmarks for your next literary pilgrimage.

Maine Books
By Jennifer Van Allen
Photo by Benjamin Williamson

Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Brunswick

Between 1850 and 1852, Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin while raising six kids in this Colonial-style house near Bowdoin College, where her husband taught. It’s also where she laid plans for The Pearl of Orr’s Island, a romantic portrait of fishing-village folklife that took her a decade to write, helped birth the “local color” movement in American lit, and caused a post–Civil War tourism boom in Harpswell. Call to arrange tours of the house, now a Bowdoin office building with a small interpretive area. 207-725-3433.

Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum, South Berwick

Photo by Matt Poole

Jewett was born in this 1774 Georgian mansion, which provided inspiration for the grand Maine summer home shared by the two heroines — and possibly lovers — in her 1877 first novel, Deephaven. “The house is very old,” one of them says, “and my ancestors followed the sea and brought home the greater part of its furnishings.” The furnishings in the preserved home, which Jewett left as a child and returned to as an adult, are in the Arts and Crafts style and surrounded by 19th-century antiques. 207-384-2454.

Photo by Mark Rowe

Rachel Carson’s Coast, Boothbay

From her Southport Island cottage, on a rocky ledge overlooking the Sheepscot River, Carson laid the groundwork for The Edge of the Sea, her melodious, meticulous 1955 study of tidal ecology, as well as for the landmark Silent Spring. Nearby spots that inspired her include the Hendricks Head and Indiantown Island Preserves, managed by Boothbay Region Land Trust, and the Nature Conservancy’s 78-acre Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve. Her cottage is privately owned, but the nonprofit Rachel Carson Homestead hosts an annual raffle for a weeklong stay there.

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Booth Tarkington’s Boathouse, Kennebunkport

via Google Maps Street View

Indiana-reared novelist, playwright, and two-time Pulitzer-winner Tarkington was an ebullient summer presence around Kennebunkport in the early 20th century, and the town influenced his 1932 novel Mary’s Neck, a satire about a fish-out-of-water Midwesterner navigating social pitfalls among oddballs, snobs, and folksy commoners in a Maine summer colony. During near-daily coffee klatsches at his handsome boathouse, called The Floats, Tarkington mentored Kenneth Roberts, helping edit works like Roberts’s landmark historical novel Arundel, about Benedict Arnold’s march through Maine to Quebec. The Floats is privately owned but can be admired in passing on Ocean Avenue, just south of Nonantum Resort.

Celia Thaxter’s Garden, Appledore Island

Photo by Jenn Seavey

“Flowers have been like dear friends to me,” Thaxter wrote in 1894, in An Island Garden, “comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer.” Her plot on Appledore Island, 7 miles off Kittery, inspired one of the most beloved gardening books, a mix of practical advice and poetic reflection. The Shoals Marine Laboratory offers summer tours of a seaside garden on the site of Thaxter’s original, designed based on her descriptions. $100/person, departing by boat from New Castle, New Hampshire. 603-862-5346.

Dorothy Boone Kidney’s Cabin, Allagash Wilderness Waterway

Courtesy of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Between 1957 and 1985, Kidney and her husband spent summers tending to a remote dam on the Allagash, assisting fishermen and canoeists traveling the famed 93-mile waterway. She penned three memoirs about their experience, including Away From It All in 1969, in which she wrote, “There is a therapy to be found in the woods. There is a simple, happy way of life living as our early ancestors did among the streams and lakes.” Kidney’s one-room cabin still stands on the north end of Chamberlain Lake, and writers and artists can apply with the Allagash Wilderness Waterway for an annual two-week residency. 207-695-3721. 

Elisabeth Ogilvie’s Island, Cushing

Down East Adventures

The prolific Ogilvie wrote more than 40 novels, most tracing the dramas of hardscrabble islanders, but her 1954 memoir My World Is an Island has aged best. It’s a slow-simmering, often funny account of settling into life on idyllic Gay’s Island, in Muscongus Bay, where she would live and write for some 50 years. Down East Adventures hosts retreats in a cottage on Gay’s Island, where guests wander the rocky shoreline that inspired the novelist, between puffin-watching tours and meals prepared by James Beard Award–winning chefs. 207-594-9544.

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June 2020 issue