Friday, December 31, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 93: Lubec, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 93:  Lubec, Maine
October 5, 2010

            The eastern-most town in the United States, Lubec is a very small town with some really big attractions.  As small and remote as Lubec is it was actually one of my main destinations during my time in Maine.  For one thing it was as close as I could get to Canada without a passport.  Second it is the home of a place I had been waiting to see for quite some time as well: West Quoddy Head Lighthouse.
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse
            Getting to Lubec was an adventure all its own as it sits 150 miles from Owl’s Head which is where I made my home base during my Maine trip.  Granted it is not that difficult to find as the drive consists of staying on Route 1 all the way there but the towns become fewer and further between once you pass through Ellsworth.  After I passed through Machias there was nearly nothing in the way of civilization but for sprinkles of homes and a few stores.  It may sound boring but to me it was a beautiful and peaceful trip to an anticipated location.
            West Quoddy Head Lighthouse was a place I had seen photos of but had never expected to actually stand in front of.  It is called West Quoddy Head because there is in fact an East Quoddy Head Lighthouse located on Campobello Island across Lubec Channel in New Brunswick, Canada.  What makes West Quoddy Head unique is its red and white stripes which make it look like a big brick barbershop pole.  Built in 1857 the lighthouse sits on the grounds of Quoddy Head State Park, just east of the town of Lubec.  It is a very remote area, much like the town of Lubec is as well, which is something that adds to the sort of mystique that West Quoddy Head Lighthouse has for me. 
Entering Lubec
            It was an unbelievable experience from the beginning as the parking area is up on a hill from the lighthouse so I had to walk down as it slowly got larger until I was able to reach out and touch the big barbershop pole.  There is a monument marking it as the eastern-most lighthouse in the eastern-most town in the country.  Bordered on the north by a chain link fence since it sits above a cliff there is a great view across Quoddy Narrows to Campobello Island.  It was the first time I had seen anything but United States soil, despite the fact that I did not step foot on it.  Not having a passport I did not wish to get into any trouble for a few photos.
            For those who wish to make the trip to Lubec last, which I recommend, there is the Quoddy Head Station only a few minutes from the lighthouse.  It is a restored Coast Guard Station which now serves as an amazing motel.  There is room for thirty people and offers fantastic rates and views.  As I was snapping photos of this spot I remember that The Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ was playing on my IPod and I found myself lost in the moment of the big finale standing in the middle of Quoddy Head Road soaking in my accomplishment of actually making it all the way to Lubec and West Quoddy Head Lighthouse.  I will never forget how I felt at that point in time.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge crossing into Canada
            The town of Lubec has the honor of not only being the eastern-most point in the United States but also of being the smallest town I have visited thus far with just over 1,600 people.  It was named for the town of L├╝beck, Germany and incorporated in 1811.  Being that it was as close as I was going to get to Canada I decided to push that limit by parking at one of the many boat launching spots along Lubec Channel.  This one along Commercial Street had a breakwater stretching out into the channel which gave me an awesome look at Mulholland Point Lighthouse only a few hundred feet across the water on the shores of Campobello Island.
            Mulholland Point Light, red and white like the Canadian flag, was built in 1884 and was used to aide in navigation until the completion of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge was completed in 1962.  The bridge’s navigational lights made the lighthouse obsolete and it was decommission shortly thereafter.  Campobello Island is forever linked to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt who owned a summer cottage on the island although Eleanor visited it more than FDR once he became President.
Mulholland Point Lighthouse
            While standing at the end of the breakwater shooting the lighthouse I was also privileged to see three seals fishing in the rapid current of Lubec Channel.  Having not seen many seals in my life I was just as fascinated with watching them play and dive for fish as I was with being so close to the Canadian border.  I was so close that I could see the cars being stopped on the other side of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge at the border guard station.
            It was fitting I thought that I had gone literally as far as I could go in the United States and was standing there with the entire country behind me.  Ironically as well was the fact that this day was the warmest of all of the days I had spent in Maine despite it being so far north.  Lubec may be the smallest town I have visited so far in my travels but West Quoddy Head Light helps to make it one of my favorites.  Even though it is a long trip out for most people I believe that the charm of the eastern-most town in the United States makes the trip worthwhile.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading! 

For a short video featuring West Quoddy Head Light and Lubec, Maine check out my YouTube page: Lubec, Maine

DirectionsWest Quoddy Head Lighthouse:  Take Rt. 1 up the coast toward Lubec.  In Whiting when Rt. 1 is aka River Rd., turn right onto Rt. 189.  Follow 10 miles, turn right at S. Lubec Rd.  Take a slight left at Quoddy Head Rd., follow it to the parking lot overlooking the lighthouse.
            Commercial Street Parking Area:  Take Rt. 1 up the coast toward Lubec.  In Whiting when Rt. 1 is aka River Rd., turn right onto Rt. 189.  Follow Rt. 189 into Lubec, turn left at Eureka St., turn right onto Commercial Street.  Parking area is on left where Commercial St. meets Pleasant St.  Mulholland Point Light is straight across the water. 

ReferencesQuoddy Head Station
            Visit Lubec

Thursday, December 23, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 92: Acadia National Park

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 92:  Acadia National Park
October 4, 2010

            There are many places that I have been to during my traveling time that have blown me away.  However, there was a place that had been on my radar as a must-see destination ever since I was in high school.  That place was Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Maine.  From the moment I began to become interested in photography I had chosen Ansel Adams as the photographer I would most like to emulate.  I saw his photos from Schoodic Point in 1949 at Acadia and hoped that someday I could make the trip to see these same natural wonders.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how life-changing this trip would be.
Sand Beach
            Acadia began to be preserved originally thanks to major contributions from local citizen George B. Dorr during the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.  It was his vision to keep the naturally beauty of Mount Desert Island safe for future generations.  The park was first called the Sieur de Monts National Memorial in 1916 because of the house that Mr. Dorr built near the Sieur de Monts Spring in 1909.  It was then known as Lafayette National Park in 1919 before the name Acadia National Park was given to the area in 1929.
With more than 47,000 acres of preserved land it is impossible to see all that Acadia has to offer in one day, possibly even a week, but I tried my best to see a few spots that were circled on my map.  For novices such as myself the best way to see as much of Acadia in as short of time as most people have is to take a drive on the Park Loop Road.
Some folks getting splashed at the Thunder Hole.
The twenty-seven mile loop begins near the Hulls Cove Visitor’s Center and there is a fee to enter but I promise you that once you are inside any amount paid will have been worth it.  The views along the road are simply amazing from the moment you enter the park.  The people who designed the road knew this fact and have designated the right lane as a parking lane as well.  I made quick use of this by stopping and parking over and over just to get out and stare at the ocean and rocky shores.  In a bit of irony the design of the Park Loop Road was the brainchild of famed architect Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. who I previously had discovered as the designer of the unique Rockery in Easton, Massachusetts.
A couple overlooking Otter Cove.
Not far from the entrance to the Park Loop Road is the first spot that I visited: Sand Beach.  There is a stairway to get down to the shore from the parking area and the instant I caught sight of the beach I knew it was going to be extraordinary.  The beach is rather small as it is nestled between rocky cliffs, and the water rarely gets above fifty-five degrees.  Those two things are part of what makes this place amazing.  The waves crash on the shore and weave their way through the outcropping of rocks which line the right side of the beach, I was mesmerized by the sound.  There is a hiking trail called the Great Head Trail for the land formation that it encompasses.  From Great Head there is an amazing view of a spot known as the ‘Beehive.’  This 520-foot mountain is very popular with hikers as it is not nearly as difficult to navigate as Cadillac Mountain.  As I said before though, it is nearly impossible to get to see everything at Acadia in one day and so the Beehive is a spot that will remain for another day.
Waiting for the sunset at Blue Hill Overlook.
The next place along the Park Loop Road that will blow your mind is the very famous Thunder Hole.  This is a small inlet with a cavern formed naturally in the rocks.  When the waves start flowing in they dive into this cavern which forces the air out and in short makes a sound like a roar of thunder.  The waves can shoot as high as forty feet into the air.  I witnessed for myself as a group of people standing at the railing overlooking Thunder Hole were splashed with one of these waves.  After a while it becomes a sort of game to see when the next loud crashing wave will hit, or when the next wave will spray high enough into the air to soak onlookers.  I had to dive out of the way of one rogue wave but was lucky enough to escape this spot virtually dry.  I could have stayed and listened to the sounds of thunder forever but there was a spot I had been waiting to see for many years and I needed to get there before dark.
At 1,532 feet Cadillac Mountain is the highest point within twenty-five miles of the east coast of the United States.  From October to March it is the first spot to see the sunrise as well.  My ultimate goal was to get to watch the sunset from the summit of this incredible pink granite mountain.  It is a longer drive than I thought getting around the Park Loop Road to the Cadillac Mountain access road.  I feared not making it in time to see the sunset. 
The sunset from atop Cadillac Mountain.
The drive on this road was fabulous as well.  At some points the only thing separating your vehicle from the edge of the cliffs are a few well placed rocks.  There were several turn off points that would have been fine for watching the sunset if it had come down to that but luckily for me I made it to the Blue Hill Overlook which is the best spot for viewing the sunset.  There were already about forty people there, cameras out and waiting as the sun slowly crept down toward the horizon. 
It was as cold as I had been during my entire trip to Maine but I would not have traded that experience for anything.  The sunset was spectacular; I have never seen anything like it.  There were hills and rivers all coated in a golden glow and I was even able to see the lights of Bar Harbor.  Even after the sun had gone and the colors had faded to gray I did not want to leave, I did not want the experience to end.  I can say this without a doubt, watching the sunset from the top of Cadillac Mountain was one of the highlights of my life.
I wish that everybody reading this could experience what I did on that night.  Acadia National Park was a place I had dreamed of visiting since I was in high school and after seeing it I can say that I cannot wait to go back again.  There was so much I missed but what I did see will stay with me for a lifetime.  Everybody needs to see this place at least once in their lives.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For a short video featuring the Thunder Hole and the sunset on top of Cadillac Mountain visit my YouTube channel here:  Acadia National Park.

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsStart of Park Loop Road:  Take Rt. 3 south onto Mt. Desert Island.  Follow it into Bar Harbor, turn left at Mt. Desert St., turn right at Main St.  Turn left at Schooner Head Rd.  Follow it 2.5 miles, turn right toward Park Loop Rd.  Turn left, ranger station will be straight ahead, this is starting point.

            Acadia National

Monday, December 20, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 91: Mount Desert Island, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 91:  Mount Desert Island, Maine
October 4, 2010

            Although not a town I considered Mount Desert Island to be a wonderful place worth sharing.  It is the largest island off the coast of Maine and at 108 square miles it is the sixth largest island in the contiguous United States.  It is on Mount Desert Island where you find Bar Harbor and the one in a million Acadia National Park, however this article will attempt to showcase what else this place of natural beauty has to offer.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
            I was amazed by the size of the island as I drove from Bar Harbor on the northeast side down to Bass Harbor which is on the southwest side.  It ended up being more than a half hour drive to get there but it was a great drive filled with incredible scenery.  My reason for visiting Bass Harbor was a chance to see the spectacular Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
            Built in 1858 this lighthouse sits on a rocky cliff with a view of Swans Island a few miles offshore.  It is only a short walk from the parking lot down to the Coast Guard Station where the lighthouse still is in operation.  The view of the lighthouse is great from the end of the paved walking path but I found a view that was a one in a million. 
            At the eastern end of the parking lot there is a path which leads you down to the rocks along the ocean shore.  The lighthouse can be seen from the edge of the rocks but I decided to venture out among the rocks to get a truly remarkable view of the lighthouse and the cliffs it stands on.  I do not recommend this for just anybody but if you are in fairly good shape I believe that this view of Bass Harbor Head Light is a can’t miss.
Pretty Marsh Harbor
            Heading back north on Mount Desert Island I stopped at Pretty Marsh and Pretty Marsh Harbor on the western side of the island.  Considered to be a part of Acadia National Park Pretty Marsh has a lot of great views, as most spots in Maine do.  I took a walk down to the picnic area which gives you a great view of the harbor.  The picnic tables are scattered among the trees with one spot having a roof over the table.  There is a steep path which leads to the water as well.  It is sort of like getting a taste of Acadia before visiting it.
            I cannot list all of the spots that I stopped at due to their amazing views but there is a place at the northern tip of ‘Great’ Long Pond on Pretty Marsh Road that needs to be seen.  Located in the village of Mount Desert it is called the ‘Great’ Long Pond due to the fact that there is a ‘Little’ Long Pond located to the east in the village of Seal Harbor.
Cadillac Mountain seen from 'Great' Long Pond.
There is a small dirt parking area for the beach and for boat launching.  While I was there I saw a long wooden dock which stretched out into the water.  From the end of this dock is yet another ‘classic Maine’ scene with the towering Cadillac Mountain dominating the horizon.  The rapidly changing foliage on either side of the pond caught my eye and led me toward the middle where the mountain stood.  The pond is very narrow at this end and the mountain seemed to sit in the perfect spot where the majority of it could be seen.  I felt like I could have stayed at the end of that dock for the rest of the day but there were more places to be seen on Mount Desert Island.
The well known Somesville footbridge. 
Lastly I stopped in the oldest village on Mount Desert Island: Somesville.  Dating back to 1761 the village sits at the end of Somes Sound which interestingly enough is the only fjord on the east coast of the United States.  The most recognizable spot in Somesville would have to be the Selectman’s Building and the beautiful wooden foot bridge which curves up and over a small river.  I have seen this spot in photos all over the internet as I did my research for this article, it definitely deserves all of the attention.  The Selectman’s Building should not be ignored though as it is one of the oldest buildings on Mount Desert Island being built in 1780.
Across the street from the brilliant covered bridge is the Somesville Library built in 1905.  That is a nice piece of history but the scenery located behind it will take your breath away.  The Somes Pond Outlet leads to Somes Harbor and beyond that is Acadia National Park.  You can park across the street where the Selectman’s Building is and walk over to the library and see the picturesque scenery.  It was yet another wonderful stop as I ventured back and forth across Mount Desert Island.
Although it is mostly known for the popular vacation destination of Bar Harbor and the incredible Acadia National Park there is so much more to see on Mount Desert Island.  Whether it’s the majestic sight of Bass Harbor Head Light on the rocky cliffs, the picture perfect footbridge of Somesville, or the view of Cadillac Mountain from ‘Great’ Long Pond, there is no shortage of worthwhile adventures to have on Mount Desert Island.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsBass Harbor Head Light:  Take Rt. 3 onto Mt. Desert Island, continue onto Rt. 102, follow over 12 miles.  Follow Rt. 102 south to Lighthouse Rd.  Follow to parking area.
            Pretty Marsh Picnic Area:  Take Rt. 3 onto Mt. Desert Island, continue onto Rt. 102.  Turn right at Pretty Marsh Rd., picnic area is 3rd right after Indian Point Road.
            Somesville Footbridge:  Take Rt. 3 onto Mt. Desert Island, continue onto Rt. 102.  Follow it south 5 miles.  Parking area is on right at Oak Hill Rd.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 90: Bar Harbor, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 90:  Bar Harbor, Maine
October 4, 2010

            Located on the incredible Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor ended up being a slice of home for me hundreds of miles away from it.  In the same vein as Nantucket, Bar Harbor is a hugely popular tourist destination especially during the peak months of April through October.  It is also the home to a large part of the picturesque Acadia National Park but that spot is worthy of its own article.
Criterion Theatre c.1932
            I stayed overnight in Bar Harbor as it is a good two hours drive up from Owl’s Head.  I stayed at the Edenbrook Motel on Eden Street.  It was a perfect area for a base camp as it was very close to the main drag of Bar Harbor: Cottage Street.  Although not quite the same, Cottage Street has a lot of the charm that Main Street on Nantucket has, minus the cobblestones of course.  There are so many little shops and restaurants that are unique to Bar Harbor, I found myself parking in an off-street lot and taking the time to walk up and down Cottage Street and the surrounding area just to see these spots.
            I won’t be able to name all of them but I could not help but stop and smile at places like Cool As A Moose with its moose in sunglasses logo and Debbah Gifts with its lobster logo and Bar Harbor spelled out ‘Baa-Haa-Baa.’  A walk along these streets, even in October, was a great experience even if they were tremendously crowded.  I found out why later in my trip.
Agamont Park and the actual Bar Harbor.
            There are several historic buildings along Cottage Street.  One of which is the amazing Criterion Theatre.  It is a beautiful, intimate arena of sorts first opened in 1932.  It still runs shows today after being a showcase during the height of vaudeville.  The most unique aspect of the Criterion Theatre is the ‘floating’ balcony.  It is a free hanging structure with eighty-eight of the best seats in the house.
Bar Harbor Inn
            There are so many little shops worth checking out but there was also a neat alley for lack of a better term where a few more store fronts were located.  There was a really nice fountain in the center filled with some colorful rocks.  I took a walk up the stairs and got an unbelievable view of Agamont Park down at the water.  Before heading that way I snapped some photos of the old buildings on Main Street.  Sherman’s Book Store was a place that I knew must have some history to it and I was right.  It was originally opened by Bill Sherman in 1886 and back then it actually printed the local newspaper on its premises.  Nowadays the paper is no longer printed there but Sherman’s does have a total of four locations in the mid-coast area so I think it is safe to say that not printing the newspaper has not hurt their business.
            A walk on Cottage Street can easily be turned into a collection of incredible views of the Maine coast if you simply take a left onto Main Street and take a walk down to Agamont Park and the actual water body known as Bar Harbor.  It is here where I found the reason why the streets were so crowded on a Monday in October.  Docked a few hundred feet out into the water was a huge Norwegian Cruise Ship, this was where many of the visitors had come from.
Porcupine Islands along the Shore Path.
            Agamont Park is an amazing spot.  There is another gorgeous fountain which ushers you into the park’s grounds.  Once on the green grass the scope of the scenery becomes apparent.  Sitting not too far out into the water are the Porcupine Islands which make up another ‘classic Maine’ scene; one of many that I saw during my trip.  There is also the Shore Path which is exactly what it says.  The nearly mile long walk along the rocky Maine coast is breathtaking.  Originally created in 1880 it begins at Agamont Park with connections at a few streets which allow you to travel back into town or continue the full distance.  It reminded me a lot of the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island just without the mansions.
            At the beginning of the Shore Walk is the very popular Bar Harbor Inn & Spa which blends in seamlessly with the rest of the natural beauty it observes.  The Inn used to be a social club called the Oasis Club which was frequented by such legendary American names as the Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, and Morgans.  The club began in 1874 and moved into its own building designed by William Randolph Emerson in 1887.  This is the current building.  The Bar Harbor Inn was an exclusive club up until the 1950’s when some townspeople joined to develop it into a hotel as well.  The name was changed to the current Bar Harbor Inn when it was purchased by David J. Witham in 1987.
            There is so much to see in this vacation destination.  I have tried to mention some places that stood out to me but I imagine that other visitors would have different spots they were fond of.  All I can say is that once you are here you will know why so many people flock to Bar Harbor.  The ocean views are incredible and Acadia National Park is so very close by.  I believe that everyone needs to take a trip up to Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island in its entirety.  There is no way you will be disappointed.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For more In My Footsteps items follow my Twitter Feed, view more photos at the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading!

My first book In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide is now available to order through Schiffer Books!

DirectionsAgamont Park:  Take Rt. 1 into Ellsworth, take right onto Rt. 3/Bar Harbor Rd.  Follow it 18 miles into Bar Harbor.  Turn left at West St., follow it to the water.   
            Criterion Theatre:  Take Rt. 1 into Ellsworth, take right onto Rt. 3/Bar Harbor Rd.  Follow it 18 miles into Bar Harbor.  Turn left at Cottage St., Theatre is on left, #35.
            Acadia National Park:  Take Rt. 1 into Ellsworth, take right onto Rt. 3/Bar Harbor Rd.  Follow it 18 miles into Bar Harbor.  Turn right at Eagle Lake Road, Park Headquarters are two miles up on left.

            Edenbrook Motel Bar Harbor
            Bar Harbor

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 89: Augusta, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 89:  Augusta, Maine
October 3, 2010

            Although it ranks as the third smallest state capital, population-wise, Augusta can hold its own with any other capital in the United States.  The area of Augusta was actually first explored by the Popham Colony.  They were English settlers who established the second colony in America only a few months after Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.  It was called by its Native American name of ‘Cushnoc’ until 1797 when it was incorporated as a part of Massachusetts as the town of Harrington.  Shortly thereafter it was renamed Augusta after Augusta Dearborn the daughter of noted American physician and Revolutionary War veteran Henry Dearborn.
Fort Western
            The first place I visited when I entered Augusta was the famed Fort Western.  Built in 1754 it is the oldest wooden fort in the country and remains relatively unchanged to this day; it is opened to the public during the summer months.  As interesting as the fort is there is more to the story of this place.  First of all two of the most infamous names in American history stayed here at one point.  In 1775 during their expedition to Quebec Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr stayed at the garrison while building bateaux, a small flat bottomed boat.
            Aaron Burr of course was Vice President under Thomas Jefferson and is well known for his duel with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton which resulted in Hamilton’s death in 1804.  Benedict Arnold’s name is even more infamous as the Revolutionary War general who plotted to surrender the fort at West Point to the British in 1780.  After being found out he defected to the British Army.  His name to this day is synonymous with betrayal.  It was for this reason that I found it very fitting that a stone plaque which mentions Arnold’s stay at Fort Western was covered with graffiti. 
Another Stone near the Benedict Arnold one marks the site of the Cushnoc Trading Post which was in use from 1628-1661.  This trading post was established by the Pilgrims of Plymouth County in order to trade with the local Abenaki tribe of Native Americans.  The site of where this trading post once stood is an historic landmark as well thanks to the discovery of the post’s remains in an archaeological dig from 1984 to 1987.
One of the buildings at the Kennebec Arsenal.
            There is a splendid river walk, The Augusta Greenway Trail, which connects to the Kennebec River Rail Trail and leads to Fort Western along the Kennebec River.  It is here that you begin to feel how small the state capital is as I don’t know of many others that could make you feel so isolated at times as I did walking along the Kennebec.  The state capitol building’s dome poking up from the trees across the river was a magnificent sight that I believe can only be seen in Augusta.  As isolated as I felt during this walk it actually added to the mystique and overall experience when I came upon the Kennebec Arsenal.
            Comprised of eight granite buildings the Kennebec Arsenal is the most intact early 19th century munitions depot in the country.  It was built between 1828 and 1838 and was built strategically on a hill with a fabulous view of the Kennebec River.  Though they are the most intact munitions depot buildings the Kennebec Arsenal looks every bit of its age.  I am not sure if it is natural aging and weathering or if it is vandalism but some of the granite buildings look like scenes from horror films.  Some of the buildings were partially obscured by small trees and shrub overgrowth while others were tucked behind chain link fence.  Personally I think it made it more of an experience for me since for the most part it was just myself and the eight buildings.  From the hillside I could see the state capitol building still; this was where I would end my trip to Augusta.
The State House seen from Capitol Park.
            Visiting a state capitol on a Sunday means that there is very little in the way of traffic in and around the buildings.  Before I took a stroll around the impressive capitol building I decided to get acquainted with it from afar.  The thirty-four acre Capitol Park, directly across the street from the capitol building, gives you a view that I was in awe of.  The trees are planted in such a way that there is a straight clearing from the park all the way up the steps of the capitol.  Words cannot describe it, a photo will do a little better job.
            After seeing it from this angle I decided to make a closer inspection of the Maine State Capitol.  Portland was actually the original state capitol of Maine, but it was moved to Augusta in 1832 because of its central location.  The building opened in 1832 and has the look of the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. with the domed roof and the many Romanesque columns. 
The Blaine House aka Governor's Mansion
            I was able to move rather freely around the grounds which gave me great perspectives.  To the left of the State Capitol is a modern three-story building which houses the state’s library, museum, and archives.  Behind the Capitol is the Burton Cross building which houses the Maine State Offices.  Cross was governor of Maine twice, from 1952 to 1955 save for one day due to the fact that his Senate term had ended 25 hours before his term as governor began.  It is a bit complicated for me to explain.
            Across Capitol Street sits the Executive Mansion, also known as the Blaine House.  The home of Maine’s governors the house was given to the state by Harriet Blaine Beale in 1919.  The house dates back to 1833 and the first governor to live in the mansion was Carl E. Miliken in 1920. 
            I was lucky enough to visit Augusta on a Sunday, making it very easy to get around.  This should not stop any visitor from coming here to see one of the smallest, yet most beautiful state capitols in the country.  The small town feel makes it more special, some state capitols feel out of reach due to their size, but Augusta is all right there for you to experience.  Make the time to see Fort Western and the Augusta Greenway Trail, and then check out Capitol Park and the spectacular view of the State House.  Have fun and happy traveling! 

My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at, and, or visit my homepage at, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!
DirectionsFort Western:  On I-95 headed north take exit 109A, merge right onto Rt. 202.  At rotary take 3rd exit to stay on Rt. 202.  At the next rotary take 4th exit for Cony St., Fort is on left.
            Maine State House:  On I-95 headed north take exit 109A, merge right onto Rt. 202.  At rotary take 2nd exit for State Street.  Capitol Park is across from State House with parking on the street.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 88: Gardiner, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 88:  Gardiner, Maine
October 3, 2010

            A beautifully classic small town, Gardiner is rich in history that spans across New England.  This is due to the man for whom the town is named, the 16th century physician and land developer of Maine Dr. Silvester Gardiner.  Born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, Dr. Gardiner studied medicine in New York City before opening a practice in Boston.  He made his fortune importing drugs for distribution and sale.  Dr. Gardiner also heavily promoted inoculation in regards to small pox; he also established a hospital for the treatment of small pox in 1761.  The good doctor founded what is currently Gardiner under the name Gardinerstown Plantation in 1754.
E.A. Robinson House
            I headed into Gardiner on a Sunday morning which ended up being a perfect time.  With much of the small town’s inhabitants at church the roads were virtually deserted and I was allowed to take my time as I drove through to enjoy the beautiful sun, scenery, and foliage.  The route I took through the town was dictated by a series of historic homes located all over.
            The first such home I stopped at was the home of American poet and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Edwin Arlington Robinson.  His family had wanted a girl when he was born and thus Robinson was not named until he was six months old.  His middle name comes from the fact that a man from Arlington, Massachusetts was asked to draw the baby’s first name from a hat.  I found this to be fascinating and a little bit sad.  Robinson’s poetry was so beloved by Kermit Roosevelt, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, that the President secured him a job at the New York Customs Office which he held during Roosevelt’s tenure in office.
Christ Episcopal Church
The home, on Lincoln Avenue, is set back a bit from the road and slightly elevated.  It was an impressive sight with the yard filled with downed leaves, a classic autumn scene.  I enjoyed the fact that these historic homes sit rather unsuspecting in normal rural neighborhoods.  The same can be said for the home of another poet and Pulitzer Prize winner, Laura E. Richards, located on Dennis Street.  Her best known work is a children’s poem entitled ‘Eletelephony’ which needs to be read to be appreciated.  Ironically the sign on the white picket fence in front of the home labels it as the ‘Yellow House,’ built in 1814.  While the house is indeed that very color I thought maybe there would have been a sign alerting passers-by that a famous poet had lived there.  Or, perhaps there was and I simply missed it?
The town common in Gardiner was actually the place where I found much of the town’s people.  Bordered by Dresden Avenue and School Street the common is a beautiful spot matching the rest of the town.  In the northeast corner of the common is a really nice marble drinking fountain.  Inscribed on the front is a message alerting you that the fountain was erected by Ellen Stinson in 1906.  Who is Ellen Stinson?  I am not sure but for the fact that she is the wife of someone important to Gardiner since the inscription says ‘Erected by his wife,’ on it.  I have been researching to find out who the Mr. Stinson is but to no avail yet.
Gardiner Public Library c. 1881
Directly across the street from this mysterious drinking fountain is the Christ Episcopal Church which is the oldest continuously running Episcopal Church in Maine.  It was originally known as St. Ann’s when it was built in 1771.  The name was changed to Christ Church in 1820 and the steeple’s bell was cast by famous American patriot Paul Revere.  When I arrived at the common and saw the church in the distance it had a remarkable presence that told me it was important to Gardiner’s history.  
Before the people exited church I headed down to Water Street, the main street of Gardiner.  It was basically barren of traffic which allowed me to get a lot of great photos of the shops, foliage, and wide shots of the empty street.  I parked across from the Gardiner Public Library which had several impressive views.  The front of the brick building, built in 1881, was a beautiful color and was bordered on the left by a tree with bright yellow leaves.
There is an iron gate to the left which houses the Peg Shaw Memorial Garden.  Although my visit coincided with the time when the leaves had fallen and flowers were no longer in peak bloom it was still a nice setup.  The back edge of the garden is a small side building of the library that acts as a wall.  There is a nice armillary sphere to the left of the door of the small building, it has been quite weathered but that adds to its charm.
Gardiner's beautiful Water Street
I walked north on Water Street from there and saw more of the ‘Blocks’ which I have described in my Brockton and Manchester articles for example.  They are the hundred year old buildings with the rectangular granite squares near the top containing a name, most likely of the person responsible for paying for it.  There were a mass of pumpkins for sale in front of Reny’s Department Store; this combined with the pots of colorful flowers in front of most stores made a walk on the brick sidewalks of Water Street a slice of heaven.
I finished up with a walk down where the waterfront along the Kennebec River is being restored to attract locals and visitors alike down to the area.  There are some railroad tracks and the Kennebec River Rail Trail which run along the river.  The bike path is probably the better suggestion for seeing the sites of the town and neighboring Farmingdale.  Underneath the bridge which crosses the Kennebec there is some adorable art from local schools, this will no doubt make you smile.
Gardiner in the fall is everything that you could want in a classic small Maine town.  From being able to drive through all of the quaint neighborhoods searching for historic homes to walking the Gardiner common, to exploring the shops and restaurants on Water Street, there will be a fun day in store for any visitor who comes here.  Definitely make Gardiner a stop during your time in Maine.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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DirectionsGardiner Town Common:  From I-95 take Exit 102, turn left at Rt. 126, take a slight left at Central Street, slight left at Water Street.  Take a sharp right at Church Street, take 3rd left onto Dresden Avenue, the common will be on the left.
            Kennebec River Rail Trail:  From I-95 take Exit 102, turn left at Rt. 126, take a slight left at Central Street, slight left at Water Street.  Turn left at Bridge Street, turn right at Maine Avenue, parking lot for bike path is on right at Hannaford’s.
            Public Library/Peg Shaw Garden:  From I-95 take Exit 102, turn left at Rt. 126, take a slight left at Central Street, slight left at Water Street.  Follow Water Street, library and garden are on right, #155.

            Kennebec Historical Society