Even though the modern world has caught up with us here in Down East Maine, and we mostly lead our lives in real time nowadays, some old ways die hard—place names are a prime example. After all, until GPS came along to spoil the fun, this was a place where directions often started out “Go past where the old sawmill used to be, turn left…”
For example, this building was formerly the Blue Hill Department Store, which did business on Main St. for about 100 years. In my childhood, it was owned by a man named Charles Ware, and was always referred to as ‘Charlie Ware’s” (as in “Mommy, can we go to Charlie Ware’s and buy a new toy?”). For the last 20 years of its existence, it was owned by a woman named Ellen Werner, a great friend of mine. Ellen was not unknown in the community— as a state legislator, a community activist, and the wife of the local obstetrician. Nevertheless, throughout most of her ownership, she gracefully suffered her business being referred to as ‘Charlie Ware’s’. And when modern times brought an end to the era of the small village dry-goods store, the question around town was ‘Have you heard that Charlie Ware’s has closed?’ And now, a few of us still refer to the place, for the last decade a crafts gallery, as ‘The Department Store’.
Above is Dundree, a summer cottage overlooking the entrance to the harbor. It was built in 1913 for Cleveland industrialist Coburn Haskell, inventor of the modern golf ball, and his wife, Gertrude Hanna, a daughter of Cleveland’s wealthiest family. The house was owned by the Haskells until Mrs. Haskell’s death in 1938. It was then owned in succession by the Harry Gerhausers, the Merritt Taylors, and Katherine Filene Shouse, the department store heiress who gave Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts to the nation. Kay Shouse was no slouch. She held the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was a Dame Commander of the British Empire, and first woman chairman of the Federal Prison for Women board. But even she was not prominent enough to dislodge the Haskell name from the house (although the sight of her liveried chauffeur taking trash to the dump in cans lashed to the rear of a stately 1951 Jaguar Mark V Saloon was a summer tourist favorite. Never has garbage traveled more elegantly to its destination). The present owner’s parents bought the house in the late 1970′s, and hence the current family has owned it longer than any other, including the Haskells. But yes, you guessed it, it is still referred to as the ‘Haskell Cottage’, even by those of us too young to remember the Haskells.
My great grandmother’s cousin, Mrs. D. Chase Barker, lived in an old cape on Pleasant Street in the village. Josephine Barker, a pillar of the community, was of that generation of ladies who revered their ancestors and the artifacts of the past, and the house was always on local house tours, where visitors would oooh and aahh over the warming pans by each fireplace, and the six foot cooking fireplace and brick bake ovens in the original kitchen. Mrs. Barker died in the mid-1960′s, and the house had two owners after that before being acquired in the 1980′s as the home of a terrific bookstore. The locals referred to the bookstore not by its name, Blue Hill Books, but as ‘the bookstore at Josie Barker’s’. I remember well the day my grandmother rang me up in the bookstore’s third year of business and asked, “Would you stop at that bookstore at mother’s cousin Josie’s and pick up a copy of Roy Barrette’s new book for me?”
The local blacksmith shop, next to the Mill Stream, ceased operation in the late 1960′s, and the building became a charming restaurant known as The Firepond. It has been a restaurant in many incarnations since—’Toscana (don’t ask), Firepond again, and most recently ‘Table: A Farmhouse Bistro’ (don’t get me started on that one! I abhor such nomenclature. Subtitled restaurants, indeed!). And yes, you guessed it. I still hear it referred to as ‘the forge’.
There are many other examples, several of which I will be posting about for their own colorful stories—this is just a random sampling.
…plus c’est la meme chose.