Camden is a town in Knox Count, Maine. The population was 4,850 in 2010 but grows considerably in the sumer months. The population of the town more than triples during the summer months, due to tourists and summer residents. Similar to Bar Harbour and Nantucket, Camden is well known for its summer community of wealthy Northeasterners, mostly from Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
Penobscot Abenaki Indians called the area Megunticook, meaning “great swells of the sea”, a reference to the silhouette of the Camden Hills (more visibly seen on a bright night). It was first settled about 1771–1772 by James Richards, who built a home at the mouth of the Megunticook River. Others soon followed, some making modest attempts to farm the broken and often mountainous terrain. The first home in the area built in 1770. In 1962, it was purchased and renovated into a history museum.
In the 1950s, artists and writers of significant reputation began moving to Camden and neighboring Rockport, where local artists organized Maine Coast Artists. Wayne Doolittle began publishing Down East Magazine in 1954, and in 1956 Carousel was filmed in Camden, followed by Peyton Place in 1957, because the quaint, old town with its extremely picturesque harbor and the beautiful scenery, looked like the picture-perfect American town. Since then Camden’s charm and beautiful setting have not gone unnoticed by Hollywood with Steven King’s Thinner in 1995, In the Bedroom in 2001, and with the soap opera Passions using Camden for shots depicting the fictional town Harmony.
Camden’s many prominent summer and year-round residents have been a valuable resource to the town in many ways over the past 125 years, a tradition of partnership which continues today in many forms, not least by helping to establish some internationally renowned events, namely The Camden Conference and Pop!Tech. The Camden Conference has been held annually for nearly a quarter of a century to foster informed discourse on world issues. Convened in the historic Camden Opera House, the event draws some of the best minds on foreign policy to share their insights and expertise on a range of global issues. The Pop!Tech conference, which takes place each fall, gathers a global community of cutting-edge leaders, thinkers, and doers from many different disciplines to explore the social impact of new technologies, the forces of change shaping our future, and new approaches to solving the world’s most significant challenges.
We moved on from Portland and made Camden our new base (more on that later). A day trip to an old favorite followed – Bar Harbour, in the Acadia National Park. A picturesque beyond pretty fishing village, home to 6,000 people permanently and about 150,000 over the summer season.
Many influential people call(ed) Bar Harbour home for at least part of the year. John D. Rockefeller Junior donated about one-third of the land in Acadia National Park and built the carriage roads that are used for hiking and biking. J.P.Morgan owned a house that is adjacent to Bar Harbour (his family are still the proprietors). Cornelius Vanderbilt built cottages in Bar Harbour. The Astor family owned hotels and cottages in Bar Harbour and the surrounding areas. Former US President William Taft used to enjoy games of golf in Bar Harbour. The star and creator of the TV show Martha Stewart has also been known to frequent Mount Desert Island and been seen in the village. Film star john Travolta has a home in nearby Ilesboro and has been seen many times in Bar Harbour. Architect Fred L. Savage started out on Mount Desert Island, moved, and then returned to design houses for many wealthy people.
What better way to spend a night out with friends – a great meal at one of Portland’s fabulous restaurants and see Cirque de Soleil’s Vareki.
On to the Portland City Centre which had been transformed into a Cirque de Soleil venue. We had seen the show, Varekai, before but it was worth a second viewing.
People often ask – do the Cirque shows have a storyline? Well, here’s Varekai’s:
Deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, exists an extraordinary world – a world where something else is possible. A world called Varekai.
From the sky falls a solitary young man, and the story of Varekaibegins. Parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world populated by fantastical creatures, this young man sets off on an adventure both absurd and extraordinary. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of all possibilities, begins an inspired incantation to life rediscovered.
The word Varekai means “wherever” in the Romany language of the gypsies the universal wanderers. This production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to the infinite passion of those whose quest takes them along the path that leads to Varekai.
Cape Elizabeth is the home of Portland Head Light. Situated along the spectacular shores of Fort Williams Park, at 1000 Shore Road, the popular landmark is owned and managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
In 1787, the General Court of Massachusetts (the Massachusetts legislature) provided $750 to begin construction of a lighthouse. In 1790, when the United States Government took over the responsibility of all lighthouses, Congress appropriated $1,500 for its completion. The original tower measured 72′ from base to lantern deck and was lit with 16 whale oil lamps. It was first lit on January 10, 1791.
Construction of the first Keeper’s Quarters began in 1790 as the result of a contract signed by Massachusetts Governor John Hancock. A one story dwelling built to replace the first keeper’s house was erected in 1816. It measured 34′ x 20′ with two rooms, a cellar and a porch in the rear. By 1864 a 4th order Fresnel lens and a cast iron staircase were installed. By 1865, the tower was raised 20′ and a 2nd order Fresnel lens was installed. A portion of this lens may now be seen at the Museum at Portland Head Light. Except for a period between1883 and1885, this lens was in the lighthouse until 1958.
Late on Christmas Eve in 1886, the three masted bark Annie C. Maguire struck the ledge at Portland Head. Keeper Joshua Strout, his son, wife, and volunteers rigged an ordinary ladder as a gangplank between the shore and the ledge the ship was heeled against. Captain O’Neil, the ship’s master, his wife, two mates, and the nine man crew clambered onto the ledge and then to safety . The cause of the wreck is puzzling since visibility was not a problem. Members of the crew reported they “plainly saw Portland Light before the disaster and are unable to account for same.”
The current Keepers’ Quarters building was constructed in 1891 as a two story duplex. Until 1989, it was home to the head and assistant lighthouse keepers and their families. To-day the US Coast Guard maintains a vigilant watch.
To-day is our host and friend’s birdie – Erica turns …….
Tonight a soirée.
We journeyed further up the US1 highway to Portland, Maine.
Portland is the largest city in Maine. In 2013, the inner city area had a population of 66,318, growing 3 percent since the census of 2000, while the urban area had a population of 203,914. The Greater Portland Metropolitan area is home to over half a million people, more than one-third of Maine’s total population.
Tourists visit Portland’s historic Old Port district along Portland Harbor, at the mouth of the Fore river and part of Casco Bay.
The city seal depicts a phoenix rising from ashes, which aligns with the city’s motto, Resurgam, which is Latin for “I will rise again.” The motto refers to Portland’s recoveries from four devastating fires.
With about 230 restaurants, Portland is believed to have the most restaurants per capita of any city in the United States – and they’re good!
No road trip to Maine is complete without a visit to Freeport and the flagship store for Maine icon, L.L.Bean.
One of the world’s greatest retailers, it is a story worth telling:
In 1911, an avid outdoorsman named Leon Leonwood (“L.L.”) Bean returned from a hunting trip with cold, damp feet and a revolutionary idea. L.L. enlisted a local cobbler to stitch leather uppers to workmen’s rubber boots, creating a comfortable, functional boot for exploring the Maine woods. This innovative boot – the Maine Hunting Shoe® – changed outdoor footwear forever and began one of the most successful family-run businesses in the country.
L.L. began his business by working out of the basement of his brother’s apparel shop. In 1912, he obtained a mailing list of nonresident Maine hunting license holders and prepared a three-page flyer that boldly proclaimed, “You cannot expect success hunting deer or moose if your feet are not properly dressed. The Maine Hunting Shoe is designed by a hunter who has tramped the Maine woods for the last 18 years. We guarantee them to give perfect satisfaction in every way.” The public could not resist the commonsense logic and genuine enthusiasm of his appeal.
Steady growth continued. By 1934, the company had increased its factory size to over 13,000 square feet. The simple flyer evolved into a 52-page catalog. The company generated over 70% of the volume for the Freeport post office. By 1937, sales surpassed the $1 million mark. Leon Gorman noted decades later, “The most important legacy of L.L.’s genius was the power of his personality. It transcended the buying and selling of products. His personal charisma based on down-home honesty, a true love for the outdoors and a genuine enthusiasm for people, inspired all who worked for him and attracted a fanatic loyalty among his customers.”
L.L. never missed an opportunity to improve service. While the bulk of sales were generated by the catalog, hunters and visitors frequently dropped by Freeport. A night bell allowed the late-night visitor to call a watchman or even L.L. himself. In 1951, L.L. opened the store 365 days a year, 24 hours a day proclaiming, “We have thrown away the keys to the place.” To this day, there are no locks on the doors of the flagship store in Freeport.
L.L.Bean’s e-commerce business has seen tremendous growth, with online sales surpassing phone orders for the first time in 2010. L.L.Bean customers have enjoyed numerous improvements to llbean.com since its initial launch, including interactive shopping guides, 24-hour live customer service and features such as order tracking, up-to-date product availability, customer order history and ratings and reviews. The site has been recognized with numerous industry awards for its ease of use, design excellence and outstanding customer service.
In 2012, L.L.Bean celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a variety of contests, events and activities, as well as charitable donations to an array of organizations, all in the spirit of inspiring the next generation of youth to get out and enjoy the outdoors. The company also unveiled the Bootmobile – a larger-than-life, road-ready replica of its iconic L.L.Bean Boot. The Bootmobile is a 13-foot-high, 20-foot-long vehicle that travels around the country on a mission to inspire people to get outside and try a new activity.
To visit the LLBean site, click here.
“The World’s Finest Lobster comes from Maine”, trumpet the billboards as you travel the highways and byways of Maine. The Maineian accent pronounces it ‘lobstah’.
We drove to outside Portland and a golf estate near the town of Falmouth – home of John and Mary, two great kids and Doolan the dog. Friday night dinner was ‘lobstah a la John’. What a feast!
Some lobster history
In North America, the American lobster did not achieve popularity until the mid-19th century, when New Yorkers and Bostonians developed a taste for it, and commercial lobster fisheries only flourished after the development of the lobster smack,a custom-made boat with open holding wells on the deck to keep the lobsters alive during transport.Prior to this time, lobster was considered a mark of poverty or as a food for indentured servants or lower members of society in Maine, Massachussets and the Canadian Maritimes, and servants specified in employment agreements that they would not eat lobster more than twice per week. Lobster was also commonly served in prisons, much to the displeasure of inmates.American lobster was initially deemed worthy only of being used as fertilizer or fish bait, and it was not until well into the twentieth century that it was viewed as more than a low-priced canned staple food.
Around every corner, there is something to see, like this tumbledown house..
What is a diner?
A true “diner” is a prefabricated structure built at an assembly site and transported to a permanent location for installation to serve prepared food. Webster’s Dictionary defines a diner as “a restaurant in the shape of a railroad car.” The word “diner” is a derivative of “dining car” and diner designs reflected the styling that manufacturers borrowed from railroad dining cars. A diner is usually outfitted with a counter, stools and a food preparation or service area along the back wall. Decommissioned railroad passenger cars and trolleys were often converted into diners by those who could not afford to purchase a new diner.
How Diners began?
The origins of the diner can be traced to Walter Scott, a part-time pressman and type compositor in Providence, Rhode Island. Around 1858 when Scott was 17 years old he supplemented his income by selling sandwiches and coffee from a basket to newspaper night workers and patrons of men’s club rooms. By 1872 business became so lucrative that Scott quit his printing work and began to sell food at night from a horse-drawn covered express wagon parked outside the Providence Journal newspaper office. In doing so, Walter Scott unknowingly inspired the birth of what would become one of America’s most recognized icons — the diner.
Over the decades
The success of the early converted wagons inspired a few individuals to form companies and manufacture lunch wagons for sale. These improved wagons allowed customers to stand inside, protected from inclement weather or sit on stools at counters. Night lunch wagons or “Nite Owls” began to appear in many New England towns and cities during the late 1800′s. Some models were elaborate and were fitted with stained and etched glass windows, intricately painted murals and fancy woodwork. The lunch wagons became very popular because workers and pedestrians could purchase inexpensive meals during the day but especially at night when most restaurants closed by 8:00 pm.
The wagons, the Depression and the rise of the Fast Food Giants such as MacDonalds and KFC saw diners slump into the background after WW2 and into the late 60s.
A revival begun in the late 1970′s spurned a new interest in the American diner. The three remaining old diner builders began to fabricate new diners in the old styles. New companies joined the growing market to build new retro looking diners. The renewed interest in diners can be attributed to Americans looking backwards for inspiration and the values of yesterday in a time of moral and economic uncertainty. Several national corporate franchises such as Denny’s, Silver Diners and Johnny Rockets adapted the look and feel of the diner as part of new marketing concepts. A trend in diner restaurants developed in Europe that brought increased sales to American diner manufacturers.
The interest in the American Diner continues today. A significant number of vintage diners have been rescued from demolition and relocated to new sites in the United States and Europe. Manufacturers of diner structures are experiencing new orders or remodeling projects in a retro style. Some Museums have assembled temporary exhibits on diners or incorporated a historical diner for permanent display or as venue for food service. Conferences about history, historic preservation or popular culture have includes presentations or tours of diners. The Massachusetts Historical Commisssion has placed all vintage functioning diners on the National Register of Historic Places. Along with nominations from other states the list of diners on the National Register is increasing annually. In conjunction with saving diner structures it is equally important to help preserve and promote diner culture. Diners evolved into community gathering places were people from all walks of life and origin shared a home cooked meal in a small and comforting atmosphere. A recommendation from the American Diner Museum is to help preserve diners by keeping them in business. Whenever possible visit a diner to share a meal and conversation with others.