MHS Book Group: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Another great book group is being offered at the Maine Historical Society, in conjunction with the current MHS exhibit on

Home: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland

Tuesday, January 27 – Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MHS Book Group: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, ca. 1880 (MMN #5417)

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, ca. 1880 (MMN #5417)

Facilitator: Larissa Vigue Picard, Director of Education

Join us this January through May for our sixth annual MHS reading group–a great opportunity to engage in literary discussions about history and connect with members of the MHS community.

“Home Is Where the Heart Is” takes as its stepping off point the 2014-2015 MHS museum exhibition, Home: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland. Session readings explore themes of home, family, place, immigration, and community in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry with a historical resonance. There are even a couple haunted houses in the mix!

Books must be acquired on your own and include Tracy Kidder’s House, Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger, Terry Farish’s The Good Braider, and George Howe Colt’s The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home. A number of additional short readings (essays, poetry, and a short story) will be provided as handouts or are available online.

WHEN: Tuesdays 1/27, 2/24, 3/24, 4/28, 5/26 @ 6:30PM
WHERE: MHS Lecture Hall
COST: $20 MHS members / $30 non-members (includes handouts/resources, facilitation, and refreshments)
REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Friday, January 23. Registration is required; space is limited. To sign up, email lvpicard@mainehistory.org for a registration form and copy of the full reading list, drop by the MHS museum store to register on-site, or download the registration form and full reading list.

Favorite books of 2014: a top 10 list

Bath Book ShopWhat were the favorite books that you read in 2014? Once again, it was hard to decide on my top 10, given the amount I read in a year, but I think these are the stand-outs, in no particular order. I tried to choose 5 fiction and 5 non-fiction, to give some variety.

 

*Come spring / by Ben Ames Williams. This is a classic Maine book, which takes place in Union, Maine. Written in the 1940s, it tells the story of the early settlers, in the form of a novel. Although this is a long book (over 800 pages) it keeps moving (see blog for September)

 

*A barn in New England : making a home on three acres / by Joseph Monninger. I picked this up at the Chebeague Island Library, on their booksale shelf. Beautifully written book about home, as well as a love story.

 

*Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Frye : a novel / by Rachel Joyce. Harold takes an unintentional pilgrimage from one end of England to another, to visit a dying friend. This very British book appealed to my love of the idea of pilgrimage, as well as a wonderful story with real characters.

 

*Walking home : a poet’s journey / by Simon Armitage. Another walking book, but this time a true story of poet Simon Armitage’s trek from north to south on the Pennine Way, in which he trades an evening of poetry for a place to stay. (See blog post for April)

 

*The art of racing in the rain : a novel / by Garth Stein. This is such an unusual book, written from a dog’s perspective. Really interesting story, with a sad but beautiful ending (which we expected).

 

*Orange is the new black : my year in a women’s prison / by Piper Kernan. Through a series of bad mistakes Piper Kernan, a Smith College graduate, ended up in a women’s prison in Connecticut. This book will offer a new perspective on life in prison. The author continues to work towards prison reform. (See blog post for January)

 

*Sheen on the silk : a novel / by Anne Perry. I really appreciated this book for the time period, of 13th century Istanbul, and the religious struggles of the day. It also tells the story of a woman physician disguised as a eunuch, and includes some mystery, intrigue, and a love story. Although overly long, it still was an interesting read.

 

*Blue plate special : an autobiography of my appetites / by Kate Christensen. More than just food, Kate, a Portland, Maine, author, takes us on a trek through her life – I found this to be a page turner.

 

*Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb : a novel / by Melanie Benjamin. The Maine Historical Society has a menu signed by Mrs. Tom Thumb, Lavinia Warren Bump, which inspired my interest in reading this book. This fictionalized account of her life is a fascinating view into the life of a young woman in Middleboro, Massachusetts who longed for something more than being sheltered in small town New England – and she got it!

 

*An altar in the world : a geography of faith / by Barbara Brown Taylor. I read several spiritual books this year – it was hard to choose among them but since this is the most recent, it’s fresher on my mind. Gently written, Barbara Brown Taylor walks us through various spiritual practices, such as walking on the earth, paying attention, living with purpose. This is the kind of book I could read over and over.

 

Happy New Year from the Long Island Community Library – may 2015 bring you many wonderful books!

 

The snowmen are here!

Snowmen 1Well, it may not officially be winter on the calendar, but on Long Island winter has arrived, with snow on Thanksgiving. So, to celebrate the season, we have a lovely winter exhibit of snowmen, collected over the years by Penny Murley. Stop by the small exhibit case, between the library and small meeting room, and say hello to this wonderful collection of snowmen.

Snowmen 3

Adirondack libraries

A recent vacation in the Adirondack mountains of New York found us, as usual, visiting libraries.

Some we only saw from the outside: the lovely stone library in Brandt Lake is no longer used as a library, but offers a picturesque photo opportunity.

Adirondack libraries - Brandt Lake

Lake Placid’s library was located on the main street, and offered a box of “free” stuff on the porch steps.

Adirondack libraries - Lake Placid

Raquette Lake’s library had steps from the water and tucked in a grove of trees.

Adirondack libraries - Raquette Lake

But some libraries we were able to visit inside. One was the Adirondack Museum’s library.  Yes, the museum had closed for the season a month earlier, but thanks to a brilliant tip from a friend, I had previously e-mailed the librarian, Dr. Jerold Pepper, to ask for a tour. Jerry not only showed us his wonderful library full of great books and fabulous manuscripts, highlighting such characters as Winslow Homer and the Roosevelts, but he also gave us a behind the scenes tour of the closed exhibits, including boats, carriages, and sleds. There are some interesting commonalities between Maine and the Adirondacks, including history and art. (Both Rockwell Kent and Winslow Homer spent time in Maine and the Adirondacks). We also enjoyed Jerry’s perspective on life in that region, an area “forever wild.”

We also stopped into The William Chapman White Memorial Room/Adirondack Research Center in the basement of the Saranac Lake Free Library, and chatted with the slightly overwhelmed looking librarian, who was cataloging tuberculosis patient cards. Saranac Lake was known as “the Western Hemisphere’s foremost center for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis,” from the 1890s through 1950s.

Adirondack libraries - Saranac Lake

Both libraries gave us a glimpse into the history of the area. Visiting libraries on vacation can be a great opportunity to get a flavor of the community, whether exploring exhibits or meeting people in the community, including visitors who come to our own island library.

Writers’ Houses

Here is a fun website to peruse through:

http://writershouses.com/

Founded in July 2010 by writer A. N. Devers, Writers’ Houses is an online publication dedicated to the exploring writers’ spaces and art of literary pilgrimage. It includes houses all around the world, even Kenya! (Karen Blixen House and Museum).

One of these days I will make it a goal to visit all these houses. But for now, you can start with two in Maine: the Sarah Orne Jewett House in South Berwick and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland, home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Wadsworth Longfellow House black and white rear

Come Spring by Ben Ames Williams

Union common

My birthday road trip this year was to Hope, Freedom, Liberty, and Union. My favorite of these wonderfully named towns was Union, with its beautiful downtown common. There were several visual cues in the common referring to “Come Spring,” a novel by Ben Ames Williams published in 1940, which tells the tale of the first settlers of Union, then known as “Sterlingtown.” Sterlingtown became incorporated as Union in 1780, when there were 19 families. “Come Spring” fictionalizes the story of these families.

Despite being 866 pages, the book kept me interested throughout with good characters, humor, and mostly the wonderful descriptions of every day life in these early days of Maine settlement. It also contains one of the longest courtships I’ve ever read in fiction, a wonderful love story, and a strong and likeable main female character.

Union map

In Union’s common is a map of Sterlingtown, which can be found in the book endpages, as well as a plaque under a tree dedicated to Ben Ames Williams (1889 – 1953). What a treat to “discover” a Maine author (Williams vacationed in Maine, and set several of his works there) whom I have not read, especially after visiting Union. I need to return there again, now that I’ve read this book that further explores the history of Union.

Union tree

Sunset Cruising on Casco Bay

Deborah Clark cruise photo

My husband, daughter, and I enjoyed a wonderful boat cruise aboard the Blue Nun motoring around Casco Bay last Tuesday evening courtesy of Steve and Chris McDuffie.  They generously donated the trip as a raffle fundraiser for the Long Island Library and my husband won the prize.  Steve asked us where we wanted to go and since we had never seen Portland Head and Two Lights from “the other side,” we decided to boat down the coast to Cape Elizabeth.

The weather was perfect with a warm breeze and clear skies. Chris surprised us with some delicious snacks and my husband was able to snap several beautiful photographs of the area. As I took in the surrounding landscape and wildlife with binoculars, my daughter quizzed Chris on the local history and happenings of the islands.

On the return leg of the trip, we spotted the new Nova Star ferry coming in to dock at Portland’s Ocean Gateway Pier and a friendly harbor seal poked his head up to check us out. Steve took us around the back side of Peaks Island and with one last look at Fort Gorges, we got back to Portland just in time to take in a lovely sunset. We all had a marvelous time. Thank you to the McDuffies for making a two-hour boat ride such a memorable occasion.

Deborah Clark, Raymond, ME (with photographs by Craig Clark)

Deborah Clark cruise photo of Steve and Chris

 

Visitor from the Maine State Library

 

Deborah Clark

As the new consultant for the Southern Maine Library District, I have been visiting all the public libraries in Cumberland, York, and southern Oxford Counties. The Art & Soul Festival provided the perfect opportunity for me to tour the Long Island Community Library, meet the staff and trustees, as well as learn a little about island living. I was so impressed by the efforts of those I met  (Library Director Nancy Jordan, trustees Nancy Noble, Patty Temple, and Connie Brayley, and organizer Mary McAleney) and by the strong community support for the library event.

 

I especially liked the “Bling Room” with fun costume jewelry for sale and bought a nice patriotic pin. My husband and I browsed the book sale and art auction offerings and while I was speaking with library staff, my husband was persuaded by student volunteers to buy some raffle tickets. We couldn’t stay for the drawings as we needed to catch our ferry back to Portland and were shocked to hear later that he had won one of the gift baskets! Thanks everyone for the great visit to the island.

 

Deborah A. Clark,

Maine State Library

deborah.clark@maine.gov

Portland Pottery exhibit

This collection of pottery, on loan from Carl and Pauline Silveri, represents Portland and local Maine potters from about 1840 to the early 1920s, including E. Swasey & Company of Portland ME, a company which at one time was one of New England’s most prolific pottery works and today is all but forgotten.Portland Pottery exhibit

Eban Swasey was a potter who apprenticed in Exeter NH in the mid-1800s.  In 1875 he and his partner, Rufus Lamson, moved to Portland ME and established the Portland Earthen Ware Manufactory, producing redware.  Swasey and Lamson eventually went their separate ways, and in 1890 Swasey established E. Swasey & Co. at 273 Commercial Street in Portland.

In 1897, Swasey’s youngest son Perley joined the company, which became a sizeable enterprise by the turn of the century.  Eban died in 1906, but the business carried on until finally sputtering out of business in the Depression.  The factory buildings are still there on Commercial Street – refurbished and with the “E. Swasey” logos freshly restored on the end of the mill, they serve today as an office park.

http://davescupboard.blogspot.com/2010/08/vintage-sunday-e-swasey-co-pottery.html

There are also documents in the exhibit related to the E. Swasey & Co. Other Portland pottery companies in the exhibit include J.E. Goold and Geo. A. Young Co.

 

10 more days!

10 more days until Art & Soul, our annual fundraiser for the Long Island Community Library. Here areLICL raffle table at parade our intrepid library volunteers selling raffle tickets on July 4th, at the Long Island Fourth of July parade. The winning raffle tickets will buy you a wonderful themed basket, or a personalized cruise on the bay.

Stop by the library and see the kid’s rainy day basket, a blueberry bucket filled with surprises donated by Ivy Hall Gift Shop (Evergreen United Methodist Church outreach), a Maine Lottery Tree, a chocolate basket, a lobster bake basket, an Irish basket, and a mailboat run basket.

AND the FIRST ticket drawn will be treated to an afternoon trip around Casco Bay with Steve and Chris McDuffie on the BLUE NUN.  Room for six, destination to be determined by Captain and winner and weather.

Tickets are 3 for $5.00 (stapled together) or $2.00 per ticket. The tickets are sold at the library, from library volunteers & from Mary McAleney, 207-799-4306, mcaleney@gmail.com

See you in 10 days!