Article from the August 24, 1929 Weekly Hilltop Magazine printed for Poland Spring Hotels
Written by librarian Frank Carlos Griffith
How many old guests, new guests, and temporary visitors of and to Poland Spring, realize the magnitude as an institution, of the Maine State Building? Old guests know of its presence, and value it as a great feature, unique and unequalled in resort hotel life.
The native New Yorker may seldom visit Broadway, but eliminate Broadway altogether, and the distinctive “atmospheric” artery of New York would be gone, and tremendously missed. The same with New Orleans and Canal Street; Chicago and Michigan Boulevard; Philadelphia and Chestnut Street; San Francisco and Market Street. The resident of each of these cities, at once takes his visiting guest to these noted avenues, and so at Poland Spring, the Maine State Building is a dominant feature of a great establishment.
The transient or touring visitor, and their name is legion, seeks its first and last, and like the attraction of the needle to the magnetic north, so the Curio room draws every visitor irresistibly and unconsciously first. In this comparatively small museum there are very many interestingly important articles.
Famous people attract us, and the things that once were theirs and knew their touch, make a strong appeal. To know the hand that wrote “David Copperfield” and “Oliver Twist” had many times grasped the riding whip now reposing in a velvet-lined case, makes that article fascinating.
To look at a piece of the wall paper upon which Abraham Lincoln had gazed hundreds of times, and which he probably himself selected for his bedroom in the only house he ever owned, makes that bit of wall paper historic.
To see a sheet of royal note paper, and the envelope to enclose it, and to realize they only belonged to Queen Victoria coming directly from her personal desk in Windsor Castle to this glass case, arouses interesting reflections. Had this sheet of paper been left there, it might have soon after borne a message to the Empress Eugenie, perhaps, over the royal signature, V.R.
Wandering much further back, and recalling the days of Montezuma, of Cortes, and Prescott’s story of Cortes at one time being driven from the City of Mexico, and his disrepair as he rested under the “Tree of the Dismal Night,” it is almost unbelievable that after four hundred years, here is a piece of that veritable tree, fully authenticated.
Before the European landed on these shorts
Before the European landed on these shores, the Indian, then monarch of all he surveyed, gathered in large numbers around a spring of pure water, for centuries perhaps; for rude stone implements of all descriptions have been found in the vicinity of Poland Spring, and these evidences, of their early pilgrimages, to this fountain of health is proof of their knowledge of its medicinal value.
An object lesson in the processes of procuring cork for bottles, is faithfully and graphically illustrated by a huge model 4 feet by 6, made entirely of cork, and sent from Spain. The means thus shown are instructive and interesting.
In a large cabinet, entirely devoted to it, are over seven hundred specimens of the flora of the town, and gathered within four miles of this building, beautifully mounted and preserved; an unusually large collection. To the botanist or lover of nature, this has proved valuable instruction in many cases.
Robin Hood is one of those fascinating names, like Robinson Crusoe, William Tell, Edmund Dantes, and D’Artagnan; and here is a stone picked from the side of his cave in Sherwood Forest. Realize, for one moment, Friar Tuck or Littlejohn may have looked upon this same stone.
To read today the actual newspaper announcing the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and another with the account of the progress of the battle of Gettysburg, arouses a long dormant interest; but these papers are here.
We all know Gen. Burgoyne surrendered to Gen. Gates at Saratoga, but to look at the actual musket borne by one of his men, one wonders how anyone was ever killed by it, unless it were the man who fired it.
There is a beautiful blue heron or stork, silent and immovable, for his soul has fled; said to have been caught in a trap set for muskrat (ignoble death), and if he could a tale unfold, might tell of an interrupted journey he was on which would have brought joy to some farm household near by.
In Arizona, “the country God forgot,” there is a one-time forest, fallen after centuries of growth, covered with alkali dust of untold ages, and watered by the glacial flow; later uncovered by the reverse processes of other aeons of time, and presenting metrications in all the colors of the rainbow. To look upon these beautiful specimens, makes the wheels go round in one’s head in wonderment at the brief span of human life and the untold millions of years these specimens have been in the forming.
We know Sam Johnson performed what was, in his time, a gigantic work in writing a dictionary, but few know that one William Perry, Lecturer in the Academy at Edinburgh, performed a similar task, that he called a “Royal Standard English Dictionary, perfectly plain and entirely new, *** intelligible to the weakest capacity,” reminding me of a scientific magazine whose slogan on the cover is, “Written so YOU can understand it,” which may be taken either as a knock or a boost. Pardon the digression, and I will return to our dictionary, which was printed in Boston by Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews in January, 1800. Perhaps you were not aware of the fact, but Isaiah Thomas rode with Paul Revere on that famous midnight ride. It is a chunky little volume about 4 by 5 inches with 2 1/2″ of thickness.
You may have seen, in her days of triumph, the beautiful Jersey Lily. Here we have, – not a lock of her chestnut hair, but the lock of her personal safe in her palatial private car La Lee, and whose cylinders have responded to the touch of her beautiful hands, many times.
A large and choice collection of butterflies, artistically mounted, are worth attention. Bank notes of early and Colonial times; of the late Czar and of the Kaiser; of the Confederate States; of Austria, of Hungary and of Poland. Scrip or “shin plaster” of Civil War times, coins, stamps, and medals; trench helmets, gas masks, and German officers’ spike helmets are here.
An official photograph of Lindbergh as he flew over Poland Spring in his Spirit of St. Louis in 1927, autographed by him, also his mother, his uncle and his aunt, is an interesting feature.
“Believe it or not” here are personal letters to the Librarian, dictated by King Edward VII, King Albert of Belgium, King George V and former President Taft.
When we think of Lord Nelson, we think of Trafalgar, and of his famous flagship Victory, but few know that a piece of that flagship, upon which the great admiral may have trod, reposes in a case at Poland Spring. Please do not mention that to Lady Hamilton; she might want it as a souvenir.
An oyster shell, ten inches long, once held a bivalve Samoset himself may have swallowed at a gulp, but I doubt it, came from the mound at Damariscotta and startles one with its magnitude.
There are bullets, a gun barrel, revolver, a bayonet and a piece of wood from the tunnel near the famous “Crater” at Petersburg Virginia, any of which may have been familiar to some friend, and there are many more articles impossible to name.
As the late lamented Sam Bernard said, “Enough is sufficiency.”
Stay tuned for more articles in the future!