A consequence of knowing the history of a place is that, when you see it in the present day, each place, each structure, has two meanings–what it is today and what it was like before.
This week in Blue Hill, Maine, I’ve delighted in the present. The weather has been lovely. Even the few rainstorms have moved through with dispatch and left everything clean and fresh. The foods are amazing: wild blueberries, fresh lobster, wonderful haddock, fresh-squeezed orange juice at the local store, fragrant coffee and flaky pastries. There’s wildlife I never see at home: mackerel schools, seals, mussels, herons, bald eagles, little red squirrels, and crabs washed onto the beach. The landscape is idyllic, the people forthright and friendly, my cottage cute as a button.
That could be enough, right? After the years we’ve just been through, a place like this, with all this goodness, is heaven sent, both balm and inspiration.
But there’s more.
Blue Hill was shaped by earlier generations, added to and refurbished through the years, until every place has a little story tied to it; each thing we do invites an echo from the past.
Emilie Loring’s fans travel to Blue Hill hoping to see things as they were in her time. Some are still here, but you need to know what you’re looking for.
Most visitors now enter the village on “Pleasant Street,” aka Highway 15. The Lorings arrived by car in the 1930s, but for two decades, they went by rail to Rockland and arrived by steamship at Blue Hill.
Some summer folk alighted at Parker Point and went directly to their private cottages, many of which remain today. Others went by carriage to the Blue Hill Inn, a magnificent place on South Street that commanded a beautiful view over Blue Hill Bay, seen in the photo below. Several of Emilie Loring’s stories have people staying “at the Inn,” and I’ve wondered if she thought of the Blue Hill Inn as she wrote.
In its place today, you’ll find Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway–maybe not quite the same, even with those front-facing gables.
The “Blue Hill Inn” on South Street then is not to be confused with the “Blue Hill Inn” on Union Street now. The latter has stood since 1840, but it was called the Bluehill House.
The Lorings’ friends stayed at Pendleton House, still standing near the town wharf. Guest quarters on the upper floors were converted to apartments, and a series of shops and cafes has taken up residence on the ground floor.
If you go to Blue Hill now, you can stay at the Barncastle Hotel on South Street. In Emilie’s day, it was still a private home, Effie Ober Kline’s “Ideal Lodge.” (Remember “the efficient Miss Ober”?)
Nearby on Main Street are the Town Hall and Congregational Church, much as they were in Emilie’s time. Isn’t that nice?
The Lorings disembarked on the East Blue Hill side of the Bay. Granite quarries operated there for over one hundred years, and several were on the Lorings’ property, including the Blue Hill Granite and White Granite companies. The green lines on the photo below mark the approximate boundaries of Emilie Loring’s land, hilltop to water, over 250 acres in all.
Granite was cut, then slid downhill to a wharf, where it was loaded onto ships. “Captain Bob” Slaven’s father “remembered that Blue Hill Granite ‘rang like a bell’ when struck with a hammer” (Maine Memory Network). You might hope that the granite would be quite blue, but it was medium gray with a bluish cast. On Blue Hill Mountain, the granite is bluer.
The granite industry ended in Blue Hill, and Emilie owned the granite wharf from 1909 to 1946 when she sold it to the KYC Yacht Club which occupies it today. “Granite Cove” is called “Peters’ Cove” now, and pleasure boats have replaced stone-laden schooners.
Remnants of the granite operation on Emilie Loring’s land can still be seen, halfway up on Stepping Stone Lane.
And of course, Stone House remains, squarely facing the East Blue Hill Road.
Some of the real places that appear in Emilie Loring’s books can still be seen today. See this link: The Past Comes Calling, for some of them. (A comprehensive guide is in the works!)
Today, I visited a beautiful garden in Blue Hill that reminded me of Emilie Loring, even though it was planted long after she was gone. It’s exactly the sort that she described, don’t you agree?
Whether they were of Emilie Loring’s time, described in her books, or simply of the sort she knew and loved, the sights of Blue Hill, Maine bring Emilie Loring to mind. This week, I enjoyed a wonderful picnic with friends, and it triggered a memory. Yes, this, too, was like Emilie!
I hope you get a chance to visit Blue Hill someday. Until then, grab one of these Emilie Loring books, and you’ll be transported.
More from Blue Hill in the coming week… Happy Landings, everyone!