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July 31st 2012
Published: August 25th 2012
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I selected Biddeford as a home port for my first stop in Maine largely because of its proximity to the storied Maine coastline, its location between Portsmouth NH and Portland ME and its nearness to a high-profile neighbor - Kennebunkport. Tuesday, July 24, 2012 was thickly overcast from the outset, but rain was held in check until I was about two miles from the RV park. A light rain was a mere inconvenience during set-up. Shamrock RV Park appears to have been a “three-room” house that has experienced multiple additions as the “family” grew. I was directly across from a picturesque, peaceful pond that can be viewed from very few RV windows because, it appears, there was no master plan way back when. Be that as it may, I wasn’t there to enjoy the park facility itself but to use the park as a platform for exploration. For that purpose, it served me well.

My first stop on Wednesday was the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk ME. Upon arrival, I inquired about a guided tour of the historic district I had found described in the travel literature and learned the tours normally require a reservation for scheduling purposes. The museum
And Finely Crafted Period FurnitureAnd Finely Crafted Period FurnitureAnd Finely Crafted Period Furniture

Brick Store Museum - Kennebunk ME
personnel graciously offered to accommodate my request in “a few minutes.” That was perfect since I needed that time to peruse the museum. The small facility offers several interesting artifacts with local ties and a sizable collection of original art (including many portraits). One wing is devoted to the ownership and architectural histories of 2-3 dozen historic dwellings and provided me an indoor version of the upcoming guided tour. The guided tour provided a few additional factoids about the dwellings and/or the inhabitants but, mostly, provided a great excuse to be outside on a beautiful day.

After the guided tour, I took the short drive to Kennebunkport. Much to my chagrin, Kennebunkport was pretty much what I expected – a quaint seaside village inundated with upscale shopping opportunities and besieged with finely dressed and manicured shoppers intent on procuring a piece of “I got it in Kennebunkport” art or fashion. I really did want to find a parking place since I had failed to find a New Hampshire hat pin in that state and had yet to find that memento for Maine. The streets more closely resembled parking lots and the parking options were extremely limited. I made three
A Teaser For The Historic Walking TourA Teaser For The Historic Walking TourA Teaser For The Historic Walking Tour

Historic District Guided Walking Tour - Kennebunk ME
attempts and abandoned that plan choosing instead to follow the road along the coast as displayed on my GPS. (On yet another day, I made two passes through town and, again, abandoned the idea.)

Ocean Avenue is quite narrow and extremely serpentine. My eyes were focused on the road when the truck was moving, so I took advantage of every pull-off vista that came along. At one of those opportunities, I noticed there were signs limiting the parking time to fifteen minutes and, upon walking to the vista point, saw quite a formidable array of buildings of varying sizes as well as assorted fences, walls and gates. Throwing 2+2 into my history search engine led me to the conclusion that the complex was that of former President George H. W. Bush. After a few photos of the “presumed celebrity” and the neighboring coastline, I continued my drive. As I passed the driveway, I saw a (Secret Service?) security booth. Within a few hundred feet there was another pullout where an artist was busy composing a seascape of the coastline. He confirmed that my deduction was correct.

After completing my trip along the coastline and returning to the Pilgrim,
Did I Say Formidable?Did I Say Formidable?Did I Say Formidable?

President George H. W. Bush Home - Kennebunkport ME
I was able to assemble some information about the former President’s home. The estate is on a strip of land named Walker Point (originally Point Vesuvius) that was purchased in the late 19th century by the grandfather of former President George Herbert Walker Bush who spent much of his childhood at the Kennebunkport estate. The estate was inherited by his mother and subsequently by him. As an adult, Bush and his family (including former President George W. Bush) spent most summers at the estate. The large central house has nine bedrooms, four sitting rooms, office, den, library, dining room, kitchen, and various patios and decks. Adjacent to the main house is a four-car garage and a guesthouse as well as a pool, tennis court, dock and boathouse. No wonder my first adjective was formidable!

Given that the estate was built in the early 20th century, I began to wonder about the fame associated with the name Kennebunkport. Personally, I had never heard of the town until it became the Summer White House. Let’s face it, it was not on an eastern par with Key West or Martha’s Vineyard or, for friends my out west, Jackson Hole or Napa Valley.
Looking South From The VistaLooking South From The VistaLooking South From The Vista

President George H. W. Bush Home - Kennebunkport ME
Sometimes Presidents put a small town on the map, like Hope AR (Clinton) and Plaines GA (Carter); but other times not so much, like San Clemente CA (Nixon) and Santa Barbara CA (Reagan). Which came first for Kennebunkport - the chicken or the egg? Kennebunkport is a picturesque little seaside village and might be fun to peruse IF a parking space becomes available.

When I drove to Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth ME I expected to find the Two Lights Lighthouses (formally known as the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse). Not so says the park ranger at the entrance booth, but, for the 26,327th time this year, he did give a very good (albeit quite simple) instruction set to get to the attraction. If there wasn’t a sign, they need one. If there was a sign, they need to make it BIGGER. Who are the tourists anyway? Old, retired people with POOR vision, like me! I knew both lighthouses were not accessible to the general public but suspected they might be standing guard over some pretty treacherous real estate. Great deduction, Sherlock. The coastline is worth the time and a short drive but, although enjoyable, is not spectacular and
Not A Tremendous Chamber Of Commerce Photo OpNot A Tremendous Chamber Of Commerce Photo OpNot A Tremendous Chamber Of Commerce Photo Op

Cape Elizabeth (Two Lights) Lighthouse - Cape Elizabeth ME
not worth a significant detour. Oh, yes, the lighthouses. I could only find one, and that view was distant at best! Like I said, an old, retired person with POOR vision!

The last attraction earning space in this edition of The Great Adventure is a good one - the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport ME. The museum boasts of being the world’s oldest and the largest museum of public transportation and, understandably, focuses on transportation in New England during the street car heyday – 1890-1930. Inside the Visitor Center, there is an exhibit area with photographs and artifacts which provides a good introduction (or refresher as the case might be) to the electric railway industry and helps the visitor embrace the mindset of the era.

Outside, the trolley takes the visitor down the same right-of-way that was used between Biddeford and Kinnebunkport. The destination is the Talbott Park Loop. Street cars opened employment opportunities geographically, and street cars initially were a popular way to get to and from work; however, the neighborhood was still the core of the community, and almost everything was still within walking distance. Without a reason to go somewhere outside the neighborhood (to work),
Quite The Elegant LadyQuite The Elegant LadyQuite The Elegant Lady

Seashore Trolley Museum - Kennebunkport ME
ridership fell. The streetcar companies built parks near the ends of the trolley lines where families could enjoy a picnic, play some baseball or other game or socialize with neighbors and friends in an effort to increase ridership on non-working day(s).

The plan succeeded, and these parks evolved into the amusement parks which I remember from my youth. My August birthday seemed to find the family in Chicago for a White Sox game (I played second base and was a big Nellie Fox fan until Ryne Sandburg and superstation WGN came along) or at Riverview Park (1904-67). I can still remember the speed of the Fireball and the panorama from the top of the parachute drop. What a great birthday present for me and my brother who was born in December and whose birthday choices were “closed for the season,” fell victim to a snowstorm or just plain got lost in the holiday shuffle. Indeed, the parks outlived the streetcar (which I don’t remember), but few of the old-time parks survive. Coney Island is the only one that comes to mind. If reminiscing like this is the beginning of Alzheimer’s, I think I’m gonna like it!

Back to
Sheriff’s Paddy Wagon Modified For Electric Railway UseSheriff’s Paddy Wagon Modified For Electric Railway UseSheriff’s Paddy Wagon Modified For Electric Railway Use

Seashore Trolley Museum - Kennebunkport ME
the trolley museum! On the return trip from Talbott Park, the conductor stopped at the Meserve’s Crossing to explain that, in exchange for the right to cross a property, electric rail companies frequently would agree to make a “stop” to board or discharge family members of the property owner who could ride the trolley for free. Safely back at the depot, I continued the self-guided tour with the assistance of a well-done brochure. Several period buildings have been acquired and relocated including a waiting station that served the Portland-Lewiston Interurban Line from 1914-1932 and Tower C which was a switching station on the Boston Elevated Railway from 1901-1938.

Three of the five streetcar barns are open to the public, but two barns contain future restoration projects and are open only by appointment. The streetcar exhibit barns contain over 25 restored streetcars from around the world including a double decker from Glasgow, Scotland; a San Francisco cable car; an 1800’s car modified for use as a sheriff department paddy wagon; and an "elegant little car with spacious platforms, mahogany paneling and luxurious furnishings (that) carried the Directors of the Manchester Street Railway on official inspection trips over the system." Other
Display Of Various Types Of “Trucks”Display Of Various Types Of “Trucks”Display Of Various Types Of “Trucks”

Seashore Trolley Museum - Kennebunkport ME
cars are on display outside along with some specialty cars such as one with plow blades for snow removal.

In addition to the streetcars found outside, there is a display of various “trucks” (the wheel/axle assemblies upon which the streetcar rides). Also on display outside are the “Highway Monster” semi-trailer built especially to transport streetcars to the museum and some state-of-the-art cars (S.O.A.C.) built in the 1970’s to test various mass transit technologies. The restoration barn has an elevated viewing platform where visitors can see the “works in progress.”

There’s time for one more ride on the trolley and, guess what, the streetcar was a different car. T’was easy to see since the seats in the car on the first trip were oriented perpendicular to the long axis of the car; whereas, the seats in the second car were parallel. Not surprising. The Seashore Trolley Museum is full of pleasant surprises. Even if you have visited other trolley museums, I would suggest taking half a day to visit Seashore. As I said earlier, it claims to be the oldest and the biggest, and I’d need a lot more information to refute that claim.

My trip along the
Restorations In ProgressRestorations In ProgressRestorations In Progress

Seashore Trolley Museum - Kennebunkport ME
soutthern coast of Maine met with mixed success. One Saturday, I set out for two lighthouses that each advertised an open house. I was never able to find either the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland or the Wood Island Lighthouse in Biddeford. On another day, I headed for South Harpswell to catch a ferry for the Eagle Island State Historic Site, summer home of North Pole Explorer Admiral Robert Peary. Upon arrival at the dock, I learned from a couple of locals that the ferry runs only on weekends or by reservation with a minimum number of passengers. Even the signs posted on the dock still reflected the old operating schedule. Both of those strikeouts were okay, because I got to see some coastline I would not have seen otherwise.

There is a lot to see in the area around Kennebunkport, but there’s only July and August to see it. It seemed every other car was going to or returning from the beaches. The area has a metropolitan feel with a yuppie air about it. There were places like Biddeford, where Shamrock RV Park is located, that were primarily ordinary residents earning an ordinary living to fund
Many Parts Must Be FabricatedMany Parts Must Be FabricatedMany Parts Must Be Fabricated

Seashore Trolley Museum - Kennebunkport ME
ordinary things. Then there were folks like me – tourists. I accomplished my mission in that I learned of the flavor of the community. That immediate vicinity is one I am glad to have visited but will probably avoid during my next visit to southern Maine.


Additional photos below
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Shamrock RV Park - Biddeford ME
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Brick Store Museum - Kennebunk ME
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Brick Store Museum - Kennebunk ME
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Historic District Guided Walking Tour - Kennebunk ME
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Historic District Guided Walking Tour - Kennebunk ME


25th August 2012

Kennebunk
We've a friend of many years who retired to Kennebunk to enjoy the snow and rain. She hasn't been disappointed. The ability to eat fresh lobster some weekends assuages any disappointment as does the time on lonely beaches when grey weather gusts in.
26th August 2012

Regarding Kennebunk
Hi Tom, Kennebunk appears a nice blue-collar community, but Kennebunkport seems a little more high brow than my comfort zone. The weather!!!

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