Sarah Graves, here, thinking today about how quiet it is in the neighborhood now that most of our summer visitors have returned home. Half the houses on our street are empty, while in the other half we year-rounders are busy putting plastic up on the windows and firewood down in the cellars. On Water Street, the shops are still open but no longer thronged, the mackerel fishermen have departed the breakwater, and the vessels in the boat basin are work boats, not yachts, for the most part. In other words, we’ve got the place all to ourselves, again, and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy it, especially on a bright, cool October day like today. So I thought I’d take a brief tour of the area and show you what it looks like when it’s ‘just us chickens.’
We started out Route 190 toward Route 1, thinking we’d put gas in the car at the Strawberry Patch convenience store and then come back on the shore road. So that’s what we did. At the corner we turned north heading toward Calais, on a highway where not a single RV could be seen, and not many other vehicles, either.
It takes a bit of gear-shifting to get used to being a remote Maine seacoast village once more, instead of a bustling summer colony. But one of the houses we passed on our way reminded me that this is what’s normal, here — this huge silence, sky and water that go on and on…and years that go on and on, while we do not.
I meant to take a lot of pictures of a lot of different things and scenes, but this one captured me pretty thoroughly. A wide field, a tiny old house with its adjacent shed, all still in good enough shape for me to see…ghosts. From this side, the place looks as if it’s crumbling into the earth, which in some ways, it is. But if you dare to proceed around back with your camera, you will find something surprising.
I have no idea how this interior managed to remain so pristine, or whether perhaps some other photographer was here just before me to set up the shot. But only the fear of a collapsing floor kept me from venturing inside. Well, that and a very good memory of the final scenes from The Blair Witch Project…
And here’s the whole place. The shed is leaning all at once, the boards sort of rotating on their nails so that the building appears to be slowly reclining. There’s a lean-to built onto the shed. A front door and back door on the house. I wish I’d had the nerve to go in, and I think next time, I will. So you’ll probably find my camera buried under a foundation stone…
And now some comic relief? Here’s one of Marty Howberg’s big cast-iron animals, this one overlooking Route 190. Moose aren’t always comical; a friend hit one the other night. It smashed through his windshield, then collapsed his van’s roof, broke his rear window, and rolled off behind. He drove home, unhurt; the police dispatched the animal. I think the moose in this photo is keeping the side up for moose-ish humor.
Sarah, in Union, where I grew up, there were some lovely abandoned houses with intact interiors like the one you photographed, including one just up the street from us that we used to ride up to on our bikes and photograph.
The back roads were full of collapsing houses and empty cellar holes, and there were always apple trees. Each fall, we would pile into the truck and go apple stealing, driving around looking for ancient varieties of apples. Then we’d come home and can applesauce for the winter. Your post reminds me of that ritual. It was lovely.
My dreams have always been (still are) full of houses … houses I walk through and imagine repairing and fixing up and making come alive again. Once I bought such a house (in New York State) but life interferred and I wasn’t able to stay to see the project through. I still think of that house and what it might have been. Twenty years later someone brought me a picture of what the third owner after me had done — they had, happily, completed the job, well. But I still think of it as my house. I’ve always been drawn to old houses … they have presence. Perhaps the lives and dreams of those who lived there before are still there. I know I don’t feel comfortable in a “new” house. No danger of feeling that way in Maine
Abandoned houses have always intrigued me. We used to go by one on Rt. 32 in Windsor on the trip to my Grandmother Clark’s house in New Portland. I watched a perfectly good house die over a 25 year period and always wondered why no one loved it enough to live there. I think a photo essay book on abandoned country homes, told from the house’s viewpoint would be incredibly intriguing. Kate, do you remember that Halloween party mom and dad went to up on Appleton Ridge where they rigged the wire through the floor so the empty rocking chair would go back and forth with nobody in it. That was one spiffy party.
this is from another old house owner. we bought a 170-year-old farmhouse in upstate NY in 2006. The house already had a bid on it from someone who was probably going to flip it. Luckily, he was holding off on actually buying it, because of worries about an old underground oil tank in the back. When I saw the house, I had to have it. I was in love — first house I’ve ever loved in my life — and the first house that I really felt was home. Lots of nooks and crannies, wide-plank floors (4 types of fir), chestnut indoor staircase, basement hand-made from stone and dirt, with logs for beams. The only thing missing is a ghost or two.
Hi, Sarah. We had a chance to spend a week in Eastport in August, visiting your summer neighbors, Jim and Lane, next door to the Episcopal church. We thoroughly enjoyed Eastport and your part of Maine. It was all new territory for us Oregonians, and we really enjoyed the area’s scenic beauty and the lively arts community in Eastport.
I’m wondering how the Sandy storm is affecting you year-round Eastporters? Are the winds and storm surge impacting you and the town? I hope that the storm is starting to lighten up as it comes further north to you. Seems like this kind of storm could push over some of those old buildings rather easily. If so, there’d probably be some great lumber and timber to reclaim for use in a remodeling project. Got one in mind?
And thanks for including the photo of the moose sculpture on the old water works building. It’s a fine whimsical work. We’ll have to look for more of this artist’s work when we return to your area in the near future.
Hi Sarah, I have been coming to Eastport, staying at the Seaview Campbround with my two cocker spaniels, since circa 2007. I rent a cabin facing Deer Island, and I actually get up at at 6:30am (I come in October around Columbus Day weekend) and take sunrise pics!! (Then I go back to bed :). I have a childhood friend who lives in Orono, and her and her husband drive to Eastport every year now and we get together. She is the one who told me about your “Home Repair is Homicide” series, and I have obtained all of your books on audio CD! I am from the Central Connecticut area, and I understand from my research that you and your husband relocated from CT as well!
Eastport and Lubec (where my favorite lighthouse, the West Quoddy Light, is located) have become an annual addiction for me. I tell my friends and coworkers that if you want to get “off the grid”, come to Eastport. Cell and internet service is spotty at best, it’s gorgeous, and I may attempt to retire there some day as well!
I pre-ordered your next book at Wadsworth’s while I was in town! Hope to meet you some day. I will be back in May to celebrate my birthday (maybe “celebrate” isn’t the right word, when you get close to 60….but the alternative is worse, for sure).
Have a great holiday season, and keep writing!