A Day In Hartland
John Clark offering you a virtual visit to where I live. Hartland is just north of Pittsfield and forms an informal triangle with St. Albans and Palmyra which is why I frequently refer to it as the Tri-Town area. We moved here in 2003 when I was working at the Maine State Library and Beth was on the nursing faculty at U. Maine-Orono Prior to the move, I was commuting 10 miles a day to her 180, so we needed to find a middle ground. Neither of us knew anything about the town, but our house in Chelsea had sold quickly, so we needed to find a new one ASAP. Our yellow Victorian was the second we looked at and something clicked almost immediately for both of us. Maybe it was the hardwood floors, maybe the window seat overlooking the remains of the town swimming pool that was full of frogs that serenaded us while we looked it over. In any event, 70 Pleasant Street felt more comfortable in half an hour than our old home in Chelsea did after 27 years.
What’s Hartland like? Hardscrabble is a good beginning. If you read any of the history of the town, you’ll discover that at times a railroad passed through on its way to granite quarries in Harmony, there was a ferry that came up the Sebasticook River from Pittsfield. The town boasted a woolen mill, a canning factory and a furniture factory in the glory days before 1930. It was home to a lively fair from 1825 until well after the Civil War. I’m told by flying friends that the outline of the racetrack can still be seen in the fall if you look closely. Not so many years ago, there were seven gas stations in town, numerous stores, a big hotel and even a bowling alley.
Today, the harsh reality of Maine economics has hit hard and often. The tannery, the only major industry remaining, has gone bankrupt twice since 1990, leaving the taxpayers holding the bag for unpaid taxes as well as much of the tannery’s share of the cost for the wastewater treatment plant that was built primarily to serve the tannery when water pollution standards became an issue with the EPA. Numerous businesses have closed in the last couple years, both gas stations, one of two restaurants and Bangor Savings Bank just left town. Sounds pretty grim-eh?
Despite all of the above, A day, a week or a lifetime in Hartland has some neat things going for it. You know we have a good library, but what about other hidden treasures? Let’s start with Great Moose Lake. It’s big and has a lot of camps as well as year round homes dotting the shore and parts of it are in four different towns: Athens, Harmony, Hartland and St. Albans. We live about five minutes from the public boat launch. While it has signs warning against swimming, a certain family member has been known to accompany her husband and swim while he reads with his feet in the water. We’re continually amazed at how quiet it is up there, given the number of people residing on the shores in the summer. We’ve canoed while surrounded by more than 20 loons and often see eagles flying overhead. Sunsets are particularly spectacular up there.
Like to walk, 4-wheel or snowmobile? There are plenty of trails and with two snowmobile clubs, the winter riding is a breeze thanks to their grooming efforts. Like wildlife? We’ve had bears, coyotes, moose, foxes, a bittern, raccoons, skunks, blue herons and tons of deer, as well as an abundance of birds. This year, cardinals are nesting in the trees behind our neighbor’s home.
While we don’t have a community garden spot, people often leave surplus veggies and fruit at the library, or drop it off at the Tri-Town food pantry. This has been a banner year for berries. Sites Farm, a few miles up the road, offers pick your own strawberries and high bush blueberries. There are plenty of places for those who want to pick wild blackberries or raspberries. This year, we even had an abundant crop of black raspberries. I’ve picked 5 gallons of blackberries, but that’s dwarfed by Dana Morgan’s efforts. He had to quit after picking 14 gallons when his back revolted.
We have two stores, Moose Lake Market has a deli, meat cutting room and bakery. They offer decent weekly specials. Wrights, on Commercial Street is a combination grocery/hardware store. We even have a Family Dollar store that opened last years. Looking for eats? Netties serves up a nice sandwich (I’m partial to their cheeseburger sub) and just over the line in St. Albans the Sunrise Cafe serves up a monster breakfast at really affordable prices. On Sundays, the Spauldings offer a wicked good BBQ just over the town line in St. Albans. (https://www.facebook.com/droolinggoatbbq/)
Despite hard times, we have a sense of civic spirit here. The Couples Club which meets monthly at the Grace Linn Methodist Church, is a great group of people, funny and articulate who put on two fundraisers annually to generate scholarship money for graduating seniors. We also have a Hartland historical society that has been raising money to revamp the town cemeteries. Two have been spruced up, headstones repaired and cleaned. The difference is amazing. Want movies? The theater in Pittsfield costs $6.00, $5 if you’re a senior and offers Buck night on Mondays. They generally get first run movies three weeks after the theaters in Waterville. It’s never crowded and the candy is reasonable.
Living here is also important because of the sense of community. I stop at the post office every morning and find out what happened (we’re never in the newspapers), usually have a chat with someone I know and wave to more people as I walk home where it’s likely I’ll be greeted by loons calling from the river across the road. One of my favorite weekend stops is the town transfer station. Terry and Harold think along the same lines as I do. We hate to see stuff go to waste. They save any books dropped off so I can triage them. Sunday, for example, I went through the cardboard barrels while trading insults (good natured of course). I came away with 22 box tops for Piper’s future school in Belgrade, 276 Coke points and a box of books. I swapped five of them and sold another online for over $50. Pretty decent haul for an hour of work. In return, I swung by Harold’s place tonight and gave him and Mary fresh corn and beets.. What do you like best about where you live?