Maine's Abandoned Properties, Buoys, and Popovers
My Second Visit to Maine: Camden and Bar Harbor
My first visit to Maine did not leave much time for exploration. It was a two-day business trip to South Portland with a quick one-day stopover in Ogunquit. But I loved what I saw enough to know that I would return. And I did, thanks to my Connecticut camera club. Our trips committee chose Maine for one of our bi-annual, extended field trips—destination Camden and the Bar Harbor region.
While dreaming of ocean-fresh lobster dinners, club members informed me about another of the state’s tasty treats: popovers. Armed with an additional gastronomic desire, photographic aspirations, and ample time, I could not wait to get there.
As we drove through the state, I was astounded by the vast number of abandoned properties. Every mile we traveled seemed to be dotted with discarded homes, barns, or some other dilapidated structure. It was as if the residents awoke one morning, decided to return the land to nature, then packed up and left. It reminded me of the stories I read about the early pioneers who journeyed from place to place in search of precious metals, land, and jobs, leaving their no-longer-needed shelters behind.
Was this still a characteristic of 21st century Mainers or were there other reasons? Were they planning to reclaim their property at some time in the future? If so, did they expect nature’s cooperation? Whatever the answers to these questions, those rotting, jilted wrecks added to Maine’s uniqueness and provided me, as one whose passion is architectural photography, a smorgasbord of images.
Imagining the Lives of Mainers
I discovered later that I was not the only one affected by this transient phenomenon. Books and a few articles have been written about Mainers tendency to build and move on. The trend has allowed visitors like me, with a fondness for architecture, to not only immortalize these castoffs of varying shapes, sizes, and forms of decay, but also to derive great pleasure, flooding our imaginations with colorful tales about the lives of their former inhabitants.
Pictures, they say, are worth a thousand words. The facades render opening lines. A look inside would reveal more. But for me, not wanting to step unto what might still be private land, opening lines were sufficient.
Maine’s Lobster Buoys: Photo Potential
Also capturing my attention were the spectacular displays of buoys. They were everywhere. Yes, we were travelling along coastal Maine, but the other coastal states we journeyed through did not exhibit buoys by the hundreds. These mini torpedo-like objects definitely provided another local attraction worth photographing. The way Mainers used them to decorate their homes, gardens, and businesses was quite attractive. Just like the abandoned properties, it added to the quaintness of the state.
Purpose of Lobster Buoys
Little did I know at the time that the buoys’ vibrant colors and designs were not simply to increase my portfolio of Maine’s charm. They actually served a purpose. The brightness of these floatation markers helped lobster fishermen (and women), Marine Patrols, and other seafarers identify the location of the lobster pots beneath the Atlantic Ocean, especially when the area is consumed by the notorious Maine fog—a common aspect of the summer months.
State law requires buoys to be uniquely designed, etched with a number, and bare owners’ initials. To date, roughly 6,000 plus licenses have been issued. If each licensee must code their buoys with specific color-designs, I wonder if they’ll eventually have to get more creative with floral patterns, seabirds, shells, pet portraits, and the like?
More Lobster Buoy History
More research on buoy-history revealed that they were first used in the mid-19th century. The preferred material was wood. Black cedar, to be exact. Today’s buoys are made of plastic or Styrofoam because those materials are reasonably-priced and cause little damage to trawlers, barges, and other sea vessels that may make contact with them. The plastic buoys though are often crushed when runover and have to be replaced. I did encounter a few that gave me quite the image.
Perfect Popover Recipe
Maine’s Delicious Popovers
Finally, popovers. Just like my mouth-watering lobster fares, they did not disappoint. My photo club friends suggested Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park as the best place to have them (there was also the captivating landscape). Those little inflated cups of dough brought great delight to my mouth and my stomach. There was no better way to end my lobster meal than with a popover smothered in butter and strawberry jam.
I extend my gratitude to the McIntires, the second proprietors of Jordan Pond House, for creating a tea house and making these buttery, egg-batter treats its specialty. And since popover-history informed me that they were invented by Maine’s early settlers, who migrated to and founded Portland, Oregon, I must commend them as well. According to food historians, those settlers were inspired by British Yorkshire pudding. Kudos to the Brits too.
Not Done with Maine
Maine’s quaint towns and villages are so stupendous and picturesque, I am certain my cameras and I (with or without the camera club) will make many more visits to unearth and capture the state’s other hidden gems. And if nothing else, like lobsters, there will always be popovers; I hope.
Which of the following towns in Maine is your favorite?
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© 2019 Beverley Byer