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Holding Our Best-Loved Places in Trust

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its 2019 list of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” this week.  Fortunately, there were no sites in Maine on the list and of the 300 sites brought into the national spotlight since 1988 when the Trust started identifying them, just three places in Maine were named. (And one of those was a bridge between Maine and New Hampshire.)

To us, that suggests two thoughts. One is the time-honored, if wry, Maine maxim:” Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Yankee practicality [sometimes] says “Why build a new one when we have a perfectly serviceable, sturdy, Maine-built building right here?’ And it’s true that New England craftsmanship has kept us and our hand-builts going for generations. “Bath Built” is the Navy’s gold standard for surface ships that carry our sailors in harm’s way.

Which leads directly to the other thought: that we care about our history in Maine, and the roots that go back to at least 1729 in Boothbay and even farther at colonial outposts like fort at Pemaquid, to say nothing of the inherited knowledge of river and forest among the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Mi’kmac and Maliseet (a heritage that is slowly being made more visible by the Maine Statehouse).

We Mainers have the reputation for knowing where we’re going because we know where we’ve been. And that certainly applies to those more ephemeral thoughts of the places in our personal family geographies that are the sites of our own histories. Places like the Historic New England sites (that open their doors, free on June 1st) and  Spruce Point Inn, where guests have come from away since 1887.We treasure familiar destinations and sights because they remind us of the times we’ve visited before – and the “oceanside memories made in Maine” their distinctive impressions helped us create. We all find comfort in the familiar and love both to return to such places and to introduce them to our children and our friends.

There’s something about walking a particular path for the first time that makes that place our own. That perspective struck us again the other day after taking a hike along a path we’d passed every other time we visited Boothbay Region Land Trust. We knew the geography from the topographic map we have on the wall; but “the map is not the territory,” as they say. Following the trail (on a particularly glorious afternoon that begged us to play hooky from the office for an hour or two), we found out where it went and what flowering trees and birds and vistas it had to share.

And that’s what we try to bring to visitors to Spruce Point: the opportunity to leave the present moment to discover where the old paths lead and to turn something you’d passed a dozen times into a place you care about.

We each fear for the places we might find on our own “most endangered” lists; but we offer with confidence the reassurance that Spruce Point will not be one of them, as long as they are in our Trust.