Windsor Heights I

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The end of my street

The old name of my neighborhood is Windsor Heights. About 20 (?) years ago the city put a sign labeling it as such at the entrance to the neighborhood. The deed to my house shows it as being in Windsor Heights. But otherwise I don’t think the neighborhood, which consists of a tiny peninsula, has been commonly called that in years. I tried to ferret out some history by searching online, and came up with almost nothing using the keywords “Windsor Heights.”

We used to jokingly call it “Deering Foreside.” Well, we thought it was a joke — but I just did a search and was amazed to see a bunch of sites calling it that in all seriousness. I also noticed that someone called it an “upcoming trendy neighborhood” — jeez, how did that happen? “Modest” is one word I’ve always used for it. “Beautiful” is another.

Our small complex of dead-end streets is bounded by Veranda Street, I-295, and the ocean. A couple of the streets were cut in two when I-295 was built, and if you walk down Veranda Street you can see their other halves, which are now separate streets with different names. I wish I could see what the neighborhood looked like when you could get into it via several streets, instead of just Kensington.

When I first moved in nearly 34 years ago, someone told me there had been a boatbuilding company in the neighborhood, and for years you could see a large old piece of equipment on the little pebbly beach that’s kitty-corner from my back yard. I’ve just ordered a book from the Maine Historical Society titled “Deering: A Social and Architectural History,” which apparently focuses on the off-peninsula (non-downtown) areas of Portland. Since my walks have been mostly in these outlying neighborhoods, I’m hoping I can learn more about the history of these places, including my own neighborhood, and use some of that information here.

The photo at top shows the end of my street. You can’t see the Maine Yacht Center, but it would be on the right (maybe that’s why it’s an “upcoming trendy neighborhood”?). Below is the neighborhood, and my street, seen from the opposite angle — taken from the railroad tracks that run between the marina and B&M Baked Beans. I think the tree almost in the center is the tree in the photo above. My house, which is set back from the street, is hidden by foliage and other houses toward the left.

I’m going to write more about Windsor Heights, which is why I called this post Windsor Heights I. Every street has a different character and a different view of the water and the islands.

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My street from the railroad tracks between the marina and the baked-bean factory

The big bump

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The first time I walked in the Ocean Avenue Recreation Area, I got there by accident, sort of. I was walking home on Ray Street and saw an intriguing little path into the woods. So I had to follow it. Signs said it went to Ocean Avenue, but I got turned around at first and came out of the woods one street over from where I went in. After that things got straightened out.

The path winds through a quiet and lovely forest, then suddenly comes out onto a grassy area with a big bump in the middle. That, I found out, is the old city landfill. I hate to think of what kinds of things are inside there forming the core of the hill! Actually, it would be interesting to see. The path (more like an unpaved road at this point) heads back into the woods and shortly comes out in a parking lot. Leave the parking lot and you’re on Ocean Avenue, near where it meets Presumpscot Street.

I’ve been back three times, starting from the Ocean Ave. side. The second time, I got kind of lost, tramped and tramped and tramped through the woods, and ended up in a new-looking neighborhood off Ledgewood Drive in Falmouth.

It’s fascinating to me that all that woods, all those wildflowers, wetlands plant life, and birds — all that natural beauty — exists between the boundaries of Ocean Avenue, Ledgewood Drive, and Ray Street (and surrounding neighborhoods). If you’re inclined to, you can totally avoid Washington Avenue from Ocean Ave. to Ray Street. Then after that you can walk through another wooded area, Pine Grove Park, and thus get to Allen Avenue! I know that doesn’t excite most people.

If you have a dog, there’s a leash-free dog park (fenced-in) at the recreation area.

The lavender flowers in the photos are our old buddy purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). It’s so beautiful and so evil. It’s a wildly invasive plant that tends to grow in dense stands in wet areas (you see it everywhere in roadside ditches), crowds out native plants, and diminishes habitat for certain wildlife. So I hate to even use it in a photo where it can be seen as potentially decorative. But it’s there; can’t pretend it isn’t.

Street, interrupted

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The path to the other side of Berkshire Street.

 

I’m fascinated by dead-end streets. I like to see what’s at the end, and what’s beyond. I was thinking of focusing this blog on the ends of dead-end streets — but then that started seeming kind of limited.

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The real end of Berkshire Street.

The other day I was walking on Berkshire Street, near Presumpscot Street in East Deering. I came to a cute little path leading into some woods, and at first I thought that was it for Berkshire Street. But then I saw that it was a very short path and where it came out was also Berkshire Street. Just a cozy little wooded pathway inserted into a typical neighborhood street! I love that.

I wonder how that came about? How come no one ever yanked out the trees and widened and paved over the path? I wish I knew. I’d like to think that it’s because the people who live on the street want it that way.  Not everybody wants to live in a cookie-cutter neighborhood.

A ways down, Berkshire Street does come to a dead end. There’s a house with a big yard at the end, its privacy protected by a wall of sumacs that almost have a tropical flair.

 

 

“On the other side (it didn’t say nothing)….”

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The sign says “Residents and Guests only.”
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This is the path that goes into the forbidden woods.
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A scene from behind the Rainbow Mall.
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I wonder if there was a house here at some point — must have been, I guess, judging by the pillars left standing.

For years I’ve wondered where the two roads on either side of the old Rainbow Mall (now medical facilities and other offices — I think) went. But I never bothered to look. Today, trying to get myself moving, I randomly pointed to a spot on the map, and that’s where I walked. Rainbow Mall Road, a right turn onto Ledgewood Drive, and then down Pheasant Hill Drive to the mall.

I thought at first it wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped — though I guess, in a different way, it was. What I saw was an expensive-looking neighborhood, with big houses and a couple of condo developments. At the end of Ledgewood Drive, there was an alluring pathway into the woods, but then I saw the sign: “Residents and Guests only.”

It brought to mind a verse of “This Land Is Your Land” that usually isn’t sung, one of the lesser-known verses that give the song a whole different tone than most people think.

“As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said ‘No Trespassing.’
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.”

© Copyright 1956 (renewed), 1958 (renewed), 1970 and 1972 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

OK, here goes

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The end of my street

I’m always trying to motivate myself to exercise — I’m not a person who just naturally loves it. I do enjoy walking, and over the past few years I’ve set goals for myself to get myself out there. Two years ago I set the goal of walking 16 Portland Trails sites. I walked and took pictures, and became enchanted with the woods, as I had when I was a kid. I posted my photos on Facebook, and that was part of the fun. I realized the vastness of the world that exists between and behind the streets of Portland — much of which is tucked away out of sight when you’re driving around doing the stuff of daily life . Now my curiosity is taking me to the streets, as well as the woods, to record the weird, beautiful, and fascinating sights there.

Someone suggested I start a blog, to help bolster my commitment to regular activity and to nurture my need for esthetic and spiritual fulfillment. The idea intrigued me, even though I think it could be a lot like talking to myself. So here I am. We’ll see what happens! I’m kind of baffled at the moment about how to get this set up.

“Build therefore your own world.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature