The names are all here

IMG_1118Martin’s Point juts out into Casco Bay right beside the outflow of the Presumpscot River. Facing the water, you can see another little peninsula — my immediate neighborhood — on the right, ocean and islands straight ahead, and Martin’s Point Bridge and Mackworth Island to the left.

IMG_1123It’s an expanse of ocean, distant islands and sky, interrupted by a line of dark trees that shade a peaceful walkway along the steep banking down to the shore. The view must have been a big attraction for guests at the Verandah Hotel, built on the point in 1846. Well, maybe in the beginning the guests cared about the view. The Verandah became known more for the all-hours, seven-day-a-week access to alcohol that it provided (because it was over the city line) than for its restful setting, according to my current reference, “Deering: A Social and Architectural History” (William David Barry and Patricia McGraw Anderson; Greater Portland Landmarks; 2010).

IMG_1127The poor Verandah didn’t last long — it succumbed to fire in 1851. The next occupant of the Point was the U.S. Marine Hospital — still an imposing presence today — which housed seamen in need of care. Now called the “Historic Marine Hospital,” the building is part of the Martin’s Point Health Care complex occupying the site.

I see I’m sliding into a historical perspective here — my intention for this blog was to talk about the quirky and beautiful parts of Portland. History was to be just a side note to provide context. But once you start reading about what happened somewhere, it’s hard not to talk about it!

On my walks, there’s nearly always something I find amusing. I actually shouldn’t find this amusing (and it’s kind of poignant, too. And I’m ONLY amused because of the song, which was one of the backdrops of my youth. I’m not callous, really!), but — if you’re my age or thereabouts, you may remember the song “The Sinking of the Reuben James,” lamenting the demise of the first U.S. warship lost in World War II. The version that became popular was sung by the Kingston Trio (which put me off from the song a bit, even though it was written by my idol, Woody Guthrie). If you remember the song, probably what comes to mind is the chorus, which I won’t post for copyright reasons, but which asks the listener if they knew anyone on the Reuben James, and if so, who they were. That’s probably enough to get the phrase going around in your head like a nice little earbug!

IMG_1125Well, the names of everyone who died are listed on a memorial to the Reuben James here at Martin’s Point. It always surprises me slightly to come onto this memorial, located in deep shade along the walkway. The ship was based in Portland, and many of the crew were from this area. The last names include familiar local names.

So that’s Martin’s Point. The walkway there is a small haven along busy Route 1. I’ve stayed after medical appointments to imbibe a little dose of serenity. Then I walk the mile or so home along Veranda Street — historically a busy thoroughfare from Martin’s Point Bridge to Tukey’s Bridge and a neighborhood of shipyards and blue-collar workers, as well as the more wealthy individuals who made livelihoods from the sea. I guess that’s another post!

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The Historic Marine Hospital

Henry and Susan’s benches

 

Just a half-mile long, Capisic Pond Trail is a world away from and cozied right up to the streets that bound it.

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Capisic Pond Trail was a revelation to me the second time I walked it. The first time, a year or two ago, I was drawn by the wild (or garden-escaped) pale-lavender beebalm and the cozy wooded sidepaths to the sun-dappled rippling brook that runs out of the pond.

But I didn’t see much of the pond. Hardly anything. I could catch a glimpse of what I thought might be it, but it looked to be filled with aquatic plant life and blended in with everything else that was green.

This time, though, the water was clearly there beyond masses of wildflowers, wild grasses, and aquatic plants. It was a bright, sparkly day, and the pond was a cheery sight. As I got to the Capisic Street end of the trail, here’s what I saw:

 

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Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t see this the last time. I did walk the entire trail — I thought.

I walked a little way up Capisic Street to the bridge over the upper end of the brook and the pond — for some reason, I hadn’t thought to do that before. From there you look out over the pond, the trail, and to the left, a large, imposing-yet-comfy-looking home and yard inhabited by some very lucky people.

According to my current reference (“Deering: A Social and Architectural History,” Patricia McGraw Anderson and William David Barry; Greater Portland Landmarks), there was a kerfuffle in the mid-1800s because “tripes” were washed in the stream above the pond in the summer, and then in the winter ice was harvested from the pond. Tripe is stomach lining from various farm animals — I’ve heard of it being from cows, and I really only know this because my father liked it; it was always a joky topic in our family. I guess using ice that tripe had been washed in didn’t do much for the stomachs of the humans in the area!

IMG_1092Here and there on the trail you come across a bench with someone’s first name on it. I saw Henry, Susan, and Harvey. It tugged at my heart a little bit to see these — my guess is that the little plaques are a way to remember or pay tribute to the donors’ loved ones. It’s a lovely thought — sit on Henry’s bench, absorbing the beauty all around, and think about what Henry meant to you and how he still lives in your heart and in his connection with everything else. Or sit on Henry’s bench and think about someone else that you care about.

Capisic Brook runs out of the Fore River, and the pond is bounded by Capisic, Lucas, Macy, Harvey, Presnell, and Machigonne streets, Brighton Avenue, and Sandy Terrace. It’s right in people’s back yards, in the middle of our city.

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