By John J. Cromie
Ballston Spa, NY
This work examines the gradual, early development of a summer place most noted as the home of Winslow Homer. Yet, how does a resident of an upstate New York village become interested in a small piece of Maine coast?
It began at a local New Years Day auction during which my wife, Vicky, and I were attracted to a watercolor portrait of a young lady, which was very well done. It had some obvious Homeresque characteristics. Being an attorney and local history buff, finding answers to arcane questions is a fun pastime. Who was this young lady, and could she have been painted by Homer? I was off on the search.
Due to the abundance of secondary sources dealing with Winslow Homer, it was easy to find facts about the artist, his work, and his surroundings. Vicky’s art history background has been a fine complement to my sleuthing. As the books and notes piled up, we became more and more focused on the summer of 1887 and needed to determine who may have been summer visitors at Prout’s Neck at that time. At the suggestion of State Historian Earle Shettleworth Jr. that many visitors would become summer residents, the search turned to identifying early members of the summer colony.
It wasn’t that difficult to find source material. The global reach of Internet research allows one to delve into and re-check facts that once took months, if not years to accumulate. But once done, it seemed a shame to keep the information to ourselves. Thus began this project to illuminate the early land transfers within the Libby subdivision of Prout’s Neck, mapped by S. L. Stephenson in 1879. The scope of this work does not include the area off the “Neck” proper, leading up Black Point Road to Routes 207 and 77, around the “Settlement,” or Scarborough Beach.
Vicky and I went to Scarborough and Portland for a couple of days. We drove down Black Point Road, reached an access to the gated-summer community, and dutifully turned around and left Prout’s for the Town Beach and Ferry Rock. During this research jaunt, we were treated very well by everyone we encountered at the Portland Public Library, Maine Historical Society, Cumberland County Registrar’s Office, and by Mary Pickard and Bruce Thurlow of the Scarborough Historical Society.
It is the latter we wish to benefit from this work. Whenever you read it, even ten years hence, do not assume it is a free experience. Rather, consider it worth a donation to the Scarborough Historical Society. Checks may be sent to Scarborough Historical Society, P.O. Box Scarborough, ME 04070, or poke around this website, find the membership form, and join.
A special acknowledgment must be given to Nicholas Westbrook, a long-time friend and Director Emeritus of Fort Ticonderoga, for reviewing this piece and offering his wisdom to make it better.