Jul 23, 2012
|Lynda has finally convinced me to write entries consistent with specific locations rather than cover longer time periods, often with multiple locations. It will ease her role of loading photographs and updating the Trip Journal map. Generally this will mean shorter missives I am told “that readers will appreciate.” So here goes an adjustment in my writing approach.
We bid adieu to Larry and Kathy on Sunday morning July 15 and headed up I-295/I-95 to Bangor and then east to the Peacock House B&B in Lubec. As I mentioned previously our primary destination was Campobello Island and the summer home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The return to Portland for my eye treatment provided a time window to visit Campobello before returning to Nova Scotia.
Checking Trip Advisor the Peacock B&B had the highest rating (5 out of 5) in the area. The availability calendar showed only a couple of vacancies during the next few weeks indicating its popularity. Fortunately, one of the seven rooms was available for our one-night stay on the 15th. I still wondered why availability was so limited in this remote corner of Maine. I questioned that Campobello alone was such a popular tourist destination.
Upon our arrival we had lunch of no particular note overlooking the water and strolled Lubec’s main commercial street; a few gift and antique shops, and several eateries. Then we checked-in at the Peacock, a lovely small suite with a private parking place. Sue, our hostess, warmly welcomed us and told us about the summer music program, Summerkeys.com that attracted people from hither and yon of various skill levels. Most of the rooms at the B&B were taken by participants at the program. Although the name implies a piano oriented program other instruments are included e.g. cello, clarinet. One couple was there; she in a piano workshop and he taking a class in oil painting, presumably at a different venue.
That evening we tried Cohill’s Café and Pub for dinner. Upon entering I noticed Philadelphia Eagles banners. I asked our waitress, who turned out to be one of the owners, if anyone would mind if I led a singing of “Hail to the Redskins?” The answer was an “absolutely not!” Her husband was a retired New Jersey State Trooper and they were Philadelphia fans through and through. I don’t remember what we ate which says something, but it was a pleasant time in a cheery setting.
The next morning after a delicious breakfast prepared by Sue’s husband Dennis and the normally interesting conversations with fellow travelers we made the short drive to Campobello Island and Roosevelt Campobello International Park. For those who don’t know, Campobello is part of New Brunswick, Canada and is linked to the Maine mainland by FDR Bridge at Lubec. If you pass to or from Maine you must go through customs in both directions across this short bridge. It can also be reached by ferry from Deer Island, NB in the summer. It should also be noted that Campobello is in the Atlantic Time zone one hour earlier than Maine time.
As we made the short drive to see Roosevelt’s summer home I wondered about the public reaction in today’s political climate of an American President having a retreat outside of the U.S. For some it would probably be an outrage; perhaps it was then. It isn’t that Franklin and Eleanor came up with the idea. It was Franklin’s parents’ summer home when he was a boy as the island became a summer place for wealthy Americans.
His parents’ cottage – no longer in existence - was next door to the one which became Franklin and Eleanor’s. The former owner of what became the Presidential retreat, Mrs. Kuhn, was very fond of Eleanor, so a provision in her will offered her cottage and the furnishings to Sara Roosevelt, Franklin’s mother, at a bargain price of $5000. In 1909 Sara purchased the furnished cottage and two hectares (about five acres) of land. Franklin, Eleanor, and their five children enjoyed summers in the cottage from 1909 to 1921, when Franklin contracted polio. Upon Sara’s death in 1941, she bequeathed the cottage to Franklin.
After his polio attack at Campobello, Franklin did not return to Campobello for nearly twelve years, and then for only three visits: in 1933, 1936 and 1939. While these visits were few and brief, FDR retained his love for the island and its people, and drew strength from his visits and from his happy memories of Campobello. Eleanor and the children were, however, regular visitors to the cottage. To get to Campobello, they took a day train from New York to Boston, and then boarded an overnight sleeper from Boston to Ayer’s Junction, Maine. The next morning, they, their servants and the luggage (some 40 trunks) took a 15-mile ride on a one-car train to Eastport, where a boat awaited them for the final leg of their trip to the island.
The property remained in the family until 1952 when it was sold by Elliott Roosevelt (Franklin and Eleanor's fourth child). Elliott decided to sell the house after his mother had sold it to him. He sold it to Victor Hammer and his brother Armand Hammer of Boston and they owned it up until 1952. However, they said Eleanor was always welcome to come whenever she pleased. In 1952 the brothers tried to sell it but got no takers; then they decided to donate the cottage to both the U.S. and Canada. The Roosevelt Campobello International Park is the only one of its kind because it is run by both the Canadian and American governments, the park being located in Canadian territory. The park is now equally staffed by both Americans and Canadians.
It was a foggy day during our visit and the mosquitos were abundant. Consequently, we were not able to enjoy the walking trails or the views; yet, the tour of the 34-room cottage, “Tea with Eleanor” in the adjoining Hubbard cottage, and the film in the Edmund Muskie Welcome Center was well worth the visit; and admission is free!
The Roosevelt cottage is large but by no means opulent. Instead, I’d characterize it as functional and rustic; designed and furnished for summer holiday for a large family. “Tea with Eleanor” is a recent offering featuring two engaging women who serve tea and cookies and tell stories about the former First Lady and strong advocate for human rights. It was a delightful experience! Lynda had just finished the 500 page book “Eleanor Roosevelt” by Blanche Cook so she added a few comments about Eleanor’s life. We were at the park for about three hours. Had the weather been better we would have stayed longer to walk the trails.
Because of the weather (fog and threat of rain) we decided to forego others parts of Campobello Island and the ferry to mainland New Brunswick. Instead we passed back through U.S. Customs and drove the 50 or so miles to Calais, ME where we re-entered Canada. From there we drove to St. John, New Brunswick’s largest city; no sightseeing here, just a relaxing evening before moving on to Nova Scotia in the morning. We’re back in Canada again until the 11th of August!