Edward Gorey’s Cabinet of Curiosities : The 2017 Edward Gorey House Exhibit


Map of Cape Cod by Consuelo Joerns, a friend of Edward Gorey, on sale in the shop

On our first return to Cape Cod in 2008, after an interval of  29 years, I discovered The Edward Gorey House and made a visit and posted my photos here. On our last Saturday of this year’s trip, after checking out of our Airbnb in Barnstable, I made a second visit to the house.

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The Mailboat Run : Casco Bay Islands



Casco Bay Lines, operates passenger, vehicle and freight service year-round. Casco Bay Lines ensures that passengers have safe, dependable and reliable transportation, and is considered the “lifeline” for the residents of the islands. Casco Bay Lines’ ferries transport nearly one million passengers, 30,000 vehicles and 5,300 tons of freight annually. Casco Bay Lines also delivers the U.S. mail and transports island students to and from Portland. A wide range of scenic cruises and charter trips for celebrations, meetings and sightseeing are available as well.”

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Historic New England Houses

The second place we stayed on this trip was in Maine and had the delightful name of Merrymeeting Retreat. It’s named after the nearby peninsula and bay of the Kennenec River to which it’s possible to walk, through woods, to see eagles nesting and other wildlife.

Our host told us that the house, below, was built in 1780 by Captain Samuel and Hannah Hinton Lilly. It stands next to the very quiet Route 128 (River Road) about 12 miles north of the historic town of Bath and about 8 miles from the equally historic (by American standards) town of Wiscasset to the east.

river road house

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FOR SALE : Preserved and meticulously restored : The Crocker Tavern House, Barnstable, MA

Crocker Tavern House sign

Crocker seems to have been a popular name around Barnstable, MA, where we stayed on our recent trip to New England. Our AirBnB was the annexe of Henry Crocker House (Item 2 on Page 2) and just across the road is the Crocker Tavern House. And there’s an Historic New England property in nearby Yarmouth Port The Winslow Crocker House. We’ve visited this area before. In fact, we’ve stayed in Barnstable a few times and I wrote about it here in 2012.


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The Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, Maine

Visit the HWL House

On our last full day in New England, before heading off to LLBean, I joined a morning tour of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, located right in the middle of Portland on Congress Street. The house is not his birthplace. Although he was born in Portland that house has now been demolished.

HLW House postcard



No Parking but always a car

Faithfully restored to the 1850s, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House was the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Built in 1785-86 by the poet’s grandfather, the house is decorated with original furnishings and family memorabilia. Tours offer a unique glance into the poet’s family, as well as into the cultural and social history of mid-19th century Portland.” [Information Board outside the house]

WLF House door

Yet again I enjoyed an entertaining and informative tour. No photography was allowed but there are pictures and descriptions of the rooms on the website and postcards of a selection were available in the excellent bookshop attached to the house.

Inside HWL House


Postcard shows the interior of Wadsworth-Longfellow House

Zilpa sampler

Zilpa’s Sampler (still on display in the house)

Peleg (love that name!) and Elizabeth Wadsworth, Henry’s grandparents, built the house in 1785-86 and Henry, born in February 1807, lived there from just a few months later throughout his childhood. With 9 siblings his father Stephen (and mother Zilpa) extended the house by adding another floor. Henry entered Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME in 1822. After graduation in 1825 he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where his home there is also a national historical monument and open to the public : Longfellow National Historic Site, 105, Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA. He made regular return visits to his family home although, except for once, he and his wife never actually stayed there overnight.

Henry’s sister Anne lived here for almost all her long life; and when she died in 1901 left the house to the Maine Historical Society (MHS) requesting that the rooms “be kept with appropriate articles for a memorial of the Home of Longfellow” insisting that certain items be left where they had been during Henry’s residence.

There were interesting displays in the museum next door concerning the Emergence and History of Portland and about the Wadsworth-Longfellow Family.

Longfellow House

I also learned that :

In 1884, Longfellow became the first non-British writer for whom a commemorative sculpted bust was placed in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey in London; he remains the only American poet represented with a bust. [Wikipedia]

The over life-size white marble bust of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was unveiled in Poets’ Corner Westminster Abbey in 1884, on a pillar near to the tomb of Geoffrey Chaucer. It is by the sculptor Sir Thomas Brock and the main inscription reads:

Longfellow bust, Westminster Abbey

LONGFELLOW. This bust was placed amongst the memorials of the poets of England by the English admirers of an American poet.1884″

On the left and right sides of the plinth is inscribed:

“Born at Portland, U.S.A. February 27th 1807. Died at Cambridge, U.S.A. March 24th 1882”.

Longfellow’s ancestor, William Longfellow, had emigrated to New England in 1676 from Yorkshire. His parents were Stephen, a lawyer, and Zilpah. Henry taught at Harvard University and his prose romance Hyperion was published in 1839 after the death of his first wife. Ballads and other Poems includes ‘The Village Blacksmith’ and ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’. The Song of Hiawatha is one of his best known works and he was second only to Lord Tennyson in popularity. His grave is in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A photograph of his bust can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

“England’s homage to Longfellow” by E.C.Lathem, 2007

[source of text and photo]

Before the tour, after the  tour or at any time during opening hours anyone may visit the Longfellow Garden behind the house.

HWL better garden

The secluded Longfellow Garden located behind the House is an oasis of green and quiet in the heart of downtown Portland. Beautifully landscaped, the public is welcome.” [Information Board]

Looking back up garden

Looking back up the garden towards the house

The members of the Longfellow Garden Club have tended this oasis of peace and calm in the centre of the bustling city of Portland for 90 years. These volunteers weed the beds, prune the overgrowth, plant annuals, maintain the soil and much much more.  In 1924 Mrs Pearl Wing set about restoring the garden. She encouraged the local community to help her and to donate plants and create a fountain in the garden. She also established the bye-laws and operating principles of the Club.

Presnt day fountain

Present day fountain

Naturally, there have been changes in the area and garden surroundings since then. Until 1980 the garden was only visited by those touring the house but the Club convinced the MHS to allow public access during house opening hours. It is a popular quiet retreat and “hidden treasure”.

Read more about the life and works of the author of The Song of Hiawatha (possibly his best-known work here in the UK) here and see whether you can recognise his many quotations here.

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books”

Our Town : From Peterborough, New Hampshire to London, England


The weekend after we arrived home from New England at the end of September I spotted a small listing in the newspaper for the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. At first I thought the play was due to tour and was actually coming to Leeds but an online search proved fruitless so I checked the dates again and saw that it was showing at The Almeida Theatre in London during dates I was going to be  in town.

The notice had particularly caught my eye because the week before in Vermont we had made an excursion into New Hampshire from Brattleboro which is literally on the border between the two states. They are separated only by the Connecticut River.

Connecticut River

The Connecticut River

Bridge linking VT and NH

The Brattleboro Road Bridge Linking VT and NH

Our intention had been to visit a mountain we had seen on the previous day from another trip to Wilmington VT and the viewpoint at Hog Back Mountain.

Monandnock from hog back

 View from Hog Back Mountain – 100 Mile View

But when we arrived at Mount Monadnock the State Park Warden told us that, although it is the most visited mountain peak in the USA [A magnet for hikers, Monadnock is said to be the world’s third most climbed mountain, following Japan’s Mount Fuji and China’s Mount Tai.], we might find ourselves limited by time (it’s really a full day hike) and advised us to drive a few miles further to Miller State Park where it is possible to drive right to the top and take a shorter trail from the peak car park.

View from Miller

View from Miller State Park

Trail to hawk watch

Miller State Park is located on the 2,290-foot summit and flank of Pack Monadnock in Peterborough and is the oldest state park in New Hampshire. A winding 1.3-mile paved road leading to the scenic summit is open for visitors to drive in summer and on spring and fall weekends. Three main hiking trails ascend Pack Monadnock to the summit. The best known is the Wapack Trail, which is a 21-mile footpath that extends from Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, Massachusetts to North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield. It is believed Native Americans named the area’s mountains, and that “pack” means little. On clear days views reach to Mount Washington, the skyscrapers of Boston, and the Vermont hills.”

Boston skyline

Boston Skyline just visible (slightly right)

Yes, indeed, it was amazing to see the skyscrapers of Boston on the horizon from a distance of 55 miles away!

This could be Mt Washington

Could this be Mount Washington?

We were fascinated by the Audubon Hawk Watch set up in a clearing. It reminded me of the Malhamdale Hills and Hawks Walk in July. Just like the RSPB The Audubon Society had set up an area with information boards, information table, binoculars and telescopes on tripods and staff and volunteers ready to answer questions and tell about the project. We felt very under-equipped!

Birds seen

Birds Spotted

Serious twitchers

A Serious Twitcher

owl to attract

Owl Decoy

As we left the park and drove back towards Brattleboro I suggested we stop at the town of Peterborough. A good friend and reader of posts here, Sarah, had told me some time ago about the pretty town which served as the inspiration for Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town”.

Views of Peterborough

main st peterboro

Peterboro 1

Peterboro 2

Peterboro 3

Peterboro 4

Sarah's Hat Boxes

“We all grow up, we fall in love, we have families and we all die. That is our story”

And that is the story of “Our Town”.