August 2014 Newsletter

 

Greetings from the Harraseeket Inn!  There's an old saying here in Maine that if you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes.  It would seem that same saying could apply to this summer as well.  Back-to-school flyers are everywhere, crickets have begun their afternoon chorus and the road sides are a colorful kaleidoscope of goldenrod, asters, purple vetch,  and black eyed susans. The summers of youth are remembered as an endless ramble of warm, adventurous days, but heap on the years and those very same days pass in a blur. 

Ocean Point by Beth Whitney
"Ocean Point", watercolor by Beth Whitney
Which is why we adults go on vacation, to try and slow things down, step out of the rat race and remember what it's like to do nothing but play hard and nap often; let the kayak drift on the current, lounge near the water's edge with a good book, lulled by waves and sipping iced tea (or something a little stronger).  If we're resolute enough, we pull the plug and disconnect from the sensory overload of "smart" phones, e-mails, Facebook and CNN and reconnect with something rare and precious called "peace and quiet".  That's what makes Maine such a great place to vacation. It's so much easier to disconnect, simply because there's so much natural beauty surrounding us, and nature is the best  therapy to diffuse the stress and frenzy of modern life.

 

Maine is known as Vacationland because people come here to vacation, but if you live here year

Photo by John Patriquin, PP

'round, you do have to work once in a while. There was a great article earlier this month in thePortland Press Herald  about Bisson Farm, one of our local purveyors whose 500 acre farm is located in nearby Topsham.  We serve Bisson bacon, sausage and poultry here at the inn.  My father use to buy their butter, which came in one pound blocks, was wrapped in waxed paper and tasted just like real butter because it was.  The Bissons are a hard working family and the article really nails the emotional nuts and bolts (stress) that go into running a family business.  When the Bisson family lost the patriarch of their clan, they rallied together to keep the business going, and they've done a great job.  That transition is happening in a different way at the Harraseeket Inn as my mother's advancing years have created a situation all family businesses eventually face; establishing a new chain of command while keeping the original vision alive.  My mother's vision is not an easy act to follow. In 2009, Preserve America published the following article in "Gatekeepers of History" which includes a brief history of the Harraseeket Inn:

 

Innkeeper Nancy Gray
Nancy Dyer Gray, 2005

Nancy Gray, A Conservationist in the Form of an Environmentally Sensitive Innkeeper

"Little did Nancy Gray know that when, as a child, she helped her parents operate Birch Island Lodge, a sporting camp on Holeb Pond in Maine, she was developing talents and values that would one day make her name synonymous with New England hospitality, Yankee ingenuity, and ecologically sound living. Those early experiences in the 1940s of cutting ice for refrigeration, heating water on the stove to run the gasoline-powered washing machines, and keeping guests happy in a lodge without electricity laid the groundwork for her success today as the owner of the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, Maine .

Nancy grew up close to the environment and with a love of the out-of-doors, enjoying hiking, fly fishing, and canoeing. Her father was a hunting and fishing guide, as were her husband Paul and sister Jody; and those outdoor proclivities were passed on to Nancy's daughter Penny, who is a long-distance sled dog racer, as well as a published author and registered Maine Master Guide. Nancy's love of nature and the lessons she learned at her parents' camp are evident in the way she runs the Harraseeket Inn, an award-winning country inn that combines luxury with environmental sensitivity. 

 

South Wing Construction
South Wing under construction, 1997

In 1984 Nancy opened the Harraseeket Inn, which comprised two period buildings dating from 1798 and 1854, and in 1989 they built the main portion of the inn, whose tastefully decorated 84 rooms and 9 extended-stay townhouses are set on five beautifully landscaped acres. Guests at the Harraseeket Inn not only have an authentic New England experience, but also contribute to the cause of conservation. A member of the Green Hotel Association which is committed to encouraging, promoting, and supporting ecological consciousness in the hospitality industry, the Inn buys first from local Maine farmers, fishermen and regional suppliers to stock its two restaurants with organically and naturally grown produce. Keeping farmland open is paramount. "No farms, no food" is the thought process. It recycles and composts everything. All proteins are saved for the thirty Alaskan huskies her daughter keeps for long distance sled dog races. The Inn has led the way for other inns in the region to donate their used cooking fat to local organic farmers, which they burn for heat in their greenhouses during the winter months. It also makes biodiesel fuel from the used fryolator fats for fueling their company vehicles.

 

South Wing, Gardens
Garden courtyard outside South Wing today

Nancy's passion for the environment is not confined to the operations of the Inn. She has spent a lifetime supporting land preservation, water quality, and animal protection issues, serving on several local and statewide commissions and working "in the trenches." 

She not only has a conscience, but also the courage to make things happen and the willingness to try again. She is a past President of New England Innkeepers Association and Maine Innkeepers Association, a past Chairman of the Resort Committee of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and now serves on its Executive Board. Nancy has tried to raise the environmental consciousness of these organizations so that more land and waters might be conserved for generations to come. Her entire family works to keep Maine, Maine.

 

Chip Gray, one of her three sons and the Inn's General Manager, has been quoted as attributing his mother's success to the following recipe: "A quart of Pure Horsepower, two cups of Incorruptibility, a dollop of Moral Certitude, the brand that's marked with Confidence and the Willpower Never Ever to Back Down No Matter What. That's for starters. Mix that carefully with a pound of Common Sense and Pragmatism, a generous handful of Good Humor, a lifetime of Hard Work, and a liberal dash of Visionary Wisdom and you will begin to see the picture. Of course that wouldn't get you to the Mischief and the Pure Zest for Life."

 

1984
Paul and Nancy Gray 1984

That article sums up the matriarch of the Gray family who started the Harraseeket Inn because she thought Freeport was a great little town and the LLBean store was an iconic landmark. Thirty years ago my father was still with us, and the time was right to make her dream of opening an inn here come true. On the north end of town, within walking distance of all the shops and the legendary L.L.Bean store, was a run-down three unit apartment building called the Latty House, sitting on five acres of overgrown field. The original cape had been built in the late 1700s and served as a stage stop between Portland and Brunswick. Deborah Rose Dillingham would feed the passengers while her husband, the village blacksmith, tended the horses. This historic post and beam structure was completely renovated with eight guest rooms and is now called the Carriage House. The main inn was built in the adjacent field and originally had fifty-four rooms, incorporating a charming 19th century Greek Revival known as the Sullivan House on the corner of Davis Avenue and Main Street. That building now houses the Broad Arrow Tavern, which is why the tavern floors slope and creak just like an old house. The South Wing was added in 1997 and, with the adjacent nine extended-stay townhouses, brought the room count to ninety-three, with two eateries: the Broad Arrow Tavern, and the Maine Harvest Dining Room. Not bad for one determined little woman with a big dream.  She's now 82 but those of you who eat in the tavern may have noticed this photograph of her  standing beside her father's float plane at Birch Island on Holeb Pond.  The year is 1945 and she is thirteen years old.  It's a wonderful picture and another reminder that time marches all too quickly into the future.

Nancy Dyer Gray 13 yrs.
Innkeeper Nancy Dyer Gray (with English Setter "Danny"), circa 1945 age 13 years

Special offers and Upcoming Events:

 
*September Back-to-School Special*  
This is a great deal for all you graduates who can celebrate NOT having to go back to school.  This two night package will run from Monday, September 1 through Thursday September 11.  Included in the package are:
*Two nights lodging
*Dinner for two in the Broad Arrow Tavern
*Lunch buffet for two in the Broad Arrow Tavern
*Afternoon tea and full buffet breakfast each day
*$565. for two plus 8% lodging tax
 
LLBean Summer in the Park  free concerts every Saturday at 7 pm, Friday Farmer's Market, Dog Days of
Boston and Maine
We offer Free Transportation to and from the DownEaster Train Station!
August, the fun never stops in Freeport!
*LLBean Outdoor Discovery Schools Learn to fly fish or paddle a kayak on Casco Bay.  Make some special Maine memories!
*Freeport USA has a list of special events in Freeport check out their coupons and calendar!

*Schedule of Maine's Agricultural Fairs including our favorite, MOFGA's Common Ground Fair in September!

* 
Special packages, room rates and menus at the Harraseeket Inn
 

 

Last month's trivia question was an easy one: What was the name of King George's senior mast agent who lived in Portland? His name was Captain George Tate and his house is now the Tate Museum which is a great place to visit when you're in the Portland area.  This month's trivia question is another easy one: What does the word "Harraseeket" mean?  All correct answers win a voucher worth $5. toward food or lodging on your next visit and from all the answers a grand prize winner will receive a gift certificate for dinner for two in our Broad Arrow Tavern or Maine Harvest Dining Room.  Up to 12 vouchers may be redeemed at one time, a $60. value.  Check your spam mail if you don't receive a reply from me within a few days of sending your response, and be aware that I'm heading for Labrador on August 19th where I will be hard at work trying to make summer last up there for at least another two weeks.  Good luck, enjoy what's left of these warm golden days and we hope to see you soon!


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