This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Linda McClelland presented for Christi Mitchell
Linda McClellan: Maine has been looking at landscapes in a variety of ways, in relationship to some of the context that are important in their state, and some of the priorities that the SHPO has set for those.
Christi also mentioned in her presentation that these programs and the process that they’ve gone through have raised a number of thorny issues. I can’t speak real specifically to those, but I do think that there issues such as boundaries, integrity and different types of resources that we categorize under landscapes, and the special problems attached to those; the typical problems that many of you have mentioned in presentations.
The properties that she mentioned are ones that are often listed on the National Register. She particularly looked at design landscapes such as the Bok Amphitheater in Camden, the Carriage Paths of Acadia National Park, and a number of historic golf courses in the state. She also, since they don’t talk about rural agriculture landscapes, but rather they call them organic landscapes, reminding me of some of the terminology that’s used in the World Heritage program, and she said that they’re looking closely at farms, the historic, traditional town common, and a number of rural historic districts of various types.
This is a property that I know quite closely because I helped work with the consultant and the Camden Public Library to develop a nomination. This caused us to look very closely at the career of Fletcher Steele who was a prominent Boston landscape architect in the early 20th century, trained and exposed through European travel to Beaux Arts design, great classical roots, but one that had an eye for Modernism and was one of the first designers to actually interpret some of the French Modernist’s work to American audiences, especially students like Dan Kiley and Garett Eckbo.
We looked at a lot of different trends here in terms of designed landscape and through this we really came up with the genius of Fletcher Steele because he integrated the classical principles with modern ideas and yet gave it a regional character that echoed the rockbound coast of Maine, and of course the native vegetation of the spruces and the white birch with their shimmering bark. He also was into abstracting and changing the symmetrical formula that so many landscape architects had used. This was recognized not only for its importance as a public landscape in the period of the late ‘20s, but also as a forerunner of Modernism.
One of the earliest landscape projects that the state became involved with was the National Parks Service’s nominations for the Carriage Paths at Acadia National Park. These were linear, of course, and they connected with certain of the more traditional resources that, in the past, would have been recognized on their own merit, but here they were part of the continuous trail that the Rockefellers had built in the years before Cadillac Mountain and the surrounding area became a national park.
I think it’s very interesting that Maine has done a lot of work with golf courses. I learned a lot from Christi’s presentation. This is the Cape Arundel Golf Club, near Kennebunkport. It’s the work of Walter Travis, a very early golf course designer. He was designing golf courses at the end of the 19th century. He, himself, was a championship golfer and wrote a book called, The Practical Golfer. He really, based on his knowledge of Great Britain’s golf courses, became fascinated with the design aspects. What you see here are whole series of complicated of bunkers which, of course, are put there to stymie the passage of the ball. This, of course, was one of the major movements in golf course design. I’ve learned a lot about that from one of our colleagues here at the National Register who just recently presented to the Landmark’s Commission a world-class golf course in New Jersey.
Maine recognizes that its history has been greatly shaped by the attraction of Maine scenery and climate, especially in the summer months and the fact that a lot of well-to-do successful people summered in Maine and vacationed in Maine.
Here are some of the other golf courses. This is Poland Spring Resort Golf Course. They had to look closely at the evolution of the golf course because it had changed a lot. You can see here that Walter Travis did, in fact, do some of the work in the 1913 – 1916 period. So you have an evolution and what they needed to do was to look carefully at these different periods and trace that evolution to understand the significance of the landscape. Unlike in Arundel Golf Course, which really conveyed a very narrow period of design, this one had a number of designs that evolved over a long period of time.
The other property type that they’ve spent a lot of time looking at in Maine are farms. You can see there’s a very rich tapestry of pasture, fields, hedge rows, forests, woodlots in Maine. I don’t know very much about these so I’m just going to go through them, but you can get a sense of the spacious quality of these as well as the functional character. They, in many cases, have remained unchanged for decades. I do remember Christi mentioning the issue about the encroaching vegetation on what had formerly been pasture, and the fact that a lot of former fields and pastures had become forested. But the feeling is that even with these changes the agricultural process is still conveyed and in many cases farms are still operating and have not gone to the great modern changes and consolidation that you see in other parts of the country.
There are, of course, nestled into some of these woodlands the boundary demarcations that earmarked the former fields. It hasn’t been a feeling in New England where so much of former fields have been grown over that a place such as this, despite the change in the character of the setting, still is eligible. Does that have to be Criteria D? I’m not so sure because I think that eligibility under Criteria A for the agricultural activities of the past still is very much clear. I think it is an archaeological process in a sense of reading the landscape in this way, but I think to a large extent the conclusions have been that these places still do convey their significance under Criterion A.
Some of these places such as the Eastman Hill Rural District in Lovell, Maine are very remote and are nestled into areas that are now forests, state forests lands, national forests as well.
Commons, I think, is a very interesting one and certainly one of highly important property type in the New England states. It, of course, was part of the root of the town meetings and the common land that was available to people often just for the grazing of their sheep and cattle.
Here you see a very unadorned, simple basic common that’s really marked only by its open land. Many of these are very early often in conjunction with cemeteries, which of course, were town cemeteries and the meeting house, which often doubled as a church, because before 1820 church and government in New England towns were inseparable.
Christi also mentioned the fact that many of these commons have evolved over time. Again, we’re talking about a landscape that was simply common land, had a very functional and community-oriented purpose and now has become a park more in the mid-19th century idea of the urban parks. Of course, these had their own traditions: community band concerts, they become places for memorials. All of these things add new layers and new life to the old typical New England common. These are things that they are now trying to document those layers.
This was one where Christi was talking about the difficulty of defining the edges of significance; what the boundaries are and how do you define these various levels, because the different levels may have their own boundaries. The example that she used was the case of a mill and a mill pond. I believe the mill pond is draining and it will not be repaired. You still have that 19th century character here, even though the vegetation has been growing up. You can see how the integrity of the water itself in the pond. Do you look at just resources or do you still look at the larger lake?
She also talked about a project at Clary Lake where a large dam had been installed to provide recreational and resort property. Water features are an important aspect of what they’re looking at in Maine.
She also talked about things having to do with the maritime and coastal history of Maine and the fact that they need to know more about the fishing practices and the way nets were dried out; nets were made. The types of docks and how that related to the types of boats that plied the waterways on the coast. She showed a painting by a local artist making the point that the cultural history of Maine is very embedded in its practical and functional roots as a maritime place.
This is one of the recent properties that were presented at the Landmark committee meeting here in December and Christi presented it. To her this represented the question of to what extent setting becomes part of a resource and is actually an integral part of that resource. Is it one that can be counted? Certainly it’s one that should be described and understood. Often, especially in the case of resort homes, summer homes on the coast, the site was very important and the rugged characteristics of that site. Here, of course, Admiral Perry not only had his house perched atop this island, but used the rock to create his museum and his collections.
Christi closed with the issue of integrity of landscapes for linear features. We talked today about the Appalachian Trail, the Oregon Trail. She was bringing us back quite a ways further to Revolutionary War era trails that were an important way that the main Minutemen made their way across to Vermont and New York to aid the revolution. These are very characterless themselves unless they’ve been continually used over the years for other purposes, but she felt so greatly that the integrity of these resources often lay in the integrity of the surrounding landscape that they pass through. This was something that they, in Maine, were trying to grapple with and understand and to define these corridors that were so important in their history from the perspective of landscape and setting.