The House
South Poland, Maine        

Panoramic View of Poland Spring Resort from the Maine State Building, ca. 1900
(Detroit Photo Company, # 010452)

n 1875, the old Mansion House being found inadequate to    handle the numerous guests attracted to the pleasures of Poland Spring, work began on the Poland Spring House.


The Poland Spring House 
from across the lake.
Three views
across the years:
ca. 1886

(Souvenir of Poland Spring & Hotels)
ca. 1895
(Detroit Photo Collection, # 011729)
ca. 1910
(Detroit Photo Collection, # 034327)

"The Poland Spring House was erected upon an elevation eight hundred feet above the level of the sea, commanding a most beautiful and diversified landscape. Its high altitude, its invigorating atmosphere, its unequaled facilities for drainage, and the excellent drives and attractive walks, in connection with the Poland Spring water, render the hotel one of the most charming spots in New England for tourists traveling for pleasure, or for invalids in search of health. This lofty and imposing edifice has since its erection been a landmark for many miles around, looming like a palace from its elevated position."

"No pains or money have been spared to make the Poland Spring House a home in every sense of the word. All the modern devices for comfort and luxury have been added, so that at the present time it would be impossible to suggest anything lacking for the enjoyment of its patrons."
(History of Poland, H.A. & G.W. Poole, 1890, p 34)

Poland Spring House, ca. 1876

(Pamphlet, Poland Spring House, 1904)

"Its architecture was so bold in design, its construction so elaborate, that even the builders tried to dissuade its owners from undertaking such an enterprise, and the opinion was freely expressed that there was no demand for such a house -- it could not be filled -- it was too evidently an extravagant and fatal enterprise; it was even called 'Ricker's Folly'.  Yet in its opening season, despite the fact that it occurred at the time of our great Centennial Exposition, the House was so successful as even to exceed the most sanguine expectations..."
(Pamphlet, Poland Spring House, 1904)

South Face of Poland Spring House
(hand colored postcard)

During the years between 1883 (when the first enlargement occurred) and 1914, the Poland Spring House was under seemingly continuous construction, with substantial improvements being made both inside and out. The Architectural Evolution of the Poland Spring House transformed a modest 4-story hotel into a grand, rambling, 5-story Victorian gem. 

This construction work was overseen by Forrest Walker, a Poland, Maine native.

Forrest Walker (1857-1932)
(Maine State Building at Poland Spring,
Centennial 1895-1995)

"The actual time [Forest Walker] worked for Hiram Ricker & Sons was 46 years. During the time he worked at the hotels, he had charge of reconstructing the Poland Spring House, additions and alterations to the Mansion House, and the construction of the Riccar Inn, his last major hilltop project. With the Poland work crew, he also rebuilt or added to the hotel-operated buildings at the Kineo on Moosehead Lake, the Wentworth-by-the-Sea, the Samoset at Rockland, plus others. He also made frequent trips to the Forest Hills Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia."
(Maine State Building at Poland Spring, Centennial 1895-1995)

Poland Spring House ca. 1912

(Poland Spring House, 1912)

Poland Spring House
ca. 1901
(Poland Spring - America's Leading Spa, 1901)

"The hotel was a completely self-contained resort, an ocean liner among the sea of Maine's forests. In 1892 [there were] more than 300 employees. There were barbers, watchmen, housekeepers and cooks, stable boys and yard men, farm help and spring help, nine engineers, four carpenters, three blacksmiths, and two painters. There was room for 450 guests, as well as separate quarters for guests' servants, such as nannies and maids, and the hotel staff."

"In contrast to the typical overdraped and fussy decor of the period, Victorian style, the Poland Spring House was uniquely light and cheery inside; even the overstuffed public rooms were filled with sunshine. In the evening chandeliers provided either gas or new-fangled electric illumination."
(Down East Magazine, 1992)

Dining Room
Poland Spring House ca. 1890

(Maine Historic Preservation Commission)

Dining Room Addition
Poland Spring House 1917

(Pamphlet, Poland Spring, 1917)

Learn more about
Dining at Poland Spring

"A million of brick are framed into the fireplaces of this house. and with them a million blessings for the guests. What a symbol of comfort a fireplace is. Welcome is written across its front, and hospitality is carved in lasting letters on its broad hearth-stone..."

"The great dining-hall is nearly two hundred feet in length and amply wide, it is a marvel of space and roominess. At the far end of this great hall of feasting, with its unique chairs, elegant table furniture, and artistic ceiling, is a...monstrous piece of plate-glass framed into the end of the great hall, through which, with unimpeded eyes, the gazer sees Nature's own charming and realistic presence. A triumph of art, indeed, but of a sort no mortal artist ever made."
(History of Poland, H.A. & G.W. Poole, 1890, pp 38-39)

Poland Spring House,
ca. 1886

(Souvenir of Poland Spring & Hotels)

Music Room - built 1884
Poland Spring House

(Poland Spring House, 1902)

"The first floor contained reading and writing rooms, a magnificently furnished suite of reception rooms, a music hall, and numerous smaller rooms for whist parties and the like."
(Down East Magazine, 1992)

"The Music Hall is 40x80 feet, sixteen feet high, finished in cherry and richly ornamented.  The walls and ceiling are frescoed in blue and covered with gold leaf stars and cresents.  A copper bronze frieze, three feet deep, extends around the room.  Two enormous terra cotta fire-places, with elegant mantles, make the room very attractive.  The floor is polished hardwood.  Across one end is a unique stage, with foot-lights.  Seven first-class musicians are engaged all through the season to furnish music for the guests, and in the evening, or on dull days, when the shutters are closed, and the hundred gas jets lighted, the effect is so brilliant one would imagine himself in an oriental palace."
(Lewiston Evening Journal, May 23, 1887)

"Many of the private rooms were actually suites to accommodate families. Some had private baths, especially in the newer additions. The house was lit with gas and electricity, there was a steam-powered elevator and 'electric annunciators' (intercoms)."
(Down East Magazine, 1992)

Poland Spring House, ca. 1890

(Maine Historic Preservation Commission)

"In the entrance hall is a great fireplace taking 6' logs. There was almost always a fire glowing there. To the right of the entrance hall is the Music Room, which is as large as a theatre and the most decorated room. It was frequently used as a ballroom. Smaller entertainment  rooms join the Music Hall. The doors can be opened making the Hall even larger. Off the hall is the Annex where guests could enjoy billiards (both men and women) and bowling. There were also card rooms, a club house and studios; all modernly furnished for cozy comfort."

Ladies' Writing Room
Poland Spring House, ca. 1901

(Poland Spring - America's Leading Spa, 1901)

Entertainment Hall
Poland Spring House, ca. 1901

(Poland Spring - America's Leading Spa, 1901)

Sleeping Apartment
Poland Spring House, ca. 1901

(Poland Spring - America's Leading Spa, 1901)

Poland Spring House, ca. 1910


"An elevator or broad stairway could be used to reach the rooms and suites above. The main tower had a glass enclosed outlook. At night the house was lighted by 1000 lamps. Two large globes shone from the tower which could be seen for miles."

"Other points that visitors coming to the hotel might have looked for and found, were good roads lined with trees, automatic sprinkler system, Poland Spring being the first summer resort to boast this feature, along with its own resident fire department. The steam heat came from stations away from the buildings."
(Poland Past and Present, 1795-1970)

Paint Advertising on a
Poland Spring Postcard


"The entire interior of this hotel has been painted with U.S.N. Marine White, Eggshell Gloss, and has not turned yellow, notwithstanding the fact that the hotel is closed tight and dark eight months of the year.  It was recently painted with Colonial Yellow Body and Marine White Trim... U.S.N. Marine Green, XX Deep, on roof and blinds. Piazza floor of this hotel was painted again in the Spring of 1913 with U.S.N. Deck Paint, because of good results in the past. We refer by permission of the owners, Messrs. Hiram Ricker & Sons.  THE BILLINGS-CHAPIN CO."
(Postcard, postmarked Boston, MA  SEP 22 1913)

Afternoon Tea in the "Court"
Poland Spring House, ca. 1917

(Pamphlet, Poland Spring, 1917)

1950 Rate Schedule

"The price for all this luxury would be considered pocket change today. During the high season of July 10 through September 10, weekly room rates ranged from twelve dollars to $17.50, depending on location and whether it had a private bath. Daily rates ran $4.50 to five dollars, but such transient clientele was not the Poland Spring House style in the Gay Nineties. As with most of Maine's summer hotels, the same families returned year after year."
(Down East Magazine, 1992)

Miss M.F. Abbott paid $121.41 for her 13-day stay at Poland Spring in 1915, including transportation by stagecoach, one telegram, and a saddle horse (view the receipt).


"The Automobile Invasion"
Poland Spring House, ca. 1916

(Hilltop Magazine, July 15, 1916)

Poland Spring House ca. 1940
(Linen Postcard)

"Through the 'Roaring Twenties' and the depression of the thirties, the resort continued to attract the rich and the famous, United States Presidents, sport figures, and stars of the entertainment world. The 'in-thing' was to vacation at Poland Spring and drink the waters."

After World War II, the Grand Hotel Era began to fade. Vacation styles changed. We became a country on wheels, people 'on the go', and no one seemed to have the time or patience to spend a season or even a month in one place. It became a night here, a night there, then on to new sights. Poland Spring, as in other resort areas, went into decline, and ownership passed form the descendants of Hiram Ricker to other hands."

"The last to own the complete complex...was Boston hotel man Saul Feldman, who purchased the resort from Apollo Industries, under whose absentee ownership for about 20 years the business and the buildings deteriorated."

The Poland Spring House, under Feldman's management, opened for year-round business in the spring of 1963. But soon, he leased the resort to the Federal Government for the largest Women's Job Corps Center in the country. Buildings were remodeled for Jobs Corps use and to conform to federal regulations."
(The Maine State Building, Centennial 1895-1995)

Poland Spring House
Engulfed in Flames
July 3, 1975

"July 3, 1975 brought a quick and decisive end to the Poland Spring House. On the eve of it 99th anniversary, it burned to the ground in one of the hottest fires in recent memory leaving only a grand firewall standing over its ashes. The memory of that night will live on in the minds of many locals who either fought the fire, watched the landmark burn from many locations in town, or watched it on WMTW-TV as they filmed the fire from their Riccar Inn studios from across the golf course."
(Poland Bicentennial, 1795-1995)


Brian Harris