Houghton Graves Park
Ownership: Harpswell Heritage Land Trust
Features: picnic, water access, great for kids, scenic view
Description: Located in the middle of Orr’s Island village, Houghton Graves Park provides visitors a breath of fresh air. Mowed grassy paths lead to picnic tables and views of beautiful Beal’s Cove on Harpswell Sound, and provide access to the shore for swimming and clamming. This three-acre “pocket park” is a great place to spend a few minutes, or a few hours. Given to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust by Russell Houghton and Patty and Allan Graves in 2007, this park will forever be available for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors.
Directions: From the intersection of Mountain Road and Harpswell Islands Road (Route 24), follow Harpswell Islands Road south for 3.6 miles. The Park is on the right, opposite Lowell’s Cove Road. Please park on the side of the road. Follow the trail between the rail fence and the marsh.
- Open dawn to dusk only.
- Carry in, carry out.
- Pedestrian use only.
- No open fires.
- No camping.
- Dogs must be under owner’s control to avoid interfering with wildlife, the neighbors, or other users’ enjoyment of the Preserve.
- Carry out all dog waste.
- No hunting or discharge of firearms.
- Please respect wildlife, neighbors and other users.
Read Ed Robinson’s article, Beauty in a Small Package, about the park.
This gift comes from a long heritage and a deep connection to and love of the land. The donors’ family has owned the land since 1763 when Michael Sinnett bought 30 acres on Orr’s Island. The land was divided over the decades as each new generation built homes for their families. Next to the gift parcel, Royal Graves built the “Royal Rest” in for his wife Susan Sinnett Farr whom he married in 1857. Royal Graves was a farmer; he kept cows, horses and he did a lot of gardening. Royal had a business delivering milk all over the island. For his gardens, seaweed was one of the fertilizers. Royal had a “hauling out place” onto Beal’s Cove. The cart path down to the water’s edge gave him access the shore with his wagon and horses to load up the seaweed for the gardens.
Royal and Susan’s son George Graves (1857-1942) would be the next one to carry on the farm. Although George learned the ways of the land, he was more interested in going to sea. George pursued deep-water fishing and fished the Grand Banks. George married a woman from up country, Josephine Beal. She was not fond of living down by the ocean, so they moved to Lisbon Falls and raised two children, but they kept the island property. At one point they did put the “Royal Rest” up for sale for $2,500, but it didn’t sell. George and Josephine eventually moved back to Orr’s Island and in the late 20’s began taking in boarders.
Overlooking Beal’s Cove, two cottages would be built and named The Snuggle Inn and Spyglass. Boarders would stay in the main house as well as the cottages, and all the guests would take their meals in the main house. Over the years these cottages had fallen in to disrepair and were removed in 2007.
George and Josephine’s children were Royal Graves II and Susan Graves (“Susie”). It would be Susie who would continue to keep the “Royal Rest” boarding house and cottages going, with the help of her husband Clyde Houghton. Susie and Clyde had three children: Pauline, Caroline, and Russell. Of those, it was Pauline Houghton, who had attended the Fannie Farmer Cooking School in Boston, along with her mother who kept the boarding house flourishing. The kitchen was busy and brimming with recipes clipped from the newspapers. Susie and Pauline were always cooking and baking, creating something new for their guests to eat. Pauline would also open the “Green Anchor” gift shop.
Russell Houghton can recall wonderful memories as a child with his Grandfather George: how George taught him to make hay, to feed and milk the cow, plant a garden, and dig clams down in the cove. He recalls how open the land was then; his mother could call him home as he fished from his rowboat out by the mouth of the cove.
Royal Graves III (Russell’s cousin) who spent many summers on the island fondly remembers family cookouts down at the shore, putting corn, potatoes and lobster on seaweed over a fire. Royal also remembers the Sebascodegan & Aucocisco, the mail boat that came from Portland. He and Russell earned 10 or 15 cents delivering mail on the island by bicycle. One of Royal’s big childhood adventures was taking a trip in a rowboat with friends. By drilling a hole in the seat to allow for a mast and sail, they set sail from Beal’s Cove towards the open land on Johnson Point. As they sailed around Johnson Point they felt like Columbus. The explorers made landfall on the far side and camped overnight.