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Anniversary Stories: Memories on Orr’s Island

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust
March 28, 2023

Dear HHLT,

I am forever grateful to my uncle Russell Houghton and my cousins Allan and Patty Graves for donating a portion of the Royal Rest property on Orr’s Island to your organization. Knowing that the Houghton Graves Park is forever protected from development means so much to myself and my family. I can’t even imagine not being able to return to this property.

My mother, Caroline, was a Houghton, married and moved to New Hampshire. My brother, Ervin Hill, was born in Maine and I in New Hampshire. Every holiday was a family gathering on the island with relatives from MA, NH, ME and, occasionally, the Southwest.

Orr’s Island became a second home for my brother and me, from the late 40’s to mid-60’s. Both of our parents worked full time so every school vacation we were off “to the Island.” Our summers were spent helping our grandparents, Clyde and Susan Houghton, with the many chores that needed to be done around the Royal Rest as that was a very busy time with guests coming from NY, CT, MD, and many other states.

Not only did the “Snugle In,” Spyglass and Pine Cone cottages require maintenance that my brother helped our grandfather with, but there was the cleaning before and after that needed to be done. I was thankful for the guests that stayed more than one week and there were many of those, some even for the season. That meant only having to provide them with clean linens. This is where I learned how to “correctly” make a bed.

There was more to the Royal Rest than cottages and boarding rooms as meals were provided to the guests as well. One of my jobs was to go to the back of the house and ring the dinner bell. Wishing I had that bell now. Looking back, I don’t know how my grandmother and my aunt, Pauline Houghton, made that happen every day. In addition to providing meals to the guests, every Saturday homemade baked beans and brown bread were sold to residents on the island. My grandmother could count on her regular customers every week. And I can’t leave out the homemade donuts, again with regular customers every week. This is where I learned the art of baking.

I have so many memories of our guests. There was one couple from Maryland, Bernard and Edith Paul, who made their living as puppeteers and as a child, you can only imagine how excited I was to see them every year. One of Thomas Edison’s daughters, Marion Oeser, would spend the entire summer on the property in her small trailer. A chauffer would drive her and the trailer up and back from NJ every year. I would visit with her almost daily. She had vision issues and I remember her using a guide of some type to write letters. I now own a quilt that she kept in the trailer. There was another guest who came with her parents as a child from NY and after they passed, she still spent the summers at the Royal Rest and became like family.

Then there was the Green Anchor Gift Shop my grandfather built for my aunt which became a summertime staple for Sealtest Ice Cream cones and slushies. One could find anything from baked goods to hand crafted miniature wooden lobster buoys, traps and clam baskets all made by my grandfather to baby sweaters and booties to jewelry and, of course, balsam scented pillows and incense. This is where I learned how to scoop ice cream along with occasional “taste testing” and the correct way to make change.

The house remains in the family and I look forward to my yearly visits. As soon as I cross over the bridge to Great Island, I am transported back in time. Not many people are able to experience this and I can’t even explain how “warm and fuzzy” it makes me feel. I open the door of the home, walk out to Beal’s Cove and the memories are there. So for anyone reading this just remember that you aren’t alone when you visit the Houghton Graves Park as many, many others have been there before you.

Happy Anniversary HHLT!!!!

Priscilla Hill Bergeron


This story was submitted by Priscilla for our 40th Anniversary. For more information, click here.


Houghton Graves Park

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, views of beautiful Beal’s Cove on Harpswell Sound and provide access to the shore.

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