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Houghton Graves: A Pocket Park on Orr’s Island

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust
December 17, 2015

Houghton Graves Park is a place of peace and memory you might have missed while traveling along Route 24 between the library and post office on beautiful Orr’s Island. It’s definitely worth a stop.

Nature Day Camp visits Houghton Graves Park every summer (Galen Koch photo)

The location holds memories for me because it is next to the site of the former Green Anchor gift shop, a childhood destination filled with souvenirs, sweets and pine-scented pillows eagerly reached following a walk around Lowell’s Cove.

I retraced that route on a sunny summer morning with my dog, Toby, and found that, while the Green Anchor is long gone, the area is still filled with delights.

We entered the three-acre, “pocket park” along a mowed path that runs by a marshy area filled with cattails. A right turn brought us past a shaded picnic table and then the path entered a large, mowed field before descending a little steeply to the shore of picturesque Beal’s Cove.

We had the place to ourselves at a very low tide. We explored the temporary excavations left in the rocky beach by a clam digger. We wondered about the advisability of trying to walk out to Rat Island in the middle of the cove. (Toby advised against it.) We noted the small stones piled up by passing humans on the huge rocks that are permanent fixtures of the shoreline.

This is a place filled with memory. Russell Houghton and Patty and Allan Graves donated the park to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust in 2007. The family ownership of the property reaches back to 1763, when 30 acres of land were acquired by Michael Sinnett. Down through time, the property was used for raising dairy cattle, horses and garden produce. The beach was used to access fishing and clamming, along with harvesting seaweed.

The family for many years also ran the “Royal Rest” boarding house nearby, along with a couple cottages that no longer stand. One family member, Pauline Houghton, attended the Fannie Farmer Cooking School in Boston and, along with her mother, kept the boarding house flourishing in its day. Pauline also opened the Green Anchor gift shop.

Toby, appropriately leashed, and I headed back up the path and into the vibrantly green mowed field. A small wooden sign directed us to a second picnic table that offered a panoramic view of Rat Island and the mouth of Beal’s Cove. We paused to take a photo and enjoy a place filled with beauty and memory that will be preserved for the public forever. What a treasure.

Directions to Houghton Graves Park: From Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, follow Route 24 south for 11.9 miles. The park is on the right, opposite Lowell’s Cove Road. Please park by the side of the road and follow the trail between the rail fence and the marsh.