Tag Archives: Casco Bay

Long Island in fiction

I was recently introduced to a trilogy of books: Seashell Bay novels. While in the genre of romance novels, Long Islanders would be interested in reading this series that takes place on an island in Casco Bay called “Seashell Bay” (which seems like kind of an odd name for an island, but whatever).

Written by V. K. Sykes ( the husband and wife duo of Vanessa Kelly and Randy Sykes) the first book, “Meet me at the Beach” is dedicated “For Phil and Anne Kelly, who showed us the way to Seashell Bay.” In the acknowledgements, they write “Seashell Bay is a fictional place, of course. But there is certainly a Casco Bay, and it provided us with much inspiration for our series. Grateful thanks go to the residents of one small island in particular, especially Bob Stack, Liz and Robin Walker, and Harriet Davis and her two wonderful girls, Claire and Annie (thanks for finding the missing angel, Claire!).” Turns out Vanessa is the daughter of Phil Kelly and his first wife Flora. As most of you know Anne’s sister is Liz, and her niece is Harriet. So, the Davis family was Vanessa’s introduction to Long Island, and inspired her setting her trilogy on our fair island.

Reading through “Meet me at the Beach” is great fun for a Long Islander, trying to glimpse familiar places. In some ways Seashell Bay seems to be a bigger island, perhaps more like a Peaks Island. But there are common themes to Long Island – dances, the VFW, trying to control development, local kids leaving home to get as far away as possible from the island, local kids who choose to stay, the lobstering life, family feuds, generations of Irish American families, alcoholism, a Catholic Church, and the pros and cons of having a car ferry. I’m eager to read the other two books in the series: “See you at sunset,” and “Summer at the shore,” both of which follow the story of two of the friends of Lily, the heroine in the first novel. It’s always fun to read about your hometown, even under the guise of romance novel/beach reads.

Sunset Cruising on Casco Bay

Deborah Clark cruise photo

My husband, daughter, and I enjoyed a wonderful boat cruise aboard the Blue Nun motoring around Casco Bay last Tuesday evening courtesy of Steve and Chris McDuffie.  They generously donated the trip as a raffle fundraiser for the Long Island Library and my husband won the prize.  Steve asked us where we wanted to go and since we had never seen Portland Head and Two Lights from “the other side,” we decided to boat down the coast to Cape Elizabeth.

The weather was perfect with a warm breeze and clear skies. Chris surprised us with some delicious snacks and my husband was able to snap several beautiful photographs of the area. As I took in the surrounding landscape and wildlife with binoculars, my daughter quizzed Chris on the local history and happenings of the islands.

On the return leg of the trip, we spotted the new Nova Star ferry coming in to dock at Portland’s Ocean Gateway Pier and a friendly harbor seal poked his head up to check us out. Steve took us around the back side of Peaks Island and with one last look at Fort Gorges, we got back to Portland just in time to take in a lovely sunset. We all had a marvelous time. Thank you to the McDuffies for making a two-hour boat ride such a memorable occasion.

Deborah Clark, Raymond, ME (with photographs by Craig Clark)

Deborah Clark cruise photo of Steve and Chris


1924 tax records for Long Island – available for research!

Word is out – the 1924 tax records, owned by the City of Portland, are now available for research! Just go to the site (available through the Maine Memory Network, a site of the Maine Historical Society) to find your house or favorite building on Long Island:


Probably the best way to see them all is to type in “Long Island” into the keyword search box.

You can limit the search by street address, owner, etc.

You will be able to see a picture of the building, as well as other information.

The Portland, Maine, 1924 Tax Records were created as part of a city-wide tax reevaluation.   The 2 3/4″ x 4″ original black and white photographs provide extraordinary documentation of the appearance and condition of every taxable property in the city at that time. The accompanying tax forms provide equally valuable information, including the use of the property, the original building materials and finishes and the property’s assessed value as of 1924. On the back of each form, a pencil sketch illustrates the size and shape of the building footprint on the property.

The collection consists of 131 books containing approximately 30,000 pages, each page recording a single property (properties with more than one building will generally have a page for each building).  The records were kept in a cabinet in the Portland tax assessor’s office in City Hall until 2009.1924 tax record project 6

Having these records available online has created quite a buzz all over Portland and Casco Bay, and great fun for researching houses, although some are no longer or unrecognizable.

This was a joint project between the City of Portland, the Portland Public Library, and the Maine Historical Society.

Libraries on the Diamond Islands

Next, we head to the Diamond Islands to see what they offer their communities as far as libraries. On Great Diamond Island, Elwell Hall, in the village, has a small library, created by Jane Laughlin. It’s seasonal, open in the summer to Diamond Island Association members and their guests, when the hall, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, is open. It’s mostly items donated, including cookbooks, fiction, and children’s books.Diamond Island Rose

On the fort side, there is a small library in the Diamond Cove Association building. Both of these libraries are informal, without a checking out system. Mostly a book swap of sorts. On Little Diamond, there is no physical place for a library, but people do read a lot in the summer, and have an informal book swap.

So, if there is a need for a good book to read, after the ferry leaves, there are opportunities available on Little and Great Diamond Islands.

Cliff Island’s library: The Stone Library

Cliff Island’s library is probably the only official library in Casco Bay that is housed in a classic turn-of-the-century cottage, built in 1907. Perched on a hillside, just beyond the community hall, which houses the post office and historical society, this beautiful library was named after Floraetta Stone (The Stone Library), a co-founder of the library (1907) and the Cliff Island Library Club which still operates the library. The library offers services in the summer only (although has been known to be open in the winter in the past). The paid librarian, Amy Lent, is also the postmaster (a true Mainer!). Although the library is technically a membership library, it balances being a public library by offering services to anyone who needs it. Books, books-on-tape, CDs, DVDs are offered, as well as classic Maine books – all of which can be accessed through the Cliff Island Stone Librarylibrary’s automated catalog. There is even a teen room. Best of all is a wonderful porch where one can sit and enjoy reading, while gazing between the trees at the water. What more could one want!

Chebeague Island Library

Chebeague Island library heartMany years ago, on a cold winter’s day, a group of us from Long Island visited the Chebeague Island Library. Why? We were visiting various libraries to get ideas for our new library, which we were in the process of planning to build. Then librarian Martha Hamilton was our gracious host, showing us their beautiful library. It was warm and bright and colorful with various areas perfect for curling up with books, and a cozy and cheerful children’s area. It was definitely a delightful visit, which gave us much inspiration for planning our own library.

Today the library continues to be a bright spot for Chebeague residents – the current librarian, Deb Bowman, says…” We try to provide what the community needs or wants. … We have done so much here, dancing, drumming, movies, poetry (lots of poetry), art displays, music, and so much more. Book group, iPad classes, prayer book making,
and it goes on and on.” One clever idea was to dress up the front display table with bedclothes and invite patrons to fill out a card which asked “What do you read in bed?”

Deb says their mission statement drives her vision for the library: “The Chebeague Island Library provides a welcoming center to foster the learning of the entire Island Community. The Library cultivates knowledge and enjoyment and brings enrichment and stimulus to Chebeague through diverse collections, innovative technology, research and educational resources, programs and services in response to Island interests.”

For more information on the Chebeague Island Library see: http://chebeague.chebeague.lib.me.us/

and www.chebeague.org