Poland Spring, ME Famous Hotel Burns, July 1975
FIRE LEVELS POLAND SPRING HOTEL; RESORT NOTED FOR MINERAL WATER.
Poland Spring, Maine (AP) -- The general alarm blaze that leveled the Poland Spring House resort hotel here Friday brought memories of a 150 year history of wealthy society vacationers and the contrast of the Job Corps program which used the resort in the 1960s.
A crowd estimated at 3,000 people watched the destruction of a tradition begun in 1827, when immigrant Jabez Ricker opened a small boarding house on the resort's present location.
Ricker built up the resort on the fame of Poland Spring mineral water. The water was said to have
"soothing medicinal qualities," and Ricker invited people to test it while staying at his hotel for $2.50 or $3.50 a week.
An advertisement for the hotel in 1859 said the water "Cures Dyspepsia. Cures Liver Complaint. Cures Kidney Complaint. Cures Gravel. Drives out all the tumors and purifies the blood."
The spring water was first bottled in 1860, and is still a thriving business, with sales increasing around the country as reports of chemical-polluted public water become more frequent.
The Ricker family constructed the first part of the Poland Spring House in 1876 on a hill in this small inland town.
The Victorian style building was called "Ricker's Folly" by local residents, because it was considered too extravagant and remote from large cities.
In 1897 the Rickers built the nation's first resort golf course, with six holes, and later expanded it to 18 holes.
Vacationers arrived with their steamer trunks by train via Portland or Lewiston, and were taken by special coach to the Androscoggin Valley resort.
The hotel's demise began with the depression, and the death of the Ricker brothers helped send the resort into receivership in 1938, with a succession of owners to follow.
In 1965 the current owner, Saul H. Feldman, decided to lease the Poland Spring House to the government which wanted the facility for the fledgling Job Corps program.
The Poland Spring Job Corps center opened in 1966, and soon became the largest operation program in the country with more than 1,100 female residents.
For more than two years the 400 staff members provided vocational and educational training, developed exchange programs with local colleges and public schools, and offered a job placement service for graduates of the center.
A Portland Press Herald editorial called the program "one of the most exciting and promising aspects of the war on poverty," and asked Maine residents to join in the effort with understanding.
Residents of the center sometimes clashed with area citizens and claimed that Maine's virtually all white population didn't understand urban poverty.
But holidays were often spent with Maine families, and many Job Corps residents worked with local people to open communication. At the final graduation program director Robert G. Lake said over 80 per cent of the graduates had found permanent employment.
In early 1969, President Nixon ordered all Job Corps centers closed, and by September the Poland Spring House was once again vacant.
It was used since 1970 for an occasional convention, but was in disrepair, and Feldman was reportedly working on a deal to sell the resort to a Boston firm for $2 million.
Plans were under way to restore the Poland Spring House to its former grandeur when Friday's blaze made it all a memory.
Nashua Telegraph New Hampshire 1975-07-05