Tina dear – Well dear, I suppose you are wondering how I got to this hotel so early during business hours, well I’ll tell you, I made my first call this morning at seven-thirty, you see I practically slept all day and all all night yesterday and was up at six this morning. I will wait for the mail tomorrow morning and head for Fort Kent, my address there will be The Arcadia Hotel, Fort Kent, Me. Please address the next mail to the above address. Tonight I am going to make out my reports, pack my bag, write a letter to Babe Fonry, the fellow you have heard me speak about, and retire for tomorrow. Just the same, Joe
My Grandfather had stayed at the Presque Isle House while he visited Presque Isle in 1929 (and he also did in 1930 as well). However, when I started to learn about the different hotels, I found out very little about this particular location. Since I couldn’t find a lot, I reached out to the Presque Isle Historical Society, since I wasn’t able to find out a lot on Google. From my first email correspondence with Kim, she replied: “It burned down around 1900, was torn down in 1930 and would have been where the Northeastland Hotel stands today. The Northeastland opened in 1931.” I then went onto the Northeastland site and found the following information: “Part of what distinguishes the Northeastland Hotel from other area hotels is its vibrant and rich history. Formerly known as the Presque Isle House, in 1931 the building was dismantled by hand, stick by stick. It was then replaced with the brick structure that you see today and re-opened in 1932.” Excitedly, I booked a room there for two nights to serve as my home base of sorts. When I called for a reservation, I told the desk clerk about my trip and she provided me with Kim’s name as an expert. I thought that was funny since I had already received one email from her.
So, I wrote back to her after finding out the information from the hotel’s website and asked her why the hotel was dismantled. To me, the mystery about what happened deepened when she wrote back to me that “The presque isle house hotel had burned down in 1900 and the remnants were never cleaned up. What was left was finally torn down and carted away in 1930 to make room for building the northeastland.”. I then took a picture of both the letterhead and the envelope that I had and sent it to her. She wrote back: “That is a puzzle as I have never heard of anyone staying there. Will have to do some research.”. After a while, I heard back from her again saying, “I wonder if he could have been using old stationery OR if he wasn’t actually at the Presque Isle House Hotel (aka Presque Isle Hotel) as the letterhead simply says Presque Isle House. The hotel was definitely destroyed in January 1900. I have never heard of anyone operating another boarding house with similar name, so I would need to do extensive research. See attached January 11, 1900 newspaper saying hotel destroyed by fire, photo of hotel, photo of hotel after fire in January 1900.” These are the pictures that I received from her.
So, there was definitely a mystery about was this indeed the place referenced in his letter? I went into my 1930s letters and found four more letters written from the Presque Isle House in 1930. It didn’t make sense to me that a burnt out building would be left standing for 30 plus years before being taken down. From the Maine Memory Network, I found a 1900 photo of the Presque Isle House with the following description: “The Presque Isle House on the East side of Main Street was torn down in 1930-31 to make room for the new Northeastland Hotel which opened in 1932.” So, heading up to my “home base”, I was hoping to find out a little more about this mystery.
After my long day of travel, I was excited to just get to this hotel as I figured it would be a close as possible to staying at a place that my Grandfather stayed in. I knew it was in the downtown area of Presque Isle, so I figured it would be fun to be able to easily explore the downtown. Finally, I passed the hotel, took a right, and pulled into the parking lot behind the hotel. I knew from reading reviews on Trip Advisor that this hotel would not be like the chain hotels. And from the moment I entered the lobby, I knew it would be a different experience. The hotel clerk was extremely friendly, in fact, the total opposite of what I experienced in Baltimore the week before (the person didn’t even ask me if I had a good stay when I was checking out). We talked about my journey up to Presque Isle and the purpose of my trip. She found it fascinating. She then gave me my key. Yes, a real key, not one of the key cards that you get at most other places. Yes, this was going to be a unique experience for sure.
The next morning, after a restless night’s sleep (I think too much iced tea the day before!), I headed down to the cafe. I could tell there, that the customers were a combination of hotel guests and town residents. I was eavesdropping on an older woman and a my age male who were discussing a variety of topics. The woman, who told him she was 91, talked about how all her kids were “Down State”. The discussion focused on how the kids don’t have the interest in farming so they leave for other jobs in other sections of the state. Parents are left here to age in place with the help of “good neighbors.” The conversation ended with a discussion of different animals who eat their crops and how the man had recently observed the raccoons washing freshwater clams in a local stream. I thought about how the kids left the area and when Ben was sworn in down in Portland. A lot of the people there were from really northern Maine or New Hampshire, so that was interesting in that perhaps maybe the military was another option for young people who live in this area.
After breakfast, I described to the new desk clerk, my project and asked her if she knew anything about the history of the hotel since there was a discrepancy between the hotel burning down in 1900 and the Northeastland opening up in 1932. Her name was Amanda and she was really interested in the question and said that she did have information on the history. She went to her computer, pulled up a document and printed it out for me.
I excitedly scanned it over and was excited to learn that the original hotel had been built in the 1840s. The original hotel was then built onto, creating a more elaborate hotel. It seems like there was a huge fire in downtown Presque Isle in 1884, that destroyed a lot of the area, including the Presque Isle Hotel. That was rebuilt and called the Presque Isle House. This burnt down again in 1900 (confirming what I had found out earlier), but then, the next sentences helped solve the mystery in my mind. “Another wooden structure was again erected. After a series of ownerships, the hotel came under the ownership of the PI Bank and soon was purchased by a group of local men comprising the P.I. Hotel Company. In 1930, the company made the decision to raze the old and construct a new brick hotel which would better serve the times. This hotel officially opened its doors in June of 1932.” (excerpted from Forgotten Times: A Walk Through History by Richard A Graves III.). In addition to this information, there was also a picture of the Presque Isle House in 1915. Bingo! Now the story made sense! Now, I will have to go through the other boxes of my Grandfather’s letters to see if he ever stayed at the Northeastland.
I enjoyed walking around Presque Isle and dining at some of the local dining establishments and shops. Some of the brick buildings appeared to have been around for a long time, perhaps even when my Grandfather visited. The University of Maine also has a campus in Presque Isle and I took a walk up through the campus. It was on top of a hill and the view from the fields was gorgeous. The people in Presque Isle were friendly and laid back, It was a taste of a simpler life and perhaps one like it was 90 years ago when my Grandfather visited here in Presque Isle.