Marcia Strykowski

Monhegan Island (part 1)

monhegan-harbor-1909-postcardDespite my love for the sea and my small connection to Monhegan (shown above in a 1909 postcard), I tend to get seasick. Perhaps that is why, until a week or so ago, I had never taken the 12-mile journey across the Atlantic to this beautiful island. Monhegan is a rocky little island (barely a square mile) where the year-round population usually varies between 50 and 75 residents. laura-b-3Ever since I was very small I’ve known of the Laura B. Built in 1943, this 65-foot heavy-duty wooden boat spent her early years in the South Pacific where she worked as a patrol boat, carrying troops and supplies during World War II. There were two 50-caliber machine guns on deck. The Laura B. arrived in Maine in 1946 and was initially used to transport lobsters all the way to Boston and New York City. 293930-r1-17-17_018-copyFor the past 60 years this hardy boat has been the Port Clyde mail boat carrying passengers and cargo back and forth from the island. Because my grandparents lived in Port Clyde, we visited often. And one of the highlights of our vacation was strolling down the winding road and then out onto the pier to wait for the mail boat to come in. We’d watch adventurous travelers and various packages unload and wonder of their stories, maybe even catch a peek at Andy Wyeth coming back from a visit.monhegan-painters-1940sThe first artists to discover Monhegan were circa 1850 and by 1890 the art colony was firmly in place. The above photograph is from the 1940s. Talented painters were drawn to Monhegan for its gorgeous cliffs rising high above sea level, enchanting coves, deep dark forests, and meadows sprinkled with wildflowers, as well as the constant melody of humongous waves crashing against all sides of the island. Below was painted by George Bellows in 1911.monhegan-george-bellows-the-gulls-1911And here’s one from 1916-1919 by the fabulous Edward Hopper.monhegan-edward-hopper-blackhead-public-domain-1916-1919helena-tibbettsMy great grandmother (Helena Tibbetts, shown at left in later years) taught in the little schoolhouse which has been on the island since 1847. I don’t have many details of her time there, but I do know she was also a fine painter and mother of four.
Enrollment goes up and down in this one-room wooden schoolhouse and currently there are only a handful of students, but back in the 1840s there were often 40 students gathering for class. After 8th grade, today’s students continue their education on the mainland. monhegan-schoolhouse-3monhegan-schoolhouse-2To see how the schoolhouse looks today, please stay tuned for my next blog post.

monhegan-bookplateThere is a sad story of how the little memorial library came to be. It was first formed after a tragic event in 1926 when two children were swept up into the sea by a giant wave while picnicking—Jackie, who was celebrating her eleventh birthday, and fifteen-year-old Edward who valiantly tried to save her. They are honored in this early bookplate. Pictures of the library inside and out will also be in my next blog post.
Meanwhile, here’s another painting by George Bellows from 1913.monhegan_island_by_george_wesley_bellows_1913The night before our trip out to the island, we stayed in a lovely ocean-view room on the top floor of the historic 1820’s Ocean House Hotel in beautiful Port Clyde where the Laura B. waits patiently by the pier for the next day’s excursions.
laura-b-sunsetThe water looks smooth as glass with barely a ripple in sight. What could possibly go wrong? Will I make it across to Monhegan after all these years?pc-sunset-2-copyI ended up with way too many pictures for one blog post, hence the three parts. See you next time and thanks so much for coming along on my adventures!

35 Comments

  1. This island looks wonderful. I can’t wait to see more pictures!!

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  2. Hello Marcia, I adore this blog post and can’t wait for the next part. The photographs and artworks are beautiful and as for the bookplate what can I say – other than I would love to add it to my collection! How sad to read about Jackie and Edward.
    The photograph of you is just lovely.

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    • Thanks, Barbara, I appreciate your comments and I’m so glad you enjoyed the pictures.

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  3. Bette Norton

    Oh how I admire you for being brave enough to forgo your sea sickness and visit Monhegan Island. I have always wanted to visit the Island where the Wyeths and other artists have painted such beautiful paintings of the rocky coast. I love the story about your great -grandmother traveling over each day from Port Clyde to teach in the one room school house. The history of the Island is so interesting with great pictures! This post will be the only way I will see some of Monhegan Island, as I too suffer from sea sickness. I look forward to part two of this wonderful post! 🙂

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    • Thanks Bette, I’m glad you found it interesting. Perhaps someday with a bit of medicinal help and a lifejacket, you’ll risk the one or two hours of possible discomfort. In hindsight, it was quite exciting to be tossed against the sea!

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  4. Marcia, this is just wonderful, from the beautiful photos to the art, and especially the story itself. I am going back now for a second read. Can’t wait for part 2. Thank you again for such a great post. Reminds me of “One Morning in Maine”. Do you feel the same way?

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    • Yes, a wonderful book! I haven’t read “One Morning in Maine” in many years, but you’ve got me interested in revisiting it ASAP. Thanks for letting me know you’re looking forward to my trip to Monhegan Island.

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      • You are welcome. You will feel the same way when you read the book, for sure. Best to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Colleen

    So glad you made the crossing! What an enchanting place. I had some friends-Laurence and Anna Catherine Cooper who lived for a time on Monhegan island. They always spoke of it as Paradise! They lived long,happy lives well into their 90’s! Your post reminded me of them. Your photos are wonderful- never too many for me! Thank you, Marcia-I look forward to next week’s post from you.

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    • How wonderful for your friends to have lived there, they sound like a great couple. Thanks, Colleen!

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  6. What a fun armchair adventure for me! Thank you.

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  7. Those are gorgeous sunset pictures!

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  8. Enjoyed taking the journey with you and oh contrary never too many pics especially as pretty as these tyvm for sharing them ALL very enjoyable

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    • Happy to hear you like lots of pictures. I’m actually thinking of turning this into 3 parts instead of 2 in order to share more, we’ll see. Thanks!

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  9. How beautiful it all looks! I haven’t heard of this place – or maybe I have and have forgotten, because I went to an exhibition about the Wyeths once so it must surely have been mentioned. Port Clyde – I live on the Clyde so I’m guessing some Scots might have been involved in the naming? Looking forward to the next post.

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    • That’s interesting, thanks for sharing, Anabel! I have no idea where the name Port Clyde originated. Maybe you’re right and there was a Scottish influence. All three generations of Wyeths spent lots of time in Port Clyde over the past century, so there are some great exhibits around the area, such as at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland.

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  10. Monhegan Island looks wonderful. I enjoyed learning a little about it’s history. It sure has served as the inspiration for some lovely pictures.

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    • Even today, many painters make it a point to spend time on the island. If the light changes in one place, they can just move their easel over a bit and get yet another beautiful view–nonstop scenery. 🙂

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  11. A beautiful place with a lovely history, Marcia, other than the sad events that led to the library’s dedication. I love it that artists continue to go there. I get sea sick on lakes, so I’m with you on the challenge of the voyage 🙂

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    • I think artists will always be painting on Monhegan, such a timeless sort of place. Thanks for your comments!

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      • I lived in VT for a long time and loved the wildness of the Maine shore, but didn’t get their often.

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  12. Wow, what a sad story about Jackie and the valiant Edward. I get car-sick sometimes so I can (somewhat) also understand sea-sickness.

    And that beautiful sky, Marcia. 🙂 Have you watched the BBC crime drama, Broadchurch? Glorious sky in every episode.

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    • Hi Claudine! I’ve heard good things about Broadchurch and will have to check it out soon.

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  13. Hi Marcia– this may be favorite post of you’d to date! What fascinating place. So beautiful and with all the art history. And your great grandmother was a part of it all! So glad you made the trek to see it– your photos are gorgeous (wish I could see them all) and loved the boat history!! Looking forward to your continuing posts… xox

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    • Thanks, Rhonda! I enjoyed finding out more about the island’s history. Apparently it goes way back, first with Native Americans and then with the arrival of Capt. John Smith.

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      • So interesting!! Do they have places for visitors to stay?? How far is it from your home? beautiful beautiful place! xo

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        • In part 3, you’ll see a big fancy inn to the right in the picture. There are other hotels and B&Bs, too. The island is several hours away from me. Have fun with your new grandbaby!

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          • That sounds intriguing Marcia!! We are having fun!! Tonight I’m washing bundles of new baby clothes to sort out in her drawers– and rocking her on my lap while she sleeps! It’s the best! Hoping you’re having a weekend with it’s own joys there Marcia!! xo

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  14. Ashley

    Another awesome post!! I love seeing all these places you travel to. No wonder you did such a awesome job describing the ocean stuff in your books. I felt like I was in Maine and now these pictures! Cute one of you, too!!

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    • I appreciate your comment, Ashley. Port Clyde was a big inspiration for the setting of Call Me Amy and Amy’s Choice (she even visits an island in the sequel!).

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