Down by the sea

Barbara Dyer: John R. Prescott

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 5:30pm

Camden always wanted to be a “tourist town,” after James Richards, the first settler sailed into Camden Harbor in 1791. When the population reached 331, the plantation wanted to be incorporated in order to have a town government. So, they applied to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and were incorporated on February 17, 1791. The incorporation papers were signed by John Hancock (Governor of Massachusetts at that time), David Cobb, speaker, and Samuel Phillips, president. Camden also included Goose River (Rockport), West Camden (West Rockport) and Clam Cove (Glen Cove).

Tourists came and stayed at the Bay View House, Hosmer House, Ocean House and a few other places.

Later, the rich from the hot, busy cities, such as Bangor, Boston, Philadelphia, etc., wanted to spend the whole summer in Camden and Rockport, where there were cool sea breezes. So they built the lovely “cottages” and usually gave them a name.

I believe Mr. E. F. Dillingham, of Bangor, was one of the first to build with the four cottages “Gray Lodge,” “Arequipa,” “The Pointed Firs,” and “The Birches,” on what is now known as Dillingham's Point.

John R. Prescott, then of Providence, Rhode Island, and later of Newtonville, Massachusetts, spent summers in Camden (his wife, Nellie, was a sister of Wilder Washington Perry).

He began publishing and selling booklets with some wonderful photographs of our lakes, mountains and harbor. He used great descriptions of Penobscot Bay, “where the five miles of shore land meet the lofty hills.”

He describes the pure drinking water of Mirror Lake and the beauty of Hosmer Pond, Lily Pond and Grassy Pond. Anyone reading his book would love to be in this area. I do not know when he published the first one, but I have one in 1899 and one previous to that. Then he printed larger picture books, with photos of the “cottages,” in 1904, 1916, and some later.

Mr. Prescott had an objective in mind. He owned cottages and his friends did, also. He made these wonderful booklets, Glimpses of Camden, to make money renting those houses. He did us a favor, as we have the wonderful pictures for generations to come. He saved our history.

The Camden Herald, of Friday, March 17, 1916, has a column titled “The New Glimpses of Camden” and reads as follows: “Whatever may have been the expectations regarding the new Glimpses of Camden, they are far exceeded by the book itself. The interest begins with the striking cover in four colors. The title page continues the interest, and page after page of beautiful illustrations and apt description follows. There are 200 illustrations, 36 of these being full page views of large single subjects. In addition to all this wealth of illustration there are 5 large panoramic being 17 ½ inches long, extending across two pages, each of the five being worthy of a frame. The rest of the views are artistically grouped and represent every phase of Camden's scenery and development. The cuts and printing are of the highest quality giving an artistic book which, we predict, will be widely sought for and prized for its intrinsic beauty. To residents of Camden, it means much more, for it portrays in such an effective way the beauty and advantages of our town. The text is concise but very informing to those desiring information about Camden as a place of residence or enjoyment. An excellent folding roadmap adds to the completeness of the book.

“The author, John R. Prescott of Newtonville, Massachusetts, is a summer resident of 35 years standing, and it is very evident that only one of his great enthusiasm of Camden, and his strong interest in its welfare could have produced such a striking book. A pleasing feature is the graceful recognition given to Rockport, in describing the advantages of Camden, and in selecting the illustrations.”

The price of The Glimpses of Camden was 25 cents. Occasionally today, you might find one in an antique shop, but a few years ago I bought some at $135 per copy.

I had met Mr. Prescott, as I lived in the neighborhood, and today I would thank him for his contribution to the history of Camden. But when I was a small child, his adult daughter gave me a little fireplace broom. I was thrilled as it was just my size, and during the Great Depression we all had very few toys or gifts from anyone. When Mr. Prescott came home, he told his daughter that the little broom belonged to the fireplace, and that I could not have it. He took it back. I was only 4 years old, but I will always remember Mr. Prescott.


Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all of her life, so far.


More Barbara Dyer

Pleasures and treasures

‘We are out today for old Camden High, let us boost her with a will’

The Camden Fire Department: Since 1847, ‘always ready’

Camden in 1880

Past signs of the times

When President Roosevelt took the train from Rockland to Washington, D.C.

Carlos Salzedos' harp colony in Camden

Buttoning up the harbor for winter

The day when Camden burned down, 40 buildings lay in ash

Old Glory, the flag’s storied history, and proper etiquette

The Seaside Mountains of Camden

The story of the Barbie D, a little tug that has worked Camden Harbor for 60-plus years

Postcards and the way we communicated 100 years ago

Figureheads at sea

The Babbs:  A family integral to Camden history

Lighthouses of the coast

Garden theater

When Camden paid a fine for having no minister preaching in town

Goodbye Old Schools

Presidents’ Day

Tall ships we never saw

Another new year

Trolley transportation

More shipwrecks

The burning of the Annie L.

The demise of a Camden-built vessel

Camden’s wooden boat builders were perfectionists

Building wooden boats in Camden, many years ago

The Hub of Camden

Socializing and such, before television

The first years of the Camden Snow Bowl

Snow Bowl

Launching ‘Whimsey’

The many moods of Camden Harbor

Demise of the Camden steamboat wharf

Curtis Island Lighthouse - the sentinel of Camden Harbor

Camden Harbor: As old as the last glacier

Mr. Camden Harbor

Windjammer cruises in Camden

Memorial Day remembrances