From time to time celebrities visit and stay at Stage Neck Inn in York Harbor. Our staff is respectful of their need for privacy and, to the greatest extent possible, anonymity. The coast of Maine was a destination for wealthier families and celebrities in the late 19th Century. York, York Harbor, York Beach and York Village comprised one of the southern-most "summer colonies" ... a pristine and temperate destination away from the hussle and bustle and heat of the cities.
Rail transportation connected York to Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and even Chicago. Prior to housing Stage Neck Inn, built in 1973, this spectacular peninsula was home to The Marshall House. This 1895 newspaper clipping shows an ad for the Marshall House, which amazingly, didn't open for the Summer season until June 25! It was not unusual at that time for people to come and spend two to three months at a seasonal hotel or to enjoy their "summer cottage". Many of these beautiful homes still dot York Harbor's waterfront.
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Perhaps the most notable visitor to the area, in his time, was Charles Lindbergh. Once Charles had completed his monumental Transatlantic flight (May 21, 1927), his life forever shifted from obscurity to public fascination and even relentless pursuit. We found a great account of Lindbergh's time in Maine on SomeOldNews.com1 and in excerpts from both Charles Lindbergh's 2 and Anne Lindbergh's3 autobiographies, Shortly after making history, Lindbergh flew to Maine to landing at an airfield in Scarborough. Crowds ensued wherever he went, hounding him and crowding his plane.
Charles Lindbergh's notoriety made it necessary for Charles and Anne to be married secretly, yet in plain sight. The press assumed the couple would be married that summer at Anne's folk's summer cottage in North Haven, Maine. The wedding was held at Anne's parent's home in Englewood, NJ under the guise of a charity luncheon. Essentially none of the guest knew they would be attending a wedding! In her SomeOldNews account Sharon Cummins notes "By the time the press got wind of the secret marriage the couple had slipped away on a 38-foot honeymoon yacht Lindy had purchased a week earlier."
What happened in the coming days varies by account, but it is known that the couple did port in York Harbor, at least to re-provision or refuel their boat. One account has them being discovered by the press around New London, CT. Another has them being discovered in York Harbor. Yet, in Anne Lindbergh's autobiography, we find ...
Anne "began a long, continuous letter to her mother telling her all of the amusing things that happened to them. How Charles had gone on land, disguised by his growing beard, dark glasses and a cap pulled over his eyes. He went to get more water, and when the local fishermen asked about his fancy boat, he told them he was Charles Lindbergh. Hiding behind the curtains below ship, Anne heard the men laugh in disbelief. Sure, he was Linbergh! they scoffed."
"They made it up the coast of Maine before being discovered. They were able to elude boats filled with reporters when they headed away from land. As a wedding present, Anne's father had given them a small island, called Big Garden, near North Haven. They found it on the map and visited the wild island before they turned back."
What great literary or musical works were authored in York Harbor? Mark Twain documented that in June of 1902 he rented a cottage in York Harbor, Maine4. Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey also stayed in York Harbor. A document on file in the Hampton Beach Library website states that The Dorsey Brothers performed at the Casino5. We can only imagine their giving impromptu performances, overlooking the ocean.
There was a bit of excitement in York Harbor in 1975 when Bob Dylan was on the scene. Dylan was there with his then-wife Sara, plus Joan Baez and Sam Sheppard. This was prior to Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue" tour6 ... a time in which scenes for "Renaldo and Clara" were being shot.
Current innkeeper Phoebe Apgar-Pressey was at the time a waitress at the Inn. She remembers delivering champagne to the Dylan's guest room. Before the entourage left the Inn, many staff were given tickets to the "Rolling Thunder Revue" a the "Portland Civic Center". "I was a fan of Joan Baez and was so excited. I remember the show being fabulous. It was wild!" says Pressey.
Mark Foster, the current owner of Stage Neck Inn remembers when Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were in town. "My folks owned Foster's Downeast Clambake here in York Harbor. They prepared a clambake for Bob Dylan ("Renaldo") and his first wife, Sara ("Clara") on Harbor Beach, adjacent to Stage Neck Inn." This film never had any notable exposure to the public, perhaps because it had a running time of over 4 hours. The script was written by Bob Dylan and Sam Sheppard and directed by Dylan. Information contained in Sheppard's chronicles of the trip, "The Rolling Thunder Logbook" also notes that Baez and Dylan enjoyed going out on a lobstering vessel in York Harbor.
We'd love to hear what you might know about special happenings and celebrated visits to York Harbor. Please share your stories with us on Facebook.com!
1"Lindy's Quest for Privacy on the Maine Coast", Sharon Cummins, January 20, 2010 on SomeOldNews.com. pdf of article here
2"Lindbergh: A Biography" ~ Leonard Mosley
3"Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Between the Sea and the Stars" ~ Beverly Gherman
4Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain. Wave Hill 2011; "Personal Items, " The School Journal, 7 June 1902, 651.
5"The Hampton Beach Casino: Then and Now", by Bob Young.
6Renaldo and Clara on Wikipedia