FROM THE 1940S TO THE 2020S
How it Became People’s Perch by Ian Klepetar
I woke up early on August 17, 2020 with my frosted tent pitched on the Pierce Bridge in Bethlemen, New Hampshire. Today I’d ride east on 302 over Crawford Notch, take a stop to run up Mount Willard, see a friend at Davis Path, climb an abandoned water tower across from a gas station in the middle of nowhere and stealth camp after 90 miles on the bicycle. Little did I know that this sunny day in August would change my life’s trajectory. After making my way through the White Mountains, I stopped at the Whistle Stop on 113 in East Baldwin, Maine. I posted up at the picnic table outside of the gas station where the afternoon coffee club gathered and asked whether they had any objection to seeing me climb the tower across the road. “I’d love to see it!” exclaimed the gentleman from the Standish fire department. I quickly darted across the road and performed the hand over hand 96 times to the catwalk which circled the tower above. A crowd gathered below me, mainly locals who were concerned with my decision to just stop by and climb it and curious as to what I saw from way up there. Despite being in the Saco River Valley, the view was tremendous 100 feet above the road. Interested as to who owned this beautiful patina-finished tower, I once again interrupted the coffee club’s daily meeting and got them to cough up the name of the individual’s name who had owned it for the last 20 years.
Upon finding “Verne Blake” and his mailing address on-line, I wrote to him and articulated my dream and vision to create an awe-inspiring place at an old water tower one day. He called me back within the week and the rest is history. Billy Blake is a dreamer like myself, he loves to provide experiences for people who he loves and those who he never will. I feel so grateful that I can be part of the history making and future of the historic water tower in East Baldwin.
The Early Days
The water tower was built for fire suppression for the lumber operation. The saw dust from the lumber mill was used to create linoleum. This process was very flammable so the water tower was built.
The picture to the right was take south of the train tracks. Now The Whistle Stop stands between the train tracks and the water tower. The Whistle Stop is actually rebuilt from the original boiler room for the lumber kiln. The kiln was revolutionary for its time. Allowing them to dry and handle much more lumber than most mills of its time.
Train Station in East Baldwin
The train station moved lots of lumber from the East Baldwin lumber yard throughout the country. When it was built it was the largest lumber yard east of the Mississippi. This rail line hasn’t been used since 1981. There are now plans to transform the rail line into a trail, which would increase accessibility and bring new economic activity to the area.
The lumber mill produced all the pine board for Levittown, the county’s first “subdivision” built by the government for veterans.