Margaret Deland’s Garden by Steven Burr

Kennebunkport developed as summer resort by attracting artist, play writes, and authors, along with the families of the middle class and wealthy from among the cities west of Maine. Kennebunkport was fortunate in that many of the summer people who came here also contributed to improve the small sea faring town with green spaces, parks, trees, and monuments. One of those artists was writer Margaret Deland and her husband Lorin Deland.
The Deland’s were social reformers who worked for woman’s rights and social change. Coming to Kennebunkport at the end of the nineteenth century the Deland’s made their cottage, Graywood, their summer home for almost fifty years. Margaret was a popular early twentieth century writer whose work often shocked proper Bostonians.
Both Deland’s engaged in local community affairs while in Kennebunkport. Their cottage was on a bluff overlooking the Kennebunk River. They hired Ben Hoff to maintain their bower garden which eventually became well known and was popular on garden tours. One feature of the garden stood out and received the most attention: this was a small fountain; an upside-down bronze cup set on an old millstone. It sprayed water in the air which returned to the bowl and overflowed onto the ground.
The fountain was the result of one of the first community projects the Deland’s were involved in. Around 1902 the Kennebunkport volunteer fire department needed a new hose and funds were short. Mr. Deland along with the painter Abbott Graves put on a performance and charged admission to raise money for the new hose at Myrtle Hall owned by Charles W. Hoff. Lorin was very good at magic tricks, what Mr. Graves part was is unknown. The performance was successful and well patronized and two-hundred dollars was raised. The local firemen were grateful for the new hose and wanted to thank Mr. Deland. They offered to rename the firehouse after him, but Lorin declined. Instead, they gave the Deland’s the old town fire bell. Appreciating the gift, they had no idea what to do with it. They finally had the idea for the fountain. Using an old millstone as the base, and turning the bell upside down, then removing the clapper. With the help of Ben Hoff, the old fire-bell was made into a much-admired garden feature.
Another monument on the grounds of Graywood, one that still stands, is a stone bench Margaret Deland had built after Lorin Deland’s death in 1917. It originally had a fountain on the back, and it was crafted by local workmen and Ben Hoff using stones from all over brought to the project by friends and family. In the arch over the seat is a plaque inscribed “Remembering Lorin Deland” and below a verse from Edward Markham, American Poet:
Teach me father, how to be kind
And patient as a tree
Let me also cheer a spot, hidden
Field or garden grot,
Place where passing souls may rest
On the way and be their best.
The story goes that one-day Mr. Deland came home and found an elderly woman, tired and fragile, sitting on the steps of his home. She apologized for sitting there but said she needed a rest. Mr. Deland was touched by this incident and thought it was a pity that more resting places were not provided for people such as the old woman. After Lorin Deland’s passing Margaret recalled this incidence and the result was the bench for the public to use. It is located off the sidewalk near their former cottage at 91 Ocean Avenue, on the right going out of Dock Square. Such things as this bench, the war memorial in Dock Square, the Village Green and many other landmarks have been left to us to us today to enjoy.

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