Cape Elizabeth Town Poor Farm
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
A friend who lives in South Portland showed us this secret trail last week. Maybe it's not actually a secret, but it felt like one because the entrance to the parking lot had no sign and I never would have known it was there. It does connect to the Spurwink Trail, which is part of the Greenbelt, so it can be accessed by more well known entry points. I just prefer "secret" entrances, which feels like more of an adventure.
Located on 150-acres of farmland, this trail offers spectacular views of the Spurwink Marsh from open fields that wind down to a wooded trail, ending at the Spurwink Church. The wooded trail also includes views of the marsh, as well as an old 19th century cemetary belonging to the Jordan family, who once homesteaded here and started the poor farm. Hawks, herons, and egrets are frequently seen along the marsh in this bird watcher's paradise. The views are expansive and the trails are quiet. We saw only one person walking her puppy.
This site was donated to the town in 1830 by Thomas Jordan to be used to benefit the poor. The men housed at the poor farm performed the heavy work, while the women did household chores and preserved the food. Only boys attended school to learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Girls did not attend school but were taught to read and write their names. Enos Jordan was the "first keeper of the poor". He was followed by 32 others who served terms of one year or longer over the course of more than 100 years. The poor farm closed in 1937, due to financial burden, and the land was leased to local farmers. Ultimately, the town purchased the property from the Jordan Trust. The town poor farm building burned in 1974. So much history occurred on this land that now appears untouched. As in all things recycled, it has a new purpose: offering tranquility to walkers, dogs, birds and other animals.
For directions: from Portland, take route 77 to Cape Elizabeth, then a right onto Spurwink Ave. In two miles, you will see a small, dirt parking lot on your right (just past Wainwright Drive). The lot is just past 445 Spurwink Ave if you'd rather gps it. Once you park, you will see a green sign welcoming you to the Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt. The path is to the right of that sign. We left a heart on as you leave the open fields and enter the more narrow path leading to the woods. Here are some clues:
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