Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Times travels to Prouts Neck, even if you can't

I was surprised to see a piece on Prouts Neck in this Sunday's New York Times travel section. After all, the exclusive summer colony in Scarborough, Maine where Winslow Homer painted his famous seascapes if famously off-limits to the public, a fact I discovered while writing The Lobster Coast. As you can read in this passage, even in the dead of winter there's a gate, an electronic passkey reader, and the Scarborough Police Department blocking your way.

So I picked up Geraldine Fabrikant's piece with interest, knowing the Portland Museum of Art had acquired Homer's studio a few years back. If it's in the travel section, it must be something you can travel to, right?

Nope. Read the piece and you quickly discover the place is still as inaccessible as ever. "While the studio is on a private road, it will be open to small groups by special arrangement after [PMA's restoration] work is finished" in 2012, Fabrikant writes. "Prouts Neck is not easily accessible to visitors, and that is fine with the summer residents — not so much from snobbery, they say, but from a desire to keep it as unspoiled as possible."

The Times then carries on with their "If You Go" section as if you could actually visit the place, suggesting you fly to Portland and have a look at the Neck from Scarborough Beach State Park. (Not worth the trip, I assure you.) The only way you can so much as take in the view of the shoreline Homer painted is by shelling out at least $480 a night to stay in the Black Point Inn, which is owned by the Prouts Neck cottagers. (This gets you the right to walk their private trail.) There's even an interactive map showing you all the locations most of us have little hope of accessing for several years yet.

If the Times wanted to write about Winslow Homer's studio or the history of Prouts Neck, great, but put it in the Arts & Culture section where it belongs.


  1. Colin, I agree. I had the same reaction to the piece. Nancy H.

  2. Colin, interesting post. The NYT puts together a story to make a place seem more accessible than it is. I just wrote a post, ironically, about the opposite phenomenon: the press making places seem more remote than they really are. In this case, BBC was the culprit:


    P.S. congrats on the New Yorker review!

  3. Colin --

    Well, I do take your main point. But, really, there are ways to visit: park at that state beach just on the left coming onto the neck ..and walk the shore..there is a lovely walk around the whole perimeter. Bring a lunch. The rocks and views (out toward Stratton and Bluff islands) are unchanged from Homer's day

    Peter Cross