POLAND SPRING, Maine -- We are sitting in the original Spring House of the Poland Spring Bottling Company, and we feel as though we are in a temple. Except for the stained glass ceiling, everything is white. The interior of the domed structure is white Italian marble with white mosaic tile floors. We sit on cool white stone benches facing two white wicker chairs. Even a radiator in the corner is painted white. Our whispers echo softly.
A bow window separates us from the original spring, called simply ''The Source." It is here that white-gloved employees of Poland Spring served samples of the elixir, which flowed from the spring through silver and glass pipes, to pilgrims who had come to experience its therapeutic properties at the turn of the last century.
The Spring House is part of Poland Spring Preservation Park, where the original 1845 bottling plant has been turned into a museum. The park also includes two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places: the Maine State Building and All Souls Chapel.
The museum is bright and airy, with green plants and the sound of trickling water everywhere. The first floor features interactive displays of the geology of water and its sources. The purity and clarity of Poland Spring water is attributed to the fact that it travels a great distance almost entirely through bedrock. The water runs from the spring at a rate of about eight gallons per minute at a uniform temperature of 42 degrees year round.
Along the gray granite walls, a timeline traces the history of Poland Spring water. In 1792, Jabez Ricker built a home and tavern near the spring, which was a convenient stop for those traveling between Portland and Paris, Maine. Before long, the Rickers began selling the spring water in wooden barrels to travelers and sea captains. In 1845, the first bottling plant was built. Until 1910, the bottles were corked, and the Ricker family purchased all its corks from one company in Spain.
On the second floor of the museum is a gift shop featuring Maine products and a cafe, Sadie's Place.
The Maine State Building served as the state's pavilion at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, where the Rickers received an award for their Poland Spring water. When they were told the building would be torn down after the exposition, they bought it and had it transported back to Maine by oxcart. The handsome, octagonal oak building houses a library for the Poland Spring Preservation Society, memorabilia from the Chicago World's Fair and the Poland Spring Inn, and exhibits by Maine artists and craftsmen. Handmade quilts are on display this summer.
All Souls Chapel, built in 1912, is a cool granite building featuring intricately carved oak woodwork and a striking mosaic floor. It is used for occasional concerts and weddings.
Contact Ellen Albanese at email@example.com.