There’s a large, fairly ornate and extremely heavy cast iron steam radiator outside our old barn in Auburn, and a couple of smaller ones are stored inside the barn. It never ceases to amaze me how often I find unexpected connections between ordinary objects such as these and some fascinating stories of many years ago.

Those radiators once heated guest rooms at the Summit Springs Hotel, an elegant resort that rivaled the famous Poland Spring House, which was just a few miles to the southeast.

According to the Maine State Building Museum at Poland Spring, the Summit Springs Hotel was built in 1904 by Amos Knight on a 540-acre site on White Oak Hill, Poland. The resort housed 300 guests and charged $18 to $35 a day for the 133 rooms. It lasted only 50 years and it was torn down in 1952.

Summit Springs Hotel catered to the Jewish community, which was not welcomed by the guests at Poland Spring Hotel, according to www.mainejews.org.

Noted Lewiston attorney C. Martin Berman wrote a detailed account of the Summit Springs Hotel that appeared in the Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine Section on Aug. 2, 1952.

Berman talked about the resort’s history with Mr. and Mrs. Mellen Mills, who lived in a house directly across the road from the hotel. They were married in that house the year Knight began building the four-story hotel. Mellen Mills helped with construction, and his wife boarded and fed the guests’ chauffeurs.

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It was a three-year task to erect the hotel on the granite mountaintop. The hotel had a commanding view from its piazza, which extended 1,200 feet around the structure.

One of the first elevators in Maine was installed a year after the hotel opened. The massive dining room seated 300 people, and there were no pillars in the huge room. Steel beams supported the ceiling and the floors above. Two doors at the farther end led to a giant kitchen where a number of open brick ovens were used for cooking.

There was a large ballroom and an elaborately furnished room served as a combination music room and lounge where frequent piano recitals were presented.

Berman tells an interesting tale of that piano. He said the last owners of the property before the 1952 liquidation specified that everything went with the sale, except the piano. For some unknown reason, the hotel’s management had always rented it. A musician by the name of Pomerantz of Philadelphia was paid $75 a year for its use.

“For many years, Pomerantz carried his instrument back and forth between Maine and Pennsylvania every summer,” Berman wrote. “This went on for about 20 years until Pomerantz got tired of shipping it and allowed the piano to remain in the hotel through the winter.”

As the hotel’s final days approached in 1952, it wasn’t known what the piano’s fate would be.

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Two artesian wells were drilled in the beginning for the resort’s water supply. One, which was reported to be 800 feet deep, was still in use at the end. The original supply wasn’t sufficient for the resort’s needs, so a mile and a half of steel pipe was laid to Tripp Lake, Berman said. A steam pumping station was constructed to pump water up the 300-foot grade.

Ernest Leonard, who was the hotel’s engineer and caretaker from 1927 to 1952, also provided Berman with much information.

Leonard said the hotel had the same chef from World War I until 1947. Bruno Grentz was chef on the German ship “Vaterland,” which was renamed “Leviathan” when it was seized by the United States during World War I.

“When he went, the hotel went with him,” Leonard told Berman.

The last owners, Sol and Edmund Kaufman (1886 to 1950), founded Kay Jewelers in 1916 in Reading, Pa. Edmund was among the 50 representatives selected by the Jewish agency to speak for Zionists at the United Nations organizing conference in San Francisco. He played a significant role in drafting a plan for Jewish settlement in Palestine.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached at [email protected]


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