This past Sunday’s fine weather was perfect for a late-afternoon drive around Lake Auburn, including a stop at Taber’s for hot dogs, fries and ice cream.

That takeout restaurant and its picnic tables with an unmatched view of Lake Auburn has been a popular destination since 1941.

As my wife, Judy, and I enjoyed the hilltop vista, she commented that the scene has to be as good as any to be found in our part of the world. She’s right, and that observation is supported by a Boston travel writer of about 120 years ago.

The view of beautiful pines across the lake gives no hint that there was once a grand hotel there. Its patrons came from hundreds of miles away. Although the hotel was lost to fire in its early years, the opening of the establishment in 1890 was cause for a very flattering review in the “Summer Resorts” column of the Boston Evening Transcript.

The Auburn Spring Hotel had its formal opening on Wednesday, June 26, 1890. It was described as “a beautiful pleasure and sanitary summer home at the head of Lake Auburn” which could accommodate about 200 guests.

“The occasion was informally celebrated by a large party of ladies and gentlemen from various cities of the Eastern States, many of the latter being recognized as shareholders in the Auburn Mineral Spring Company, which built the house,” the article said. “The Lewiston Brass Band furnished fine music.”

Of course, a train ride from Boston to the Twin Cities was straightforward and quite comfortable in those days. However, the newspaper article makes it clear that there is still a bit of travel involved in reaching this new destination.

“It is five miles by horse car and boat from Lewiston and ten miles distant by a delightful drive,” the Boston travel writer said.

The Boston announcement painted a very flattering picture of Lake Auburn.

“The hotel sits on an eminence rising from the level of the lake about 100 feet, making it 900 feet from the water. The lake itself is a basin between well-wooded hills, resembling New York’s Lake George in miniature aspect, about five by three miles, and is overlooked from the house its entire length.”

The article goes on to describe how the new steamer “Lewiston,” controlled by the company, “plies between the series of groves which surround the house to Lake Grove on the Auburn end, where street cars connect with the Maine Central Railroad. A large music pavilion occupies one of these groves.”

The worldwide fame of the Poland Spring Hotel was based on its special waters, as well as its breathtaking views. The spring near the Lake Auburn location was the prime incentive for the building of this latest hotel.

At the rear of the new Auburn Spring Hotel, a long plank walk ran to the spring for the convenience of guests.

“It bubbles up icy cold in an attractive way in a stone basin, and overflows about a thousand barrels a day aside from what is sold, the Boston account said.

“The water flows into the barrels or carboys for use through a glass conduit, thus preventing the absorption of any impurities in the transfer. This is all-important, as the delicate physical troubles that it relieves or cures will not bear impurities of any sort,“ it said.

“Besides the barreling establishment, there is a bottling apparatus, where the water is used for the manufacture of sarsaparilla, ginger ale and lemon soda. The water is pleasant and light to the taste, and is drank ad libitum without any immediate apparent physical effects.”

The writer claimed that “hundreds have testified to this, and the fame of the spring is growing every day. There were about 125 people at the home last night. including, besides a large number from Boston, many of the wealthiest manufacturers from Providence, Attleborough, Hartford, Bridgeport, Worcester, Springfield, Lynn and Portland. Of these at least sixty propose to tarry three weeks. The table is excellent.”

The story concluded with news that, “at a meeting of directors today, it was decided to build another house with a large hall, at a cost of $50,000, on a high knoll near by, to be run in connection with the present.”

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to [email protected]


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