POLAND — At 10 a.m. Saturday, May 18, the Poland Historical Society will host an open house at the former Poland Spring Health Institute, also known as “Thurston Farm” or “The Cook House.” This will be an opportunity to tour the home and grounds.

The earliest known owner of the land was Freeman Thurston — who erected two buildings on the property. An early photo from this era shows two adjacent houses. In 1905, the land was acquired by Charles H. Capatain. Little is now known about Capatain, but it is recorded that he tore down one home, moved the other, and used the relocated house to form the basis of the current structure.

In 1926, Capatain sold the property to Hiram Abrams. Abrams — originally from Portland — was a pioneer in the early motion picture industry and served as president of Paramount Pictures. Old photographs show him  with Hollywood stars like Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Abrams fell on hard times when he was implicated in a major Hollywood scandal. It seems that he was the main organizer of a party for Fatty Arbuckle and other film industry elites. When the party got out of hand, witnesses to the events successfully blackmailed Abrams and his bosses for $100,000. Soon after, Abrams was relieved of his position at Paramount.

Portland Historical Society (Photo by Pat Moening)

Abrams had purchased the Poland property as a planned retirement estate. Unfortunately, he died before he could take up permanent residence. Although Abrams was a well-known public figure in his lifetime, history has largely forgotten his story.

In 1944, the property was acquired by Joseph and Helen Cook. Joseph Cook was a successful manufacturer of concrete products in the years following World War II. He passed away in 1957, and Helen occupied the property until 1976. In recent years, the land and buildings served as the Poland Spring Health Institute — a health care and spiritual retreat. The property is currently owned by local veterinarian Steve Kinney and is known as the Summit Spring Barn & Inn. Many Poland residents still refer to the site as “The Cook House.”

The house is at 32 Summit Spring Road, near the intersection of Schellinger Road.

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