The Princess of Pleasant Pond in Turner set sail — maybe too soon — from The Great Outdoors, but she has found herself back on the water in an iconic island lighthouse on a lake in Canton.

Mary Seaman grew up on small Pleasant Pond in Turner where she knew everyone, was a social butterfly and says she was treated like royalty. As a young girl, a self-proclaimed princess, she helped her parents transform a 60-acre former summer camp into a campground and event venue called “The Great Outdoors.”

Many years later, despite having a full-time job as a teacher in Lewiston, she agreed to take over and run the business when her parents retired. She says she put her heart and soul into the place, and started to burn out and lose touch with her friends. Every day she was working as a liaison supporting homeless youth at Lewiston High School and then coming home and tending to the campground and event center, including most every weekend cleaning, fixing and working events there.

In 2019 she sold the campground and moved to a home on 27 acres in Hebron, but she still wonders about that decision to sell. “Had I known that COVID was coming and I’d retire from teaching early, I don’t think I’d have sold the place. But that ship has sailed and I can’t roll back time and undo it.”

An aerial view Tuesday afternoon of Lake Anasagunticook and its well-known lighthouse in Canton. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

With a bit of regret, she began looking for ways to get back onto the pond or to Popham Beach, where she has summered a few weeks every year for a while now and has fallen in love with the area.

So far she hasn’t found anything at either location that she really likes and is within her budget. She expanded her search to other bodies of water and “get back to a place I can call home. I know I can never go back to The Great Outdoors, but hope to find something on the water that feels like home. . . . I track real estate in eight counties every day looking for something that will get me back on the water, but nothing has caught my eye yet.”


Actually, something did catch her eye — not exactly what she was looking for, but too good and too unique to pass up. It was a listing for a small island with a handmade camp and lighthouse on it off the shore of Anasagunticook Lake, often called Canton Lake by locals, between the towns of Canton and Hartford.

Known as Anasagunticook Lake lighthouse, the camp and lighthouse were completed in 1938 by Charles Ray. A new top was put on the lighthouse in 1973. He called it Ray’s Light and over the years it has become an iconic image for the town of Canton. According to historians, the island is known as Rocky Mecca, in honor of the Rocymeka Indians who once inhabited the area.

For Seaman, trying to get back to the water, the property was too appealing to pass up, though she admits this will not be her forever home.

“It’s not what I want long-term, but it was priced right and fit my immediate needs to have a project to keep me busy. Until I (find the ideal property), this project has been keeping me busy in this inflated market,” she said.

Seaman bought it last May and has been working on it ever since, and she acknowledges there is plenty to work on. The first thing she did was remove everything from the one room “cottage,” which had basically stayed the same for decades, and sealed the walls. One of the things that bothered Seaman right away was grit that seemed to be everywhere. Mortar from the stone walls was coming off and covering the floor and every surface inside. She sealed the walls and then put most everything back in place, except a small sailboat hanging from the rafters. It made the tiny space seem claustrophobic, she says. It’s now at her home in Hebron.

Among the things staying in the cottage for now: A photo of Mrs. Ray on a shelf above the kitchen counter, an old drawing on the cottage’s ancient refrigerator, and furniture from a bygone era.


Perhaps the biggest issue Seaman is dealing with is the lack of a bathroom. She has been working with the town to try to solve that problem but she says “It’s a crappy subject I am having a tough time trying to deal with, for obvious reasons.”

Another issue: birds. The island is a natural and alluring spot for birds to rest and feed. It is now surrounded by fencing to discourage them from landing and hopefully also serve as a reminder to people that it’s a private island and not something they should feel free to explore. Seaman has hung Tibetan prayer flags to not only carry prayers and mantras through the wind, but to help ward off water foul, she says. “Check out how tattered they are. The wind really blows across the lake sometimes and they take a beating.”

If all those deterrents don’t work against folks and fowl, there is a plastic wolf around the backside that stands watch. The dock is another issue entirely and the cormorants “leave their calling card” all over it, she says.

But what really baffles Seaman is the fact that her lighthouse doesn’t have a working light. “How can you call it a lighthouse if it doesn’t have a light?” she says, sitting on a bench at the top of the 18-foot structure. (To get to the top, one enters the lighthouse through a door and climbs metal bars that wind their way up the inside of the structure.) Seaman has ordered several solar-powered lights online, but none have worked out the way she wants yet. Another work in progress.

The property comes with a very thin slice of land along the shore where the owners and guests can park their vehicles and launch a small boat or kayak. Seaman is toying with the idea of buying a pontoon boat to help ferry people and supplies to the golf green-sized island a few hundred yards from shore. And she hints at the possibility of renting it out via Vrbo or Airbnb, but the lack of a bathroom is a big obstacle. She knows a bathroom will be both a cost and an added value to the property when she sells.

“I don’t plan to hold onto it for a long time, but who knows. It’s a great place to escape for a few days or just an afternoon sitting in the sun after a paddle around the lake, which I have just started to explore,” Seaman says. “There is a Dunkin Donuts about a 10-minute paddle up Whitney Brook around the corner from here that’s pretty convenient.”

Sitting on the front lawn of the island in one of the chairs she brought from The Great Outdoors, Seaman talks about her past and a yearning to get back to a place on the water that feels like home and admits this is not it, “but for now it keeps me busy, is a great investment and I can always say I owned an island with a lighthouse, well, as soon as I get a light up there.

“For now, this feeds my soul, keeps me busy and is very unique, like me.”

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