A Little Alliquippa History

by Dan Peacock

(The following history is lifted verbatim from a blog post written by Dan Peacock. The original post is located here.)

It all started for me at age ten, about sixty-five years ago, when my family, the Hunts, Varians, and Peacocks began operating the old Alliquippa Hotel building and property on a cooperative basis; trying to make ends meet with very few paying guests and family members. In those days, the fishermen used our “private” driveway to access the waterfront and town landing area. Their trucks would periodically knock off the corner of the screen porch and they refused to use the town road behind the Alliquippa. The lobstermen saw fit to build a large dock on our property just north of the town landing. Litigation ensued which decreed the access to the landing must be only via the town road, and the dock could not be used. Remarkably, the predicted difficulty following the court ruling did not ensue, and for many years the dock remained and was used by the Alliquipa for camp activities in the summer. In the winter, the lobstermen stored the traps on the same dock. Large rocks were imported to block off the private driveway where it ran between the Alliquippa and the Square House, leaving the only access to the town landing and the Alliquippa via the town road now known as the Allliquippa Road.

The Alliquippa Camp gradually grew into the coeducational experience recently described by my daughter, Beth, and Sam Adams on the Alliquippa web site. In the beginning, my aunt, Martha Hunt (Mott), was assisted on almost a full-time basis by her sisters—my aunt, Dot Varian, and my mother, Junie Peacock. Dot’s husband, Newbold Varian, was also very much involved, especially with the ongoing maintenance of the property. By the time the Alliquippa was sold to Bill Sanford, Mott had taken over full management responsibilities of the camp. I experienced the evolution of the camp as an original family member before we became a camp, and, thereafter, as a camper, senior counselor, and parent of campers and counselors all the way to the last Alliquippa bonfire on the Alliquippa beach in front of the present Shirley and Tom Cooper’s house when I sang Among the Pines of Maine to the teary-eyed campers.

Although I was the oldest of the Varian/Peacock offspring, I was way too young to realize the full impact of what was happening when the family decision was made to sell all of the Alliquippa property to Bill Sanford. Mott never married; her “children” were the campers and included her nieces, nephews and their families. When the sale occurred, the Alliquippa income was barely able to cover taxes, upkeep, and camp related experiences. Bill Sanford became a wonderfully generous owner and “landlord.” For a number of years he rented the property to Mott, and allowed the camp to continue on a year-to-year basis. Bill and his family improved upon and occupied the “Bungalow” located on the Alliquippa beach. He allowed the Small Pointers to keep their dinghies on this beach, above the high tide mark as a means for them to access the sailboat moorings in the harbor. The camp used the north end of the beach for swimming, water skiing and all kinds of activities. That part of the beach is now gone, with nothing but rocks and seaweed where there was once sand.

As time went by, and I eventually graduated from law school, I continually begged Mott to obtain more than a one year lease, and this resulted in her going to Bill Sanford, who did give her a ten year lease. Only one year later, Bill decided to sell all of the property (except for the relatively small parcel he had previously deeded to Missy and Malcolm Coates). Carolyn Mattison and her Hook Rock partners, which included Shirley and Tom Cooper, became the new owners, but subject to the ten year lease on the camp. Mott and her right hand man, Dick Wallace, continued to operate the camp until the lease expired.

The Alliquippa house and the former campgrounds were then sold to Steve and Leith Foote, thus ending the camp. However, before the ending of the camp, the Peacocks were able to buy back a parcel north of the hotel where the Sanford “bunkhouse” was located from the Hook Rock Partnership. Many old Alliquippa photos and memorabilia, including some signed rafters from the old dorm, can be found in the present Peacock cottages.

Compared to all that has gone on in relatively recent years concerning the The Nature Conservancy easement negotiations involving Seawall Beach and the many public access issues, the Aliquippa Camp’s relations with the Small Point oceanside community and the St. John family were a “piece of cake.” Mott was a consummate Small Point politician, although she probably never realized it. She worked with Carolyn Mattison and arranged for the camp to run the sail races and, through Bill Sanford, allowed access to the Alliquippa beach by way of a path (clearing this path was my favorite project) from the town landing along the water’s edge This was done in a “swap” with the St. John family and the oceansiders so that the camp would have access to Seawall Beach. The Fantom Boat Company was permitted to launch sailboats from an area next to the camp dock. All kinds of boat maintenance happened here also. The campers formed crews that helped cut back and maintain the St. John’s mountain road. Mott also forged a strong relationship with Junie Mellon. Bill Sewall was a prince. The campers would access the Sprague River clam flats and the big beach by way of the path next to his house. Alliquippians hardly ever went to the small beach in from of The Club, but we were allowed to hike around to Bald Head and Head Beach—a favorite activity.

We were allowed to perform Trial by Jury in the Summer School barn only once. Junie Mellon turned down requests for subsequent performances, as he understandably did not want Aliquippa competing the Summer School for drama time use of the barn facilities. In truth, there was very little competition between the Summer School and the Aliquippa. At one point, the Alliquippa counselors provided sailing instruction to Summer School campers in return for Junie Mellon’s sale of the Pintail to Mott Hunt for the enormous price of one dollar!

Mott was not a socialite; the Alliquippa was her life in the summer. She hardly ever attended cocktail parties, and probably never visited the Club. A couple of times each summer she would share her vodka with Alvin Brewer in the camp’s kitchen. She also loved chatting with Win Blair and the Pyes. When it came to sailing, Sydney and Billy Smith were among her favorites and very much around. Somewhere, there is an amusing picture of Billy sound asleep down by the Alliquippa dock. Mott died after spending one of her last summers being the first renter of the St. John family’s beautiful Neph, thanks to Connie St. John.

For many years, the Square House (one of the oldest houses on the Maine coast),was rented out by my family and then by Bill Sanford. It was later sold by the Hook Rock Partnership to the Boles family who, thereafter sold it to Dr. Gensheimer, who sold it to the present owners, the Koski family. The Square House was never used as part of the camp and (sadly for this historic building), was torn down and has been replaced by the Koski summer residence.

The Alliquippa House and property has undergone many changes since the days of the camp. Part of the original building remains in the loving care of the newest owners, Clint and Jackie Ostrander. The old servants’ quarters (Boy’s Pig Alley) and the former kitchen of the original structure were separated and moved by the Footes to become part of what is now the Ridgewell residence located south of the town road and near the town landing. The Ridgewells bring with them much of the local year-round history of the entire Phippsburg area. The bungalow occupied by the Mattisons and Sanfords is now owned by Gordon and Charlotte Moore and has been improved and tastefully preserved over the years by its various owners. Tom and Shirley Cooper, two of the Hook Rock partners, were the first to build a completely new structure on the Alliquippa property after the sale to Hook Rock by Bill Sanford. As a professional architect, Tom brought his training to bear building this lovely structure. The Hook Rock subdivision is one of the few or possibly the only such entity in Small Point to voluntarily restrict the number of houses that can be built. The restrictive covenants in effect were in part modeled after those adopted by the St. John Spirit Pond subdivision. Small Point is fortunate to have the remarkable steps taken by the St. John family toward limitation of building and development in Small Point. Their creation of the Bates Morse Mountain Conservation area across Route 126 east of the former Alliquippa property insures that this pristine, untouched part of the Maine coast will remain this way forever.

Before Bill Sanford’s sale to Hook Rock, he deeded the northern piece of the coastline property to Missy and Malcolm Coates. The Coates family continue to own and enjoy their beautiful summer house built to overlook the Small Point Harbor entrance. Young Malcolm Coates, Jr. was actually a “visiting” camper at the Alliquippa years ago, and now incorporates many of his past experiences there into his present leadership of the Summer School.

For old Alliquippians (I am now the oldest living member of the original “Alliquippa Family”), who enjoyed their camping days, we see the Summer School becoming the new Alliquippa for us, combining the traditional Summer School values and activities with much that we loved to do and still remember so well. To us “oldies”, the Alliquippa spirit continues undiminished, among the pines of Maine.

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