Beautifully printed RARE certificate from Hiram Ricker and Sons
in 1942. This historic document was printed by the Goes Lithograph Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of a screaching eagle overlooking the ocean below. This item is hand signed by the Company's President ( George W. Lane ) and Treasurer and is
over 61 years old. This is the first time we have seen this certificate.
In 1859, Hiram Ricker built a crude log spring house over a water source, and made his first commercial sale of a container of the water, a 3-gallon demijohn he put on the Portland stage for 15 cents. Subsequently a father brought his supposedly incurably ill daughter to drink from the spring. Twelve-year-old E.P. Ricker brought her a 3-quart pail of mineral water direct from the spring, and the following day she was well enough to return to Portland. Dr. Elephelet Clark continued having her drink water from the Poland Spring, and the girl was to live more than 40 years longer. The doctor became convinced of the mineral water's medicinal value. In 1860, Hiram set up resident sales agents in Boston, and as the fame of Poland Spring water spread, orders came from as far away as the South and the Pacific Coast.
In two years, sales increased to 1,000 barrels. Hiram turned the property over to his eldest son, Edward P. Ricker, then 22, in 1869, and the latter immediately began to develop it. Many people came to the spring itself for a cure, and in 1869-1870, the Rickers had to enlarge the old inn, adding another nine-room story to the building. In 1870, they shipped 5,000 barrels of Poland Water. Originally the Rickers had dipped water from a 5- or 6-quart basin carved out of the rock. In 1872, they enlarged the stone basin to a 30-gallon capacity and bailed water out with a pail. In 1872, increasing patronage forced them to demolish the woodshed and cider house behind the old inn and build a seven-room addition to the building in their place. The inn came to be called the Mansion House.
Alvan Ricker, the second son, joined the firm in 1875, and in 1876 a man named Albert Young, of Auburn, became a partner. The firm built at the crest of the hill a large four-story frame hotel called the Poland Spring House, which featured a six-story tower at one corner. The building extended 200 feet wide across the front and had 100 rooms. It superseded the old Mansion House, but the latter continued to operate as an economy hotel compared with the elegant, first-class Poland House. Hiram Wentworth Ricker, a third son, joined the firm in 1880, and in 1881 the Rickers bought out Young, established the firm of Hiram Ricker and Sons, Inc., and spent $20,000 improving both the interior and the exterior of the posh Poland House. Within 3 more years receipts had doubled, and sale of spring water increased about a thousand barrels per year, grossing $3,000 in 1883. In 1883 and 1884 the Rickers enlarged the Poland House by 64 rooms and a music hall, and the Mansion House to a total of 66 rooms. ln 1887, they built an annex to the Poland Spring House featuring a billiard hall and another 24 rooms, made other miscellaneous improvements, and enlarged the stable built in 1825. In 1889 the company added yet another 50 guest rooms to the Poland House, again remodeled the rest of the building, and relandscaped the grounds.
The year 1893 proved a banner year for the Ricker firm--for Poland Water won the Grand Prize for mineral waters at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and in Poland, Maine, the firm added a south wing to the Poland House featuring 20 bathroom suites. In 1894, the firm built a southwest wing that included a photographic studio and darkrooms available to guests who were amateur photographers. More notable, that year the company purchased the Maine State Building from the Chicago Fair for $30,000 and paid $3,000 to have it disassembled, loaded, and moved by a 16-car train to Poland, Maine. There workmen reassembled it in front of an oak grove beside the hotel to serve as a library, museum, and art gallery, where it still stood in 1988.
On August 21, 1894, the stable burned to the ground, killing 27 horses and destroying all the harness, robes, coach equipment, and other tack. The Ricker firm scraped together enough equipment to haul 70 people the next day, and in four days had replaced all the horses and equipment lost in the disastrous fire. In 1894 and 1895, the Rickers erected over the site of the burned stable a 152-foot-wide new stable with two wings, a steel roof, and a carriage house with sleeping rooms above.
By the end of the century, the Rickers had added a nine-hole golf course, later extended to 18 holes. Devotees of tennis found a tennis court on which to play. The hotel added one of the first automatic sprinkler systems in a New England summer resort. Soon it featured telephones in every room. Some rooms had bathtubs with three faucets: hot water, cold water, and Poland Spring mineral water, for those who wished to bathe in it. A firing range accommodated guests who liked to shoot. A 500-acre farm and a 125-acre kitchen garden supplied produce to the hotel. Peas alone occupied 5 acres, and the farm and garden also had 3,000 tomato plants and grew cucumbers, cabbage, beets, lettuce, Swiss chard, and radishes by the ton. A hotel dairy farm kept 100 milk cows as well as other herds. Additionally, the hotel purchased produce from Shaker farms in the vicinity. The Shakers kept Rhode Island Red hens, which supplied eggs and poultry, and they also raised 250 hogs for the hotel. At the resort itself, meanwhile, Hiram Ricker and Sons further enlarged the Mansion House and added a bathhouse. In 1912, a stone All-Souls Chapel was erected near the Maine State Building. The resort continued to prosper in the Edwardian Age in America as it had in the Victorian.
Poland Spring and its bottling facilities had experienced a parallel development. In 1862, the Rickers demolished the original log springhouse built in 1859 and replaced it with a larger frame structure. That lasted until 1876 or 1877, when it was necessary to build a special building to house the filling of barrels. This new structure measured 30 by 60 feet and was designed so that water ran directly into the barrel being filled. Soon the firm had to add a cooperage to manufacture barrels, since by 1880 it was selling 5,000 barrels of Poland Water annually. In 1882, the firm enlarged both of the buildings at the spring. In 1883 the firm opened a New York City outlet. By 1885 demand for Poland Water had so increased and technology so advanced that bottling had largely taken the place of barreling, and the firm again enlarged the barreling house and added machinery for bottling and packaging.
A major overhaul of the process for packaging Poland Water took place in 1906 and 1907 when the firm erected a new springhouse and bottling plant. The springhouse, of Spanish design, featured interior walls and columns in Italian Pavonazzo marble and mosaic floors. The company encased the original spring itself in Carrara marble and plate glass with a solid bronze grille. Silver and glass pipes carried the water from the spring into highly polished granite tanks sealed with plate glass. The springhouse featured filtered air.
Near the springhouse was a large building that contained the bottling and labeling and packaging rooms, connected by a conveyor belt. The company bottled Poland Water in bottles reminiscent of those used for champagne, featuring mainly green labels, stopped with branded corks and sealed with a paper tape. Encased in boxes, the Poland Water went into a large storehouse.
Two railroads served the vicinity of Poland Spring by that time, the Maine Central at Danville Junction and the Grand Trunk at Lewiston Junction. Carriages from the hotel met guests, generally at Danville Junction, for the 5-mile ride to the Poland Spring House, or at Lewiston Junction if they came in on the Grand Trunk from northern Vermont or New Hampshire or Canada. Drayage wagons, meanwhile, hauled the barrels and later, boxes of bottles of Poland Water from the warehouse near the spring to Danville Junction for shipment to market. The one further step of modernization was to build a branch railroad from the bottling plant to one of the railroads, but in the majority of promotional literature on the history of the Poland Spring Resort and of Poland Water, this aspect of the operation has been largely ignored. Even the date of construction remains a puzzle. It seems likely that a railroad, whose unknown length has been speculated as ranging from 3 to perhaps 7 miles, was constructed as part of the 1906-1907 modernization of the bottling, packaging, and shipping plant at Poland Spring, in which case the company must have rented or leased a locomotive from the Maine Central or some other nearby railroad. Or the firm may have built the railroad as late as 1910, when the company purchased its first locomotive.
In Maine, the Poland Spring Resort fell on hard times during the Depression. In 1938, Hiram Ricker and Sons, Inc., sold the hotel business to a consortium that included a man named George W. Lane associated with American Firearms, Daniel Needham of Boston, and the Babbitt Steam Supply Company of New Bedford. The resort struggled on. In 1962 a man named Sol Feldman of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, bought the hotels. He donated the Maine State Building and the All Souls Chapel to the Poland Preservation Society in 1976. In 1966 he leased the Poland Spring House and some of the other buildings to the federal government, which contracted with the Avco Corporation to rehabilitate them for use as a Job Corps training center. On July 4, 1975, the Poland Spring House caught fire and burned to the ground. The Mansion House was gutted by fire in 1978, and the ruins then demolished.
Poland Water continued to be a popular mineral water, especially in the eastern part of the United States, and Hiram Ricker and Sons continued to bottle and ship it. In 1973, the Perrier Company bought the spring and the bottling plant and in 1977 sold it to a son-in-law of the firm's owner, Paul de Haeue. As of 1988, the bottling plant still bottled and shipped Poland Water, which at that time ranked fifth in mineral water sales in the United States.
History from the National Park Service Website