POLAND — If you live on Earth, you’ve likely heard of Poland Spring water.

But did you know about the museum, which includes the original spring house and a restored bottling plant?

Did you know about the new children’s exhibits, the celebrity connections, the ghost stories?

If not, you might want to take a tour of the Poland Spring Bottling Museum just off Route 26.

Completed in 1907, the original spring house and bottling plant feature marble walls, steps and pillars. “No expense was spared,” Community Relations Manager Heather Printup said during a recent tour.

The plant and spring house comprise one of three museums in Poland Spring Preservation Park. The others are All Souls Chapel and the Maine State Building, which was bought from the state and moved to Poland Spring from the Chicago World’s Fair in 1894.


The bottling museum buildings were “faithfully” restored in a three-year project that began in 1998, according to the Poland Spring Preservation Society.

Last year, a children’s exhibit was added. It features a toy steam locomotive (Poland Spring’s water was shipped by rail well into the 20th century), water-monitoring equipment and an interactive stream-grading game. Another exhibit shows how precipitation penetrates a watershed. At the push of a button, pellets pour down a mountainside into the valley below.

This is the Poland Spring Source Building and Historic Bottling Museum, constructed in 1907 by Hiram Ricker and Sons Co. It was a state-of-the-art bottling plant and spring house with glass and silver piping, and even featured showers for the workers to use prior to beginning their shift. Poland Spring Bottling Museum

Children also can operate a bottle conveyor system (the bottles are plastic), a hand pump and a bottle capper.

The exhibit is a “big educational” draw for summer campers and local schoolchildren on field trips, Printup said.

It’s also a tourist destination.

During a recent visit, children from New York were touring the museum, apparently (and loudly) enjoying the new exhibits. Comments of “Cool!” and “Fun!” could be heard.


The older exhibits are chockfull of history. The original spring, with a sign proclaiming it as The Source of water that eventually became an international phenomenon, is enclosed behind a glass wall in a brick building.

The bedrock spring no longer provides water for bottling. It bubbles up 15 gallons per minute, Printup said. That would nowhere near keep up with current demand, she said.

The adjacent original bottling plant is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It once employed 25 men working in shifts around the clock. Visitors could watch the process through glass walls.

“It was a very transparent, very proud operation,” Printup said.

A conveyor system carried the bottles from the plant via a “subway” tunnel to warehouses on the property. The tunnel is now filled in.

But the marble shower room is part of the plant’s $3 million restoration. Employees were required to take hot showers before every shift and to dress in white linen lab coats and slacks.


This contributed to the company’s reputation for hygiene and purity.

Poland Water, as it was then called, earned recognition for its fresh taste at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

In 1904, it won the grand prize, “besting all of the waters of the world,” at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.

The Harley family of Newburyport, Massachusetts, exits The Source Building in mid-August, which houses the original bedrock Poland Spring spring. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“More in demand than ever, Poland Spring Natural Spring Water became the drink of choice on Pullman cars, transatlantic ships — and even zeppelins! (aka giant blimps),” according to the Preservation Society, which owns the museum.

The water was fed from the spring house to the plant through glass and silver piping, she said.

The pipes led to “highly polished granite retaining tanks, sealed under a sheet of plate glass in the Bottling House,” according to “An Illustrated History of Poland Spring, 1914.”


The walls, ceiling and floors were made of marble, tile or glass, with plate-glass windows that were always closed.

“All of the air is brought down through the large tower and forced into the room in a filtered condition,” according to the illustrated history.

“The Sanitary Inspector” reported in June 1897 that “all germs are rigidly excluded from the water, both that which is taken from the spring and that which is bottled.”

The spring itself was enclosed by granite and covered with plate glass. Every bottle and cork was sterilized before being filled.

“In these days of adulteration and hurry to get things on to the market, it is refreshing to a scientific man to observe all this pains-taking,” the inspector wrote.

By 1967, the bottling plant was closed as business waned. A new facility eventually was built at the base of Ricker Hill in the woods off Route 122.


Water is now drawn from 10 springs in various communities, including Poland, and from springs in Hollis, Fryeburg, Dallas Plantation and Kingfield. The company is now a subsidiary of BlueTriton Brands, formerly Nestle Waters North America. Nestle acquired the company in 1992 when it took over Perrier (which bought the water company in 1980) and revived the brand.


More than 200 years ago, Jabez Ricker acquired the future Poland Spring Water property in a land swap with the Shakers in 1794. He opened an inn for travelers and farmed the land.

According to a website dedicated to Poland Spring history, innkeeping began with an overnight stagecoach stop.

The Poland Spring House as shown in 1876. It eventually comprised over 350 guest rooms, a barber shop, dance and photography studios, pool room, music hall, bowling alley, dining facilities, fire sprinkler system and elevators, serving as the crown jewel of the resort grounds. Courtesy Poland Spring Preservation Society

“Guided by the Ricker family, the spot blossomed into an elaborate resort that would host European royalty, American presidents and the robber-baron industrialists and financiers of the Northeast,” according to “The Historic Poland Spring.”

Many visitors came for the clean mountain air, he wrote. Others came for the bottled water.


The salty entertainer Mae West became a spokeswoman for Poland Spring Water. A poster in the bottling museum quotes her as saying, “Is that a bottle of Poland Spring Water in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

Other photos show Babe Ruth on the golf course (the first to be built at an American resort and still open). Other visitors included Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding and William Howard Taft; musician Rudy Vallee and the Prince of Prussia, to name a few.

But legend has it that none of this would have happened if Jabez Ricker’s descendent, Hiram Ricker (born in 1809), hadn’t been curious about where his cows were going.

Hiram took over the business in 1834. He noticed the cows were going into the woods often, and one day he followed them, according to legend. He found a spring bubbling up from bedrock. He began to drink the water and found that it cured his dyspepsia (acid reflux).

He claimed that the minerals in the water had medicinal properties and began to sell it in clay jugs for 5 cents a gallon to friends and neighbors.

This was in 1845, the date you see on modern bottles of Poland Spring Water


According to the “Poland Bicentennial, 1795-1995”:

The original showers at the Poland Spring bottling plant are preserved in the museum. Workers were required to shower at the start of each shift to maintain the cleanliness standards the company set. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Water was first dipped by a two quart dipper directly from the 5-6 quart basin made in the rock. In 1827, the basin was enlarged to 30 gallons and a pail was substituted for the dipper. In 1876, a 30′ x 60′ house was built and set so the water ran directly into the barrel. In 1885, a large stone tank 4′ high x 4′ wide x 14′ long, with a large solid piece of highly polished granite for the front was built. This held 2,000 gallons.”

Commercial sales began in 1859. In 1860, a Portland doctor began to prescribe Poland Mineral Spring Water to patients.

Jackson Hall, 6, plays with the interactive bottling exhibit in mid-August at the Poland Spring Bottling Museum in Poland Spring. The museum recently added a children’s area. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In an advertisement for Poland Mineral Water, Hiram Ricker claimed many health benefits from drinking his water: “Cures Dyspepsia. Cures Liver Complaint of long standing. Cures Kidney Complaint. Cures Gravel (kidney stones). Drives out all Humors and Purifies the blood.”

He challenged people to find the proof by visiting the spring and drinking the water.

Word soon spread throughout Maine of the water’s “incredible taste,” according to the society’s website. It became available throughout the Northeast by the bottle or the barrel.


Demand continued to grow. The Ricker family built a bottling facility. It was the “largest and best-equipped” bottling plant in the nation.

But the Depression, economic downturns and other factors contributed to a slow decline of the business starting in the 1930, according to Harris. The Rickers eventually lost control of the business, with several business consortiums owning the property until the ’60s.

The aging Poland Spring House closed in 1965 and was left to deteriorate until 1972 when it was renovated by new operator Mel Robbins.

Mel and his wife, Cyndi, bought the resort from Feldman in 1982 and today Cyndi continues to own and operate the resort, with guests staying in the Presidential Inn, built by the Rickers in 1912 and then called the Riccar Inn, as well as in several more recent lodging options.

But the “grand old hotel” burned to the ground in July 1975. Smoke from the blaze of the 350-room Poland Spring House could be seen as far away as Portland, Printup said. The cause of the fire was never determined.

Let’s not blame it on the ghost of Hiram Ricker, though people claim to have seen his apparition walking the hallways of the current resort buildings. Footsteps have been heard and objects have been moved, according to Haunted Places.


Chantal Durocher measures herself in mid-August against a stream gauge, used to measure how deep water is in a stream, much to the delight of her grandchildren. The family was visiting from New York State. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

A former housekeeper wrote on the Haunted Places website in 2018 that pictures came off the walls and were left face down on the floor or on beds in empty rooms of the resort’s inns.

“Yes, it’s haunted,” she wrote.

“There was also vacant rooms that would look like someone slept in them. We would have to pick up after the ghost, lol.”

She added that some rooms felt “very, very heavy like (you) knew someone else was in them.”

Printup has heard “a lot” of ghost stories, she said.

She said contractors who were restoring the bottling plant heard whistling in the otherwise empty building. Others say they’ve seen a boy in an old-time newsboy hat sitting on the front steps.

Perhaps this is why Brian Harris wrote in “The Historic Poland Spring” that the bottling museum possesses “haunting memories of a bygone era.”

And the water is just a drop in the bucket.

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