Facilities

The Gathering Center in Stetson, Maine

The Land

The Gathering Center sits in the middle of what was a family farm property to two different families over a period of eight decades. The last family operated a 40 cow dairy farm, as well as a large agricultural crop land to supply farmers’ markets. They accomplished this with their 17 children from their one-room farmhouse beginning back in the late 1930s. They were the first community on the property.

The family had purchased the farm from the US Government who had foreclosed on the previous family during the Depression. The new owner, Ray, was able to buy not only this property but several other nearby or adjacent 100-acre parcels with $150 down — 10% of each property’s total cost.

In 1955 a huge fire consumed the dairy barn and the farmhouse, and the family moved to another property they owned to continue farming. In 1973 after suffering a serious heart attack, Ray sold his idle land parcels and we purchased his 48-acre homestead, moving onto it in June 1973.

Location and History

The Gathering CenterThe property is located on the Stetson Road, about nine miles north following State Route 143 from Exit 167 on Interstate 95. Because Stetson was a stagecoach stop on the route to Bangor in the 1800s, it had a hotel, wooden sidewalks, six saw mills, six dairy farms, a meeting house, and a population of about 1,800 residents.

The building of the railroad in Etna, six miles to the south, eliminated the stagecoach route, and the Stetson population began to decline. By 1970 the US Census counted only 395 persons in Stetson, and now forty years later the population is still under 1200 residents.

Stetson’s multiple businesses and farms prevented large agricultural land owners from scooping up smaller properties and so there is virtually no groundwater pollution from fertilizer or pesticide use.

Only after selling our contemporary waterfront home in Massachusetts, towing a very old 8-foot-wide by 33-foot-long two-bedroom trailer filled with our belongings to our new Stetson property, did we discover we had purchased and now owned this amazing property.

The purchase had been made based upon a February school vacation visit when a 30-inch-plus snow cover prevented us from walking on or seeing anything except the orchard adjacent to the main road. Our dream property was purchased sight unseen.

Moving into our trailer with no electricity, no phone and no water, a local store owner allowed us to use the outside store water faucet to daily fill our water jugs. Our remaining water needs were met from the farm pond. We first constructed our three-sided outhouse and started to build our home a quarter-mile back from and out of sight of the road.

Ray had survived his heart attack and showed up regularly attempting to convince us we should be building at the top of the hill on the road so we could push our car out in the winter and start it by rolling it down the hill. We didn’t think that was sufficient reason to see and hear noisy vehicles, and we have yet to push our car to start it.

The Gathering CenterThe Buildings

The first home we built here began as an elliptical stone house. The massive stone fireplace and two-story chimney took many months to build and that convinced us not to undertake more years of stonework on the rest of the house. Our first lesson in living more simply.

When Georgia and I combined our families and married in 1979, we needed more room for our four children to have their own space. Over the years of renovations and growing needs, this space (now known as the Manor House) houses retreat and other guests at various functions. We built an addition which has been recently renovated, giving the Manor House five bedrooms, two bathrooms, full kitchen, dining room, living room, office space, meeting space, quiet space and a library. The entire space is dedicated to housing retreat attendees.

In 1996, we built a second structure on the property after our children had finished school and moved off to create their own lives. The Garage/Apartment became our smaller home and we rented what is now the Manor House. At 800 square feet, this structure provides another available bathroom, kitchen, living/eating area, and three more bedroom options.

Leaving the apartment in 2006, we moved into the Gathering Center, which provides a 36-foot diameter central gathering space, a commercial kitchen, a dining room with a community table that seats 20+ people, three more bedrooms, three more bathrooms, outside deck, and a supportive energy field centered on the seven-foot diameter sunken fire pit in the gathering space.

part of the center in winterIn 2009, we built the Pop House, a 475 square foot portable house with a complete bathroom, bedroom, living room, dining area, guest space, and a full kitchen. We use this structure as a guest cottage, as housing for the retreat presenters, and for individual retreat space. It can be rented for use by artists, writers, or anyone wishing to escape to the country to regain their connection to nature.

We also have a modern air-conditioned 26-foot camping trailer which can sleep up to eight individuals for family/group getaways. There is also a small motor home, a Thoreau-style accommodation, available for the individual or couple to live deliberately and experience quiet country life with no connection to the noise or city amenities like electricity and running water. Simple living at the pace of nature around you.

We have had many retreats where some attendees prefer to camp in the space on the land where they choose the space for themselves.

Features

25 acres of field with mowed paths
Swim spa and farm pond
Stream path in a wooded animal sanctuary
850-square foot greenhouse
Vegetable and flower gardens
Distant southerly views of the Dixmont Hills
The Gathering Center is wheelchair accessible
Stetson campground on Pleasant Lake is 2 miles away