Date of Award


Project Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Lucy Salyer


This cultural history examines the interplay between antimodernity and modernity that transformed a country inn located in Poland Spring, Maine, into a world-renowned "summer city" during the late nineteenth century. Part exclusive club, colonial homestead, social mecca, therapeutic spa, pastoral farm, natural Eden, recreational playground, and cultured city, the site combined the nostalgia and natural beauty associated with traditional rural society and the affluence and amenities expected of contemporary urban society. The "city of vivid contrasts" created at Poland Spring typified the power of Gilded-Age culture to pave the way for the transition to modernity by appealing to the ameliorative influence of antimodernity.

By focusing on the interconnectedness of these two world views, this study offers a synthesis of Gilded-Age culture. It demonstrates how the colonial revival, arts and crafts, social purity, country life, back-to-nature, strenuous life, and city beautiful movements, as well as transportation, leisure, and consumer revolutions, interacted to shape the human, built, and natural environments at Poland Spring. In addition, viewing the resort landscape as the product of a complex environmental vision links it to other popular middle landscapes of the era such as rural cemeteries, urban parks, and garden suburbs. Ultimately, however, the significance of this work lies in the evidence it provides that the resort reconciled visitors to the changes wrought by industrialization and urbanization during the late nineteenth century by creating an idealized environment that affirmed their social status, legitimated their desire for leisure, satiated their need to consume, and revitalized their faith in progress.