“Many things occur to people when they see H.O.M.E. When you see that complex on Route One, it's large and impressive. But you need to remember that it was built by people who had no professional credentials, who were often too young, or too old, or too unskilled. Many people studying it have said that to run it you need professionals. A famous management consultant studied us once for several days and, at the end, he said his experience proved we couldn't exist--that if the government or a philanthropy ran H.O.M.E. it would cost millions of dollars.
"But H.O.M.E. hasn't grown that way. It has
grown out of needs that people have had and that other people have seen and
said, ‘Let's do something about it.’ …
That seems to have worked, and that seems to be what we ought to do: respond to people.”
— Lucy Poulin, H.O.M.E.'s founder
Reprinted from THIS TIME, the H.O.M.E. newsletter, 1988
H.O.M.E. started as a crafters' cooperative in 1970. Since then it has expanded in many directions to address the unmet needs of low-income rural Mainers, but, nearly forty years later, the craft store and the craft workshops remain as perhaps the most visible public face of H.O.M.E.
At the blinking yellow light atop a hill on Route One, a few miles east of Bucksport, two signs draw the attention of passing tourists and other motorists en route to Bar Harbor and other points in the "Downeast" region of coastal
Today H.O.M.E. has artisans in residence who work in various media: pottery, stained glass, leathercraft, woodworking, weaving, and fabric. Their goods are sold in the H.O.M.E. craftstore along with a wide variety of items made by other
Begin at the Beginning
In 1970, there were still a number of federal programs in place to help low-income people. These programs had been initiated in President Lyndon Johnson's administration (1963-1968) as part of his "War on Poverty," and the "Great Society". The Office of Economic Opportunity had created a vast bureaucracy which ate up tax dollars in staffing and administration costs with few real dollars left over to deliver the promised jobs, training, education and community programs.
Many Mainers, in the independent Yankee tradition, preferred to live from the work of their own hands, and many of these were women working out of their homes, stitching for the shoe manufacturers. This saved the shoe companies money, since they were not required to pay the homeworkers benefits, and it also allowed the women to save on transportation and childcare costs. Among those employed as homeworkers by the shoe industry were also the Carmelite sisters in a small hermitage then located in Orland, including Sister Lucy Poulin.
But the lack of protective tariffs
hurt the shoe industry greatly. To cut
costs, the first workers let go were the homeworkers. So they were desperate
for a means to replace their lost income.
“I remember answering the doorbell… and a
woman coming in and asking me if I could help her sell her quilts. Her name was Mrs. Arsenault… Out of Mrs.
Arsenault’s question about selling quilts we arranged a meeting at the
"After the meeting we got a little farm on
Route One – first we rented it, then, eventually, we bought it. It was the old Dorr Farm. The Dorrs were an
"It was a success from the start and as we
sold crafts, more people brought more crafts to sell. At that time, in 1970, there weren’t many
outlets for Maine-made crafts using the old skills, the cottage industries that
had been handed down from mother to daughter, from father to son. So when H.O.M.E. first began, it was one of
the first attempts to help people earn their living in their homes doing crafts
that had been a part of their family history.”
— Lucy Poulin, interviewed in IF WINTER COMES... H.O.M.E. COOKING by Pat Smith,
St. Francis Press, East Orland, ME, 1987
|Mr. and Mrs. Merrill Ames, the first
proprietors of the H.O.M.E. craft store
in the Dorr House, were known
to the community as
"Captain Ames" and "Mother Ames."
|The original Dorr House with an addition.
The small "barn" under construction in 1972
now houses the leather shop
and the stained glass shop.
Closeup of barn construction
|Youth group stands in front of the
southwest corner of the Dorr House,
now the Men's Shelter
The photos above are reprinted from the first two issues of the H.O.M.E. newsletter,
then called THE H.O.M.E. CO-OP NEWS (1972.)