...to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free....

18 June, 2011

bob and brenda's back yard

On the banks of the Kennebec River is the magic town of Hallowell.

(...and I mean "on the banks" quite literally--
there is a building on Water Street that bears markings 
showing how high the river has risen into the downtown
in various flood seasons)

It's a "one-street main street" kind of town 
and I love it for its brick buildings, funky antique stores, 
great low key restaurants, good music,
 and a memorable collection of colorful characters.

When I go to Hallowell, it is often to eat at Slate's,
which is a restaurant that serves amazing food in an atmosphere
of interesting art, musical performers and a collection
of wait staff that is equal parts endearing and funky.
On any given day, you can find legislators, common folks,
tourists and regulars eating there-- 
food lovers every one.

(Slate's burned down a few years ago, at which time
there was a collective gasp of despair 
in a large part of Maine.
It has since risen from the ashes, retaining all its wonderfulness--
instead of being "improved",  if you know what I mean.) 

But I am not even here to talk about Slate's today.
I'm here to show you a business across the street
that has been there for  23 years or so,
thriving without any advertising besides word of mouth 
and its seductive sidewalk charm.

This is Brass & friends Antiques.
Both storefronts are part of this business 
which specializes in antique lighting fixtures.
When a customer chooses one of the fixtures, the owners
restore it to its original glory
before it leaves the store.
(The ceramic wall sconces in our old farmhouse bathroom
came from there--perfect for the period
and impossible to find anywhere else.)

Before we go inside, let's look at only a few
of the critters that keep watch from the building's roof line.

I think they help set the tone, as do the stone Buddhas
you might have noticed
on the ledge over the main door.

Now, through that door:

Two huge rooms of lighting fixtures of all kinds are 
what you encounter when you come inside.
Hanging from the ceiling, attached to the walls,
also floor lamps and table lamps ...
an enchanting jumble of wonderful things. 

And not just fixtures, either.  Surprises at every glance.

In keeping with the funk, here is a representative
ensemble on one of the tables.
Old mortise and tenon remnants amidst the cut glass.

The owner Bob, and his associate Brenda
keep this treasure trove alive and well.
(Though with a very low profile--you have to hunt for them
if you want to purchase anything or ask a question.
After looking for several minutes last week,
talking out loud all the time about wanting to find someone,
I spied Brenda behind some stuff by the door
silently sitting on an easy chair reading the newspaper.) 

For me, however, the real attraction is out back.

An aside for the moment (as if there haven't already been several)
Some of you might remember the photo
below from my post "Hong Kong Central" last month.

I made oblique reference to where we are now in that Hong Kong post,
and promised to take you there one day.

That's where we are going now--to the back of this business
on a little dirt road just a stone's throw from the river.

A balcony.

And a garden trellis.

And a frieze.  

The "time out of mind" area.

Last week I tried to engage Brenda in an explanation
of how their back yard came to be.
She wasn't having any of it, responding in the 
stereotypical "you can't get there from here"
Maine laconics.

So it is all up to your imagination, 
which is probably the way it should be.  

Know the expression "junk yard dog"?

This being Hallowell, meet one of three kitties that patrol the premises.
As you can see, fierce as fierce can be....

Enough talk.  Enjoy!

(note:  I never saw more unbroken glass chimneys for oil lamps
on the ground, despite the yearly
rise and fall of the river, and the tons of snow
that come and go winter to winter.
At my house, they break just looking at them.)

Kitty says "drop by if you are in town.
(If you aren't too scared of me!)"


p.s.  Martha Stewart did a blog post of this store a few years ago.  
Martha didn't get to the back yard, 
as far as I can see.  
Or maybe she did.  Guess it isn't a M.S. kind of show.

I hope you liked it!


  1. Oh I sure did!
    What a unique and full-of-character place!
    That "trellis" is what is stuck in my head. It's amazing to me how folks come up with their "creative" ideas!
    Very informative post....It's truly a "must-see"

  2. love these kinds of places! too funny that brenda is 'the shy type'. :) i too like the tonka truck trellis!

  3. I loved it! I have friends who live in Pie Town, NM who have decorated their fenceline with old toasters. Everyone in town for miles around knows where to bring their old toaster . . . I find it unique. And fun.

  4. What a great place to shop or just browse. Thanks for a great tour. Sure would like to be able to actually shop there.

  5. Mike, great post, great photos, and what a great place to loose yourself for the afternoon!

  6. I've never seen anything like that!! If I'm ever in that area again, I'll be sure to check out that "back yard".
    My favorite part: the kitty!

  7. What a treasure trove. That first photo of the interior made me feel as if I was walking into Aladdin's cave! The gargoyles on the top remind me of the ones that sit on the top of Notre Dame - in fact one of them looks like a replica. What a rich post, thank you.

  8. MY imagination is running wild, Mike, and I'm ready to pack my bags and head for Hallowell, Brass and Friends, and Slate. Oh, I'm hungry for it all. All that brass and whimsy!

  9. Sounds like a perfect day trip for us, man that place is so cool looking! ~Lili