Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Good Life Center- Harborside, Maine

Thursday June 16th – We left Boothbay Harbor and headed a few hours north on the Maine coast to Acadia National Park. We were planning to stay at Acadia for 6 nights. While we were in this area, we were looking forward to visiting the The Good Life Center in Harborside, Maine, where Helen and Scott Nearing had their last hand built, stone home.


The Nearings are credited with being the pioneers of the ‘back to the farm’ movement. Scott Nearing was an economics and political science professor when he met Helen, a gifted violinist who had strong liberal leanings, and had even spent several years traveling in India  as a disciple of the young spiritualist, Krishnamurti.

Scott and Helen shared somewhat controversial, socialistic political views, however, it was Scott’s support of the Child Labor Laws which got him blacklisted from teaching.  In the early 1930’s, in the grip of the depression, Helen and Scott moved from New York City to Vermont, feeling that they would rather live in the country than starve in the city. Twenty years later, they  moved to Harborside, Maine, having become disenchanted with the development around them in Vermont.

Helen and Scott preached simplicity and self sufficiency, along with organic farming principles, and wrote books, held workshops and took on ‘apprentices’ to help spread the word.They began to attract a following of like-minded people, that had grown quite large by the 1960’s, and continued until their deaths- Scott in 1983 at the age of 100 years, and Helen in 1995, at 91 years.The Good Life Center continues to promote their principals of self-sufficiency and environmental responsibility, and to work for social justice.

I had read several of the Nearings books – “How to Live The Good Life”, “Loving and Leaving The Good  Life’ (about their later years and Scott’s death), and even a non-cook book that Helen had written about their vegetarian, mostly raw diet.I have been inspired by their work, and admired their intelligent presentation of their ideals. I liked Scott’s organized and methodical approach to life and work, and I found Helen very interesting and broad in her thinking and experience. Visiting their home was a highlight of this trip.



The first building that greets you is the stone garage and tool shed. All of the stone buildings  and structures were built by Helen and Scott, using only hand tools.

Helen and Scott had built a number of stone buildings, by hand, including their first home in Vermont, when Helen decided that they should move from their larger farm house in Harborside, and build and build just one more stone home. Helen was 70 years old at the time, and Scott was 90.


The house is a smaller version of their Vermont house – a Swiss chalet style.


This is the front of the house which faces the water.


The kitchen - the wooden bowl rack is pictured in their books. Helen and Scott ate out of wooden bowls and used hand carved wooden spoons.


The dining room table, and Scott’s study…..


Their book collection……..I LOVE this!


This is the view from their living room/dining room….


And outside – the orchard and green house and garden.


The Garden is surrounded by a stone wall….


What was most exciting…….Warren who gave us the tour of the house and property had known the Nearings very well. His wife, who  was mentioned in several books, had lived with the Nearings and had helped take care of Scott during his final declining year. Both Warren and his wife had worked alongside Helen and Scott in the garden, and Warren continues to keep the garden planted and growing, using the principles he learned.


This is a stone walled green house that the Nearings had designed and built.


This yurt was built on the property to use for workshops and meetings….and Helen used it for her meditation.

Helen and Scott serve, not only, as a wonderful example of living one’s ideals, but of living and working……. and loving together.



  1. I enjoyed this post and learning about the Nearings. If I was much younger, I could embrace their life style for a few months...I think. Loved their library, house and all your photos, some made more perfect by the lupines.
    Is this Center open to the public?

  2. Thanks for the photos. I re-read one of their books last week to become familiar again with their process of building the stone houses. I was hoping you would get pictures! Mom

  3. I liked seeing the photos of the Nearing's house. Loved the books in the shelves to; they knew how to live, the simpler the better.