The Mysterious 'This Is Waterford' Sign
It’s a simple phrase; a statement of fact. This is Waterford.
Indeed, the sign which has hung, on and off again in Waterford Flats since the 19th century
conveys to the reader that you have arrived. This is Waterford.
The sign has a history. It can be seen in the foreground of a undated late 19th century picture
taken from the Lake House and featuring the Artemus Ward house. In this earliest known
incarnation, the sign features white lettering on a dark background.
Later, the sign was changed to dark green lettering on a white background and at some point the sign was hung from a large
tree just outside of Rounds’ Store, but probably on land belonging to the Artemus Ward House.
The sign was a familiar landmark to anyone who knew Waterford during the second half of the
When said tree came down, the old sign found its way into the collection at the
Waterford Historical Society, where it can be seen today.
And then in 2015, two residents, Nancy Eaton and Charlie Tarbell petitioned the Selectmen for
permission to resurrect the sign, this time on the Waterford Flats Common. After getting the nod,
and using no taxpayer funds, Charlie constructed the shadow-box sign and sixteen foot signpost,
and Nancy completed the lettering. The sign has hung on the common since.
But what of the simple phrase: This is Waterford. What does it mean? Where did it come from?
This is not a typical sign found in just any rural village. Is there a story here?
Nancy Marcotte, a longtime leader of the Waterford Historical Society adds “I have no idea how
it came to be except that I suspect it was because of the stagecoach route. Waterford was a hub
between Norway, Bridgton, Bethel, etc. People would alight from the stage at the store, the big
Waterford House hotel that used to be nearby (it burned), at Maxfields or the Lake House. I think
it functioned like a sign on a railroad depot.
David Sanderson, a South Waterford historian adds: “Mysterious, but unusual enough to be
notable and to be resurrected. For me it carries a certain flavor of Yankee culture, and perhaps
humor. It is direct, uncompromising, blunt, no attempt to persuade or advertise the place. This is
Waterford, take it or leave it, humor in a Yankee vein. It reminds us of ancient jokes ("Lived
here all your life?" "Not yet."). Or one may go back to Artemus Ward, and ask as he did ‘Why is
it thus? What is the reason for this thusness?’ Perhaps the long-dead sign maker is chuckling
quietly to himself even now....”.
Maybe we will just never really know.
- Charlie Tarbell