Once a sheep meadow known as Ram Island, the summer colony of Taconnet on Great Pond is one of the most magical getaways in the Belgrades. The small, pine-sheltered haven is home to fifteen single-family cottages, a former privy building known as University Club, and a main lodge with a dining hall and a traditional lounge with games, books, a piano, a Ping-Pong table and a fireplace. It is also guardian of the endearing traditions of a simpler lifestyle to which visitors have returned thankfully for generations.
The name Taconnet is derived from an Indian name for a 1600's village on Winslow Hill and for the region of Winslow, Waterville, and Oakland. Taconnet dates to 1882 when George F. Joyce, a schoolteacher from Massachusetts, was introduced to camping on Ram Island and adjacent Blueberry Island by his future wife, music teacher Arvilla Saunders of East New Sharon. With whole summers off and a pool of fellow teachers who were willing to pay for the experience, the campground soon expanded into a permanent summer establishment with several log and frame cabins, a dining room, and a lounge-library. In 1899 Joyce purchased the property from his father-in-law for $500.
For years, there was no electricity, no running water, and no phones. Ice was harvested from the lake and stored an icehouse. Communal outhouses were used. These features all set the pace for a close-to-nature lifestyle of fishing, swimming, sunsets, loons, excellent food, and friendship. Transportation to and from the Rome mainland was by a raft-like, hand-cranked ferry, which is the island's trademark identifier to many frequenters of the lake for whom Taconnet is otherwise a mystery.
Open only eight weeks in July and August, Taconnet has been owned since the 1970's by an association of twelve cabin owners, who set the rules of the resort and adhere to them. (Blueberry and tiny Huckleberry Island remain in the Joyce family.)
Although the cottages on the shores of the island have all been improved over the years, each retains its own irreplaceable character. They now have bathrooms, dating to the 1970s. Each cabin has a kitchen; however, cooking is hardly a consideration since Don and Mary Beane believe that food should be an experience, and they prove it daily with extraordinary gourmet meals.
The daily schedule is simple. Wake-up is 7:30 a.m., breakfast buffet 8-9:00 a.m., sit-down lunch 12:30 p.m., and dinner 6:00 p.m. Guests are summoned to meals by a clacker - reminiscent of a super-sized New Year's Eve noisemaker - operated by an agile employee who runs the circuit of the island, often followed Pied Piper style by a group of excited young campers.
Days are devoted to swimming, fishing, enjoying the sunsets, the loons, the peacefulness, and the friendships. For some guests the goal is not to leave the island all week. For others, local outings such as roller skating at Sunbeam Roller Rink in Smithfield are on the agenda.
If anything has changed in recent years, it is the focus on organized activities for children. There are crafts and games each morning, and the staff, a crew of wholesome, enthusiastic college-age students, can be independently hired for childcare when they're off duty.
Adults, too, have organized recreation. A favorite is round-robin tennis on the island's three courts.
Mostly, however, life at Taconnet remains what it always was: simpler, more peaceful, closer to nature, and more fulfilling than wherever those who visit Taconnet live.
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