"To promote the knowledge and appreciation of trees and other plants from around the world as well as plants and animals native to the State of Maine. Our preserve land, interpretive materials, exhibits, programs & events, and our trail system are designed for people of all ages to provide opportunities for education, recreation, and inspiration."
The Arboretum is a private non profit corporation. Funding for the Arboretum is derived from membership fees, donations and gifts as well as foundation support. We rely on memberships as a significant source of our operating budget. Members receive our full color newsletter complete with interesting articles, news, and upcoming events. A 10% discount on gift shop items and event admissions is also extended and there are several members' only special events throughout the year. Membership envelopes are available at the Visitors Center and at trail kiosks throughout the preserve. You may also download a membership form from our publications and other documents web page.
The Arboretum is currently composed of 224 acres of land with a long history of farming use. In the early 1800s, this area was owned by several neighboring farms.
From 1835 to 1905, the State Hospital (now Riverview Psychiatric Center) purchased and consolidated these farms. For more than a century, the hospital farm provided crops and livestock as well as occupational therapy and exercise for hospital patients .During the 1890s as part of the belief in "moral treatment" of psychiatric patients, it was considered desirable for patients to benefit from being outdoors and involved in farming activities. The thinking being that this led to a cure and good health.
The history of the old State Hospital Farm can be seen throughout the 224 acres which now make up the Viles Arboretum. At the top of the Hosta Collection trail, you can see the valve station used for controlling water flow from the earthen cistern (now the pavilion) to the hospital below. The granite quarry just beyond the Rock Garden is one of the areas where granite was cut from a quarry deposit and used for various projects including foundations. A network of ponds, canals and other earthen structures can also be observed at various locations on the Arboretum property.
The historic reports to the Maine State Legislature are quite interesting to read. These annual reports track the rise and fall of this amazing undertaking and they are quite entertaining. One can easily read the politics of the times in these reports as the writers attempt to put a rosy picture on things in terms of results and income.
One of the most important uses of the land that is now the grounds of the Arboretum was the to provide a dependable water supply for the hospital. The lack of an adequate water supply for the large number of hospital patients and employees was a perennial problem for more than 50 years.
In 1843, the hospital purchased a spring of water, obtained rights of way from neighbors, and constructed an aqueduct of about a mile of 1-1/2 inch lead pipe.
The vernal pool south of the present Apple Orchard seems to have been the location of this first spring, which later became known as the East Fountain. Continuing problems prompted the farm to remove the pipe and relocate the aqueduct trench to a better descending grade in 1852.
Additional efforts included the installation of a three-inch iron pipe in 1856 to improve the flow of water. Finally, in 1876, when the water supply continued to prove inadequate, a new waterworks system was built.
The new waterworks consisted of an impounding reservoir (near the Piggery Road) and the "Granite Hill Reservoir" (now the Outdoor Education Center). The impounding reservoir received water from several living springs and drainage from nearly a hundred acres. A steam operated pump lifted the water up to the Cistern, a 100-foot-square reservoir lined with clay and bricks.
The Piggery was a large three-story barn. For a number of years, the sale of Piggery-raised pure bred pigs across the state was a lucrative source of income for the farm. The Piggery burned down and was immediately rebuilt in 1904. After it burned again in 1944, the raising of pigs was discontinued.
A slaughterhouse and rendering plant were located near the Piggery and there were several other barns and sheds used for various purposes. Also near the Piggery was a small granite quarry where a stone crusher was installed. The crusher provided materials for building roads, walks, driveways, floors, and foundations for the institution. In later years, the quarry was used as a dump and was eventually filled in.
The water from the Cistern was used to supply the hospital, while water from the East Fountain continued to be used for drinking and cooking. Water gathered in the Cistern was gravity-fed to the hospital buildings on the west side of Hospital Street. The Hosta Trail now follows the route of the pipe that carried the water.
In the late 1800s, the trustees of the hospital boasted of having the best waterworks of any similar institution in the country, but droughts were still a problem. In 1880, a third reservoir was built by damming the ravine between the other two, creating what is now Viles Pond. Water also was occasionally taken from the Kennebec River when other supplies ran low.
In 1886, ten years after the waterworks incorporating the Cistern was built, the Augusta Water Company contracted to supply water for the hospital. The hospital used city water in addition to water from the 1876 waterworks until 1915, when the Cistern was drained.
The farm land on the east side of Hospital Street continued to be used by the hospital for dairy, pigs, poultry, and produce until 1972 .
In 1981, the Maine Forest Service began development of the Arboretum. Trees were planted, fences built, and trails were established. In 1982, an independent non-profit corporation was formed and in 1990 the Visitors Center was built. During these early years, Elsie &William Viles, philanthropists from Augusta, Maine organized a group of friends and interested individuals to lead the way forward. Elsie and William also provided significant financial support to move this “project” forward. Originally called the Pine Tree State Arboretum, the name was changed in 2010 to honor William Payson Viles (1986) and Elsie Pike Viles (2013).
President- Sammee Quong
Treasurer- Jen Smith
Secretary- Hillary Schultz