BDN photo by Gabor Degre
Having spent a substantial part of my life in Hancock County, I think I know it fairly well. But I was surprised recently to see this blog post from real estate website Movoto, which declared that a zip code in Hancock County has the third-highest per capita income in the entire country.
I’ve known for several years that Harborside, a remote oceanfront village in the town of Brooksville, is a distinctive place. It is where “back to the land” pioneers Helen and Scott Nearing established their farm, now known as The Good Life Center (pictured above), in 1952 and where others emulate the Nearings’ vision of organic farming and low-impact living. Like many small coastal villages in Maine, sprinkled among the population are seasonal residents and others “from away” who are comfortable in their finances.
But I have never heard that Harborside has big-money, MDI-style mega-millionaires hiding behind the pea brush. Third-richest in the country? Ahead of certain zip codes in New York? Beverly Hills? Better heeled than wealthy neighborhoods or suburbs of Boston and Philadelphia? Uh, okay.
This warranted further investigation, even if only little. I did a quick scan through the list of property taxpayers in Brooksville, but found nothing extraordinary.
I then Googled “per capita zip codes” and found several similar lists – for highest-income places, zip code tabulation areas (kinda like a plain old zip code), highest-income zip codes based on dated census data, and even an animated YouTube video with zooming graphics and a funky-lite soundtrack.
Some of the lists are from different years, the age of others aren’t so clear, and many have towns and zip codes that show up repeatedly on similar lists of wealthy neighborhoods or otherwise rarefied locales (the favorite that I stumbled upon is The 10 Best Cities for Coffee Snobs).
Most of the lists I found made no reference to Maine at all. One longer list includes the village of Pemaquid in the Lincoln County town of Bristol and another long one includes Cape Elizabeth, but none made any other mention of Harborside. Fortunately, Maine makes no appearances on lists I found of the lowest-income locations in the country.
So, take from it what you will. I won’t say Movoto got its calculations wrong but, if you really want a whiff of the well-off, you might have better luck taking a summer stroll down Main Street in Northeast Harbor than driving down the remote country roads of Brooksville.