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The Summer Me

October 15, 2011

On the heels of finishing the ‘in-home’ phase of our current kitchen renovation and with Labor Day approaching - we headed down the coast for one last summer adventure. Old friends from my days at Syracuse University had invited us for a visit. They were vacationing with their new baby boy down a ‘finger’ from Wiscasset, in an oceanfront cottage, on Indian Point in Georgetown.  We had been roommates in Syracuse in a charming little 1920s house - just off Thornden Park. My cozy upstairs bedroom had been occupied previously by another friend of theirs, Erika.

Erika and I never actually met - I was away studying in London. When I returned from my backpacking adventure through Europe, she had already moved out, embarking on her own adventure, studying in Florence. I took advantage of the vacancy and moved right in. That is when I first began to hear stories of this elusive, “summer me.”

After graduating from Syracuse, I spent several years on the west coast eventually returning to New York where I met my future hubby. A honeymoon excursion inspired a move to Maine.

Erika was born and bred in Maine where her family has prospered for generations. By this time she had returned to her native roots opening up a Main Street shop  - Rock, Paper, Scissors - in Wiscasset. For the past ten years, most every time we traveled down the coast, we would try and finally meet that other raven haired roommate. As luck and timing would have it the shop was either closed or she had the day off. I started to wonder if this meeting was ever going to happen.

So arrives the day of our trip down south. After a few hours driving on coastal Route 1, we took a turn at the Dairy Queen between Wiscasset and the port of Bath (stopping briefly for a cone) and headed towards water - to Georgetown.

Georgetown is an island just across the Kennebec River from the historic Bath Iron Works, a major American shipyard that has built battleships and destroyers for over 125 years. Called Erascohegan [good spear-fishing] by the local Abenaki, Georgetown remains a fishing community today. Real estate prices have gone up considerably since those early days; a fisherman from Bedfordshire, England, John Parker, first purchased the island in 1649 from Chief Mowhotiwormet, commonly known as Chief Robinhood, for a hogshead of rum and some pumpkins.

We crossed a series of bridges - following directions supplied by our friends that took us past the quaint village of Georgetown - down narrow winding roads - through woods that felt like a national park with glimpses of marshes, Robinhood Cove and beautifully restored antique homes along the way. Finally, our destination - an exquisite log cottage perched on a granite bluff facing majestic views of the Atlantic.This was just the experience that our weary minds and bodies needed.

We were not braced for what we were about to step into as our friends (and a rusty wrought iron moose knocker) greeted us at the large red board and split log batten door. A gorgeous log cottage filled with generations of family history - a time capsule from a golden age. Pure 100% rusticator charm - quintessential coastal Maine. We would soon learn we were in Erika's family cottage.

‘Moosewood’ was built in 1930 by her great-grandmother, Annie C. Sturgis. As the story goes, Annie’s husband, who died in the late 1920s, had invested well in the stock market. After his passing, Annie, who herself distrusted Wall Street, chose to liquefy her husband’s investments converting them to cash. Little did she realize she was avoiding disaster til shortly thereafter the stock market crashed. Exploiting her advantage with an act of benevolence, she put many unemployed local carpenters affected by the hard times to work. Her good spirit was rewarded with a much grander summer cottage than she ever expected.

Inside we were greeted by a soaring cathedral ceiling and views of the ocean. Everything was made of wide pine boards or round hand peeled logs blessed with a patina that can only come after 80 years of occupation. We learned later that all of the materials were native cut. A ‘stick’ railed staircase leads to a long balcony hallway and bedrooms upstairs. Handsome bedroom doors were constructed with two wide pine boards joined in the center with a whimsical stick 'tree.'  A fieldstone chimney extends two floors to the roof, anchored at its base with a split quartz fireplace. A painting of Annie rests prominently on the concrete and quartz mantle. With her expression she seems to suggest - we mind our P’s and Q’s.

Throughout are items that must have been accumulated during a lifetime of cottage living. As I looked out through ample windows to the vast Atlantic, my eyes caught ‘Abraham’ looming overhead and gazing knowingly back. Abraham the moose (and the cottage namesake) was shot at Moosehead Lake in the late 1800s by Ira Sturgis. Other family  prizes - a handsome deer head over the stairs and a fine speckled trout over the mantle. Some of the objects appear to have been collected from travels - others made by ‘locals’ (indigenous people, fishermen and the like). Wicker furniture (some made of snowshoes), comfortable couches and ample antiques adorn the rooms. My favorite family treasure was a wall marked with the names and heights of generations of growing children (with a note to renters to please not add theirs).

All around the ‘camp’ sensitive paintings by Annie or her daughter, Margaret hang on most every wall. We slept that night in the ‘Circus Room’ decorated with oils of a myriad of scenes that could have been from ‘Barnum & Bailey.’ An antique hutch at the bottom of the stairs houses a vast collection of shells, starfish, urchins and a seagull head. One might suppose they were gathered from many memorable afternoons of beachcombing. A large festive tapestry of deer prancing through the woods crafted by Annie in 1970s, hangs on the north wall. I took photos of  various ‘still lifes’ that caught my attention throughout the cottage; vintage vases on a window sill, a rock collection in a silver bowl and a large handful of delicate sea shells strewn on a child’s chalkboard.  One could spend a week there and still be discovering something of interest in most any corner.

Most of our visiting was done in the cozy, ocean view, porch addition. At one time open to the elements and now encased in glass - it is good place to catch up with old friends. We soaked in the sun and surf, as well as views of Sheepscot Bay, Indian Point and lobster boats. In the far distance diligently stand, the Cuckolds and Seguin Island lighthouses.

That afternoon we made a quick descent, down the rock ledge to the sandy beach below - quite a contrast from the usually rocky Maine coast. I could see why my friends are now themselves the proud new owners of a sweet little red shingle cottage “down the Loop” at the mouth of the Little River (with its equally sandy beach), on the edge of Reid State Park.

Before leaving Georgetown we headed for lunch on the dock in the nearby fishing village of Five Islands. Though lobster was the main attraction we settled on the fish and chips. It was a gorgeous day with great views of what else?  - five islands surrounding a harbor of lobster boats.

It was hard to leave our friends and the experience, but our kitchen project was calling. We stayed longer than expected that day and had to hit the road. As we were packing up to go a white Subaru wagon rumbled down the cottage driveway that glittered with a roadbed of mica. It was the end of an era. After two decades, many missed opportunities and a wonderful introduction to her family, I would finally meet the summer me.

 

For more photos of the cottage click here

(click photo to view larger image)

(comments = 2)

 
cecilia beau
February 10, 2012

I am wondering if I am related to Anne Sturgis husband.......The known link is Henry Sturgis Drinker, google portrait of him by Cecilia Beau, 1st female teacher @ the Pa. Academy of Fine Arts Certainly the family lifestyle ambience is very familiar.

 
robbi lindeman
November 12, 2011

I only recently discovered you through {frolic!} and Maine through all the maps and nautical charts I've been pouring over.
You are doing lovely work and I appreciate your research into the history behind it all. You tell a great story.
Seeing the beauty of Maine through all your photos ensures that I'll have to visit someday soon.

 

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