House as Old Friend



So the third entity in this mix is this 100 year old fishing cottage. Now to say “fishing cottage” brings up images of quaintness and  small, one room cozy little abodes. This fishing cottage was originally about 1800 square feet over two floors. The second floor had a bathroom and a hall lined with numbered doors, ostensibly so the besotted fishermen could easily find their rooms . My ancestors renovated somewhat, taking down a wall, putting in a shower, adding a master bedroom to the first floor. Now with the chance to use the attic as living space we’re up to 2800 square feet. Not bad for a “cottage”.

maine summer 09_2173The house sits directly on the lakefront, on piers, with no insulation, tube and post wiring (no ground), beautifully imperfect windows, and a boulder coming through the master bedroom. maine summer 09_2168Nothing is level, much less square. It keeps the dogs occupied when they drop a ball and it inevitably rolls away. We have two systems for water, well water for drinking (one faucet only in kitchen) and lake water for everything else. I won’t bother with the septic configurations but like everything else, it has been cobbled together over the years by a few professionals but mostly well meaning homeowners intent on patching things together for another season. Not a lot of long range thinking…but it was a summer house. Before I was the Maine (get it?) custodian my jobs consisted mostly of cleaning the gutters and painting. maine summer 09_2214Over hours on a ladder or wobbly scaffold, I learned to think of paint as glue, another coat to bond and protect for a year or so. I’m not necessarily afraid of heights but logic and your survival instinct create almost numbing fear when standing on the top rung (an OSHA no-no) of an old wooden ladder, on the porch roof. The 15 foot drop to the roof would knock the wind out of me at least, sprain if not break something, then a quick roll off to the seawall and a concussion, finally into the lake to drown. I moved very slowly and deliberately, no second coat.



There is also a two room guest house which we will be living in this summer while building the main house. A log cabin structure, built by my father in the early 50’s I think, the guest house has a bathroom and kitchenette. My father was a restauranteur in Washington D.C. and bought the property from his uncle for $3,000 over the course of ten years starting in 1939.DSC_0016.NEF

The stone fireplace was something he loved (he was a cook after all). The tent in the background stands where the guesthouse was built. The woman in the picture will eventually be his wife and my mother although at the time I think she was an unchaperoned guest of the female persuasion. Unheard of in the early 50’s.

Rounding out the compound is a boat house, woodshed, out house and pump house. All important and inviolable since the town will not allow any increase in impermeable land due to the closeness of the lake and environmental concerns. (We’ll need permission from the state DEP to demolish the main house.) DSC_0057The boathouse will become a woodshed/ work room and the woodshed rotated to become a garage. Woodshed will be heated with our old wood stove.

The property has about 212′ of lakefront, extending back 134′ to the train tracks. So if those oil tankers jump the tracks its adios muchacho.

I will be photographing the transitions, maybe some time-lapse if I can figure out the goPro. Having learned a lot from my Habitat for Humanity friends here in Orlando, the biggest thrill will be that I can help build the house although if I have to calculate rafters or valleys I’ll be in serious trouble. DSC_0017.NEF



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