Down to the sea

The American Boathouse, at the head of Camden’s harbor

Posted:  Monday, February 26, 2018 - 10:45pm
Share: 

Most everyone in this vicinity is familiar with the large wooden building, on Atlantic Avenue in Camden, just beyond the steps that go down into Harbor Park. It is a unique structure, because it is one of the oldest saltwater boathouses in this country.

It is located at the head of Camden's harbor. It, and the three red sheds just beyond, were long time landmarks. Two of the shed were removed about 50 years ago by Wayfarer Marine Company, Inc., because they were disintegrating beyond repair. One was repaired and kept by the shipyard, but recently removed because it also was falling apart.

The American Boathouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 19, 1982.

The NRHP records say: ”It is a long rectangular wood frame structure, with a large entrance bay at the harbor end, and a hip-roofed square structure at the street end, which housed an office. The boat entrance bay is fitted with a large door, and the building sides are lined with sash windows. It is topped by a gabled roof and clad in wooden shingles. The office structure has a street-facing doorway, with a sash window to the right.”

The building was constructed in 1904 by Chauncey B. Borland for his 130 foot steam powered yacht, Maunaloa (Spelled by the NRHP). He later had two other yachts,with the same name. In J. R. Prescott's book, Glimpses of Camden, printed in 1916, Borland's yacht was spelled Monoloa. I had the pleasure of being in the building in 1983, when writing the book Grog Ho! (The History of Wooden Shipbuilding in Camden, Maine.)

It was being used by William B. Cannell Boatbuilding Co., Inc. He had a crew of six and office staff of two. The office was delightful, as they kept the capstan and its circular walkway, that was formerly used to haul boats up from the harbor by oxen. The capstan had glass on top, thus making it a table, and the walkway was painted red, blending in with the rest of the office floor.

The original owner, Chauncey B. Borland was born November 26, 1878 in Chicago, Illinois.

He was one of two sons born to John J. Borland and his second wife, Harriet Olivia Blair.

Chauncey was employed as an executive in the real estate industry for the majority of his work career. He graduated from Harvard College in 1901 with his A.B., and also attended Harvard Law School. He started out with a brokerage firm, transferring a year later to the trust department at the Northern Trust Company.

His maternal grandfather was Chauncey B. Blair, a prominent banker and pioneer in Chicago, Illinois.

Mr. Borland was united in marriage on June 23, 1904 in Chicago to Belle McCullough. They were blessed with the birth of three daughters, during their 68-year marriage: Harriet Borland, Beatrice Borland Plimpton and Martha Borland Willis.

Chauncey B. Borland was generous to Camden, and one of the four people who made the Village Green possible. He was the first Commodore of the Camden Yacht Club, after Cyrus Curtis generously gave it to the inhabitants of Camden.  

Mr. Borland passed away at the age of 93, on October 17, 1972 in Chicago, Illinois, and was buried at the Graceland Cemetery there.

The American Boathouse was in the local news quite a bit in the past couple of years. John and Cynthia Reed had bought it, when it really was crying for help. It would not have lasted very long vacant in its old age. We residents are so glad the Reeds wanted to repair it and use it, after going through changes in zoning, etc. We are fortunate that the American Boathouse has been saved.