When Nathaniel Bernier saw realtor Jack Kelly putting up a For Sale sign in front of the house at 251 Main Street last spring, he immediately called his mother. Without hesitation, Jane Bernier said, “Tell him I want it.” The sign came down that day.
Lincolnville Center observers have been watching that house, vacant for many years, slowly deteriorate, as paint peeled, trim boards broke loose, and clapboards sagged. A classic haunted house, the Boo Radley place to some, calling up the mysterious character from To Kill a Mockingbird.
But despite its decrepit exterior, it still had a commanding profile, steep roof bordered with decorative gingerbread and impressive doorways. It had good lines, and as Jane says “that’s what we were looking for.” The roofline was straight, the foundation basically sound; it was a good house waiting for a savior; Jane and Jerry Bernier fill that bill.
The couple have been restoring old houses for decades, starting in Atkinson, then in Winterport, Cleveland Heights, Belfast, Appleton, and finally Lincolnville, making a home for themselves or keeping them as rental properties. They’ve had their eyes on the Main Street place for a long time, and it came on the market at just the right moment.
Jane, who had recently retired from her Belfast dental practice, was looking for a new project; it was also time to think about downsizing from their Ducktrap Road farm where the couple raised sheep, Dexter cows, chickens, and a flock of geese. A house in downtown Lincolnville Center will be the perfect next step, within walking distance of the General Store and Library.
“Do they have any idea what they’re getting into?” some wondered.
While there have been a couple of surprises along the way, the project has proceeded pretty much as they expected. They’ve approached it methodically. Finding the right people to do the work was paramount, and they turned to Val Desjardins, of Swanville, a veteran at this sort of restoration, a man who’d done work for them before, to figure out the steps.
A new roof was the first priority, and Lincolnville’s J.P. Yandell took on that job, negotiating the unusually high and steep incline. Three old roofs had to come off, two layers of cedar shingles and one of asphalt. Meanwhile, mason Guy Hallett, of Rockland, worked on the chimneys, lining and repairing them.
A screened porch and deteriorating addition on the back of the house was torn off, leaving a gap in the foundation. The cellar was a mess with several defunct water heaters, furnace parts, oil tanks, etc. lying around.
Jim Nelson and his Brothers in Arms, of Searsmont, repaired the fieldstone foundation, resetting the granite sills that cap it – one piece is over 10 feet long, leading Jane to wonder if it came from Mount Waldo or perhaps from the Fernalds Neck quarry.
Granite steps from the crumbling bulkhead, which was removed, were used to top off the cement wall that filled the gap. They installed drains to keep the cellar dry and covered the floor with crushed rock.
Speaking as a lover of old cellars, this one is elegant. The beautifully constructed stone walls and granite sills show off the skill of both the original builder and the modern Brothers. With all that old metal junk gone it even smells good.
Thanks to the steep pitch of the roof water didn’t have a chance to seep in, so rot wasn’t much of a problem, but gravity and a leaky bathtub had done its work. The floors were sagging, three or more inches off in places. Val did extensive work here, sistering the floor joists and installing wooden posts in the cellar. The hardwood floors are in good shape, and will be sanded at the end.
With no heat in the place work stopped for the winter, but in the past month or so a lot has been done with Lincolnville’s Peter Thomas joining Val.
The Berniers will be living on the first floor, so the four upstairs bedrooms and attic won’t be restored at this time.
Downstairs all the plaster has been removed, and every window, upstairs as well, has been replaced, including nice deep sills to hold plants. One room holds all the bags of insulation that will be installed once some new electrical outlets are in. After that comes the sheetrock, and it will begin to look like a finished house.
A lot of dreaming goes into a project of this magnitude. What does the budget allow? How much of the old to save, what has to go? There are no sheets of plans, just competent workers taking on each problem area as it presents, patching, replacing, shoring up, rebuilding. Jane can’t wait to get the outside painted and is playing with color, promising it will be colorful. The gingerbread trim will stay; it seems to be original to the house.
TUESDAY, May 21
Knitting Workshop, 4-6 p.m., Library
Five Town CSD Budget Meeting, 7 p.m., CHRHS
WEDNESDAY, May 22
Special Town Meeting-School Budget Vote, 6 p.m., Walsh Common, LCS
MCSWC Board of Directors, 6:30 p.m., Camden Town Office
THURSDAY, May 23
Soup Café, Noon-1 p.m., Community Building, 18 Searsmont Road
Grades 3-5 Concert, 6:30, Walsh Common. LCS
MONDAY, May 27
Memorial Day Parade, 1 p.m., starts at LCS; in case of rain ceremony at Walsh Common
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at 12:15 p.m., Wednesdays & Sundays at 6 p.m., United Christian Church
Lincolnville Community Library, open Tuesdays 4-7, Wednesdays, 2-7, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon. For information call 706-3896.
Soup Café, every Thursday, noon—1p.m., Community Building, Sponsored by United Christian Church. Free, though donations to the Community Building are appreciated
Schoolhouse Museum open by appointment, 789-5984.
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m., Atlantic Highway
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m., Children’s Church during service, 18 Searsmont Road
June 4: Grades K-2 Concert
Slab City Rendevous Film showing
June 11: Grades 6-8 Concert
June 18: Eighth Grade Graduation
June 19: Last Day of School
The King Kineo wood cookstove that was in the house will be the centerpiece of the kitchen/living room. Windows look out at future gardens and a greenhouse/sunroom to be built off the kitchen. And a picket fence will enclose her front garden, Jane says, a garden their two dogs will be banned from.
Lincolnville Center continues to surprise. It actually has an entrance now: Breezemere Park with its Bicentennial Bandstand at the head of Nortons Pond and the refurbished Veterans Memorial make us look like a real town.
One by one those wonderful 19th Century buildings are coming to life again. Of course there’s the Library at one end of the village, concocted out of the shell of an 1846 one-room schoolhouse into a cozy and inviting town library/meeting room.
Across the road the old fire station fills up on summer days with kids learning to sail with the Lincolnville Boat Club.
Next door the once hulk of a shed is a warm and productive pottery studio.
One by one houses are being revitalized. A barn and pasture complete with horses at one, several painted or re-sided, spruced up with gardens and workshops, including Janis and Tom Sadowski’s shop, The Red Cottage. Of course, the General Store is a story all to itself, another apparently doomed old building brought back lovingly to what has already become a destination for townspeople and visitors alike.
United Christian Church at the Searsmont end of Main Street not only added its first “flush” some years back, but a parish hall/Children’s Church room, protective storm windows over re-glazed, original 200 year-old sashes, restored stone steps at the entrance, and just this year, a cozy office for the pastor. Next door the Community Building, a mere youngster built by volunteers in the 1960s as a basketball court, has been converted into an inviting space for town events complete with kitchen.
Last but not least, it looks like Petunia Pump will be with us another 50 years.
Built in the 1930s by Herbert Heal (Bessie Dean’s father – she was a role model for growing old as those of us who knew Bessie always tell each other) the old structure was showing its age. In fact, that’s not even the original, as that was replaced in the 1980s by the Boy Scouts and leader, Andy Hazen.
Just the other day the finial was finally attached by the volunteers who reshingled the roof last fall – Mike Richardson, Joan Richardson, Nick Fernandez, Mike Timchak, and Tom Dickens.
Maybe some day there’ll be a real sidewalk through the Center. But I won’t hold my breath; it will come in time. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to stroll up Main Street and look over Jane and Jerry’s picket fence to see what’s growing there.
Memorial Day Parade
Monday May 27 is Memorial Day this year with the parade stepping off at 1 p.m. from the school and ending at the Veterans Park next to the Library. The speaker will be Representative Paige Ziegler, our representative in the Legislature. Right after the ceremony at the Veterans Park the color guard will drive down to the Beach to cast a wreath into Frohock Brook in honor of those lost at sea. One of the Lincolnville men lost in WW II, Maynard Thurlow, was in the Navy and died when his ship was hit with a kamikaze pilot off Okinawa. In case of rain, or should I say since it will be raining, the parade and the Frohock ceremony will be cancelled, but the speaker will be inside the school in Walsh Common.
A number of middle school students visited the State House to watch the Legislature in action. As the culminating activity for a civics and leadership enrichment program originally presented by Mrs. Russo before she left to take a new position as the Policy and Legal Director for the Senate President, the students were the guest of State Senator Erin Herbig, met Governor Janet Mills in her office, attended a memorial service at the Maine Law Enforcement Memorial, and visited the Maine State Museum.
In spite of the lousy weather LCS eighth grade students joined their future classmates from across the five towns, Northport, and St. George at Camden Hills State Park last week for a day of hiking, cooperative activities, and a picnic lunch. Many thanks go out to all of the members of our local police and fire departments, EMS folks, and the many parent volunteers who came out to support this day that brings eighth graders together.
Check out the LCS newletter, The Lynx this week as several summer camps and programs are advertised.
The Book Group will meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. to talk about a recent release “Circe” by by Madeline Miller. All are welcome whether you’ve read the book or not.
Monday, May 27, Memorial Day this year, the Library holds its annual book and plant sale, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring your own bags and fill ‘em up.
Slab City Rendevous
This summer the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland is exhibiting the work of several New York artists active in Lincolnville and surrounding towns during the 1950s and 60s. Since much of their work centered around Slab City where Alex Katz had settled about 1950, the group became identified with that road. Most of them were painters, but in those years while summering in our area they also dabbled in film making.
Five short films – Shoot the Moon, Lurk, The Cowgirl, Slipperella, and Windmill for Polly – by filmmaker Rudy Burkhardt featuring a cast and crew of artists Edwin Denby, Rackstraw Downes, Red Grooms, Mimi Gross, Yvonne Jacquette, Alex Katz, and Neil Welliver will be shown June 4 at the Rockport Opera House, 5-9 p.m. The evening includes food trucks, beer, wine, and dessert. Admission is $15, $10 for Farnsworth members.
A staple of my Camden Herald column was always the birds people were seeing at their feeders. It was déjà vu for me when Marilyn Pendleton called the other day to tell me about a little bird that’s been showing up at her feeder, a small, chickadee-like bird with yellow bars along its side and on its head. She hasn’t been able to identify it. A kinglet, I wondered. Or a warbler.
Then Annie McCormack told me about her scarlet tanagers. Scarlet tanagers! They’re apparently nesting in her yard on Hope Road. Reed takes his birds very seriously and has several feeding spots around the house, tacking up oranges for the orioles and grape jelly for the tanagers. Yes, grape jelly. Wonder if they can tell the difference between grape and any other kind. The Carrolls up on Searsmont Road have a blooming quince bush this spring that’s attracting hummingbirds like crazy. Mine’s about to bloom, so now I’ll be looking for hummers too.
I heard a loon call for the first time yesterday, a single cry and pretty far off, but a loon no doubt. They generally fly over Ducktrap Road every morning on their way from Coleman where they nest to the shore where they fish.
Keeping Our Roads Clean
Dee Boehmer and Susie Gerow are back at it, or rather, still at it, picking up bottles, cans, and other trash along their walking route – Beach Road from Stevens Corner (Youngtown Road) to Drake’s. Since last year they’ve picked up 2,115 returnables and 6 fifty gallon bags of trash. What on earth is in the mind of someone who opens the car window and throws their garbage out onto the road?