31.3.11

MR. BUSH'S NEIGHBORHOOD

Two weeks ago, in the process of research for a project that you will be hearing about later, I wandered through the heart stoppingly beautiful town of Kennebunkport in Southern Maine.  I was on a tight schedule, and the day was cold, so I didn't take many pictures.  As I left the picture-perfect village on the way out to the Cape Arundel neighborhood, I passed the River Club, an iconic shingle style structure at the edge of town, and meant to come back and photograph it, but once on Cape Arundel, I got diverted.  

The clubhouse at the Kennebunk River Club
The Casino building at the Kennebunk River Club
 A friend who had been there a couple of weeks before mentioned how disconcertingly huge some new houses were on that rocky headland, and so right she was.  Big old shingle style summer cottages, by no means tiny themselves, had been displaced by jaw-dropping----and I do not mean this in a nice way----new odes to 90's style wealth, destroying the scale and effect of this most charming neighborhood in several places.  

Most of the 50-odd summer colonies on the Maine coast grew up around the huge old summer hotels put up by speculators and developers, in Cape Arundel's case, the Sea Shore Development Company.  The Colony Hotel at Kennebunkport is the largest and grandest of the dozen or so that survive up and down the coast.
On this day, The Colony looked over a cold winter sea. 
The older cottages of the Cape Arundel colony are very much of a piece, large, yet compact, poised on relatively small lots on picturesque lanes overlooking the ocean.
One of many picturesque carriage houses, this one with an ocean view
This cottage on Ocean Avenue is for sale. 8br, 3fp, ocean, bush and shrub views in season



During the various interminable Bush presidencies, the house saw many protests
After WWII, big summer houses on the coast of Maine could be purchased for a song, and many went begging, eventually being torn down, or converted to motels or institutional use before becoming popular again in the market in the 1980s.  This one became a motel, and is an odd note amidst its neighbors.  One presumes the Bush view is included in the rates.
Boarded up, waiting for summer, this house nicely composed cottage is overwhelmed by its new neighbor
Lost on the way to the Hamptons.  By far the best of the new houses on Cape Arundel, it nevertheless spawls assertively in a way that even the largest of the old cottages do not

As I rounded the bend, I was confronted with the number one tourist attraction in Kennebunkport, the Walker's point estate of George Bush.  At that exact moment, a ray of bright sun burst out from the clouds on what had been a cloudy afternoon, and shone directly over the house.  Go figure. 

The sun always shines over Walker Point


It was positively allegorical, but as I still haven't forgiven the perfectly decent elder Bushes for their devil spawn son, I preferred not to think too hard about it and continued driving.  Although the neighborhood has always discouraged parking on its winding shore road, the town long ago had to give in and create a scenic turnout overlooking the Bush property.  And to my amazement, even on this out of season cold March afternoon, there was considerable traffic---a steady stream of mostly elderly people snapping photographs.  I took advantage of the rare bit of sun and parked and took a walk along the shore, where most of these photographs were snapped in the waning light. 

The D.D. Walker cottage on Walker's Point, now demolished
 Walker's Point was once known as Point Vesuvius.  The ongoing tug of war between summer residents and locals over problem of disappearing shore access was strongly felt here, as a local newspaper lamented the loss of paths traditionally used by fishermen on the point, as it was shut off for the construction of a new summer cottage by George Bush's namesake maternal grandfather George Herbert Walker of St. Louis in 1903.  The next year, Bush's uncle, D.D. Walker, built a much larger cottage adjacent to his father's, which has since been demolished.  The architects for both were Chapman & Frazer of Boston.

From 1973, until 1981 when he inherited Walker's Point, Bush I owned this cottage on Ocean Avenue



16 comments:

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Even the old houses are huge - a testament to lives lived indoors in fowl weather I suppose? What ever happened to a little cape cod cottage? I suppose they're not as architecturally interesting although my personal favorite.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Funny you should ask. Been noodling around with a post about Maine Capes for quite awhile.

These cottages owe their size, and voluminous porches actually to lives led outside in the summer only..

The Ancient said...

That new house that you like/don't like ...

If the garage had been built separately, and put behind the main house, I don't see that there would be a problem with it.

sec word: bushomyt (Really, you can't make this stuff up -- and I'm not touching it.)

The Devoted Classicist said...

Thanks for the Bush info. I had been a little curious since it was obviously on an exposed point, but I guess security concerns had mostly kept images out of the media.

It would be easy to break up the massing of a large new shingle style house to fit into the historic context. But given the cost to build and maintain such a house, the owners' (and the architects') desire to make a statement like the "Hamptons" house too often wins out.

home before dark said...

Too bad Ilex vomitoria does not grow this far north. Name perfect for the Bush memorial.

The Ancient said...

I think TDC puts it just right.

When I first looked at that house, I thought, Oh, it's the McMansion Syndrome of using the garage to extend the facade. But then I remembered houses where that had been done in the Forties, and certainly we see houses all the time over at OLI where "fitting proportion" has fallen victim to "self-aggrandizing pomposity."

But in fairness, it's hard to ask people to spend money when it's not going to be coming back to them on resale. (God knows, there are more worthy objects of charity than architectural fussbudgets. At least, I think there are, somewhere.)

DeLinda said...

stop with the politics - it's nasty and a bit the the shrill side

Flo said...

"But in fairness, it's hard to ask people to spend money when it's not going to be coming back to them on resale."

I wish I could learn this lesson you're talking about. Instead, I keep throwing money [lovingly] at the "maintenance is preservation" lesson.

This is a great report DED. E-conversing with my nephew-the-artist today, we shared the commemorative videos re George Tooker posted at thehouseofbeautyandculture blog, a poignant 3-part salute to this progressive man we lost last week.

George W. Bush presented him with the government's crowning achievement, a National Endowment of the Arts medal. If you know anything of Mr. Tooker's life work, you understand the dignity behind his smile here as he accepts his award from the president.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:George_Tooker-George_W_Bush.jpg

The Ancient said...

Flo --

A neighbor of mine has spent nearly ten million dollars on gardens and a (world-famous architect-designed) swimming pool complex. But for whatever reason, they quite never got around to building a grand house to go with it.

You find me (or them) someone who wants to spend nearly twenty million for a large, tastefully decorated log cabin with "accessories."

Real estate is just an asset -- except when it's not.

Liz said...

"A neighbor of mine has spent nearly ten million dollars on gardens and a (world-famous architect-designed) swimming pool complex."

What a revolting waste of resources.

Decor Arts Now said...

Brad, this comment isn't on this post! Just wanted to say I am loving your posts for the NYSD! Now I must have the pPennoyer book!!
Lynn

The Ancient said...

What a revolting waste of resources.

I felt just that way yesterday afternoon when one of my city neighbors nearly ran me down in her Bentley.

But thinking about it later, I changed my mind. Because, really, who wants to be run down by a Prius?

Renée Finberg said...

thanks for this.
it brings back many memories for me.
i used to see daddy {1st prez bush)
bush drive his cigarette boat down to the 'lobster shack' in perkins cove.
sending the secret service all over the place....
all for a lobster roll and a cup of chowder.
yummy ....i can taste it now

Topaz said...

DeLinda said...

"stop with the politics - it's nasty and a bit the the shrill side"

It's a blog, which by definition is designed to express opinions. If you want to take umbrage, write a post about it on your own blog.

And since our country tragically still suffers from the idiocy of eight years of the "devil spawn," it is certainly appropriate to mourn his tenure.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Amen Topaz

mdrnpntofvu said...

The Ancient, PRICELESS!!