I awoke at 6:15 this morning.  The sun was rising, the sky a clear brilliant blue, the  temperature minus three--yes minus three--- degrees Fahrenheit.  Now, two hours later, it is a balmy minus one.  According to the online weather report, the windchill is -21).  Welcome to little Antarctica.  Is it possible that only six months have passed since the hottest day of last year, and now it is 100 degrees colder?

On that day, with temperatures flirting with the 100 degree mark along the Maine coast, , not a cool breeze to be found.  At the hottest part of the day, I was driving North on I-495 through Massachusetts, heading back to Maine.  At five P.M., after I exited onto 95 to Maine, the New Hampshire toll booths ahead looked like the Gates of Hell, summer traffic, rush hour traffic, and people heading to and from the beach traffic, all backed up on the steaming black pavement.

The Emerson house in York village, dating to the early 18th century, site of the Decorator's show house,.

Fifteen miles further up 95, edging toward the Maine toll booth, I cracked, and veered off highway at the York exit and headed  for the ocean.  In York Village, a lovely history proud town founded a few seconds after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, I was momentarily distracted by the Olde York Decorator's show house, held an 18th century house in York Village.  Ever mindful of my readership, I intended to take photographs for the blog, but was firmly (but pleasantly) told that I might not do so.  As with most decorator show houses, the mix was evenly balanced between very good and very bad.  Most compelling to me was not the decor, but an 18th century painted floor treatment that had survived through 200 years of family ownership.

In the neighboring village of York Harbor, which split off from York proper when it became popular as a fashionable summer colony in the late 19th century, I left the air-conditioned discomfort of the car to stroll along the water.  What confronted me was not the expected cooling of the late afternoon ocean breeze, but rather a wall of heat, apparently blowing straight in from Morocco.

The village of York Harbor is anchored by a large colonial revival building, housing a theatre on the second floor above former storefronts.  Built in 1895, it is attributed to architect William H. Dabney, whose also designed 'Redcote', a charming small shingle cottage built in 1882.

I had not wandered around York Harbor for years.   Though much has changed in the world, the prevailing tone, architecturally and socially, is still English and aristocratic.  The architecture is a handsome mix of crisp early New England, and shingle and colonial revival styles from the resort days.  The big surprise was that the shops, of the usual sort that service summer colonies---tweeds and tearooms, linens and fancy groceries--- had almost completely disappeared, with only a few offices occupying former commercial spaces.

 At 7:30 PM, the light was still strong, the temperatures still in the mid-90's, and the beach was as busy as it were 2:30 in the afternoon

Beaches are rare in Maine, rocky ledges not so much.  The little beach in York Harbor is bracketed on one side by Stage Neck, looking for all the world like a luminist painting by Kensett in the early evening heat.

York Harbor, as painted by Martin Johnson Heade in 1877

As at Newport, a public cliff walk  separates  grand old summer cottages from their ocean frontage.

The principal club, The Reading Room, is in an English picturesque style building, designed by James Purdon in 1905, splendidly located on the cliffs overlooking the harbor.

As at Newport, a public cliff walk  separates  summer cottages from their ocean frontage.  Beyond the reading room, this buttressed wall with its corner turret supports the terraces of the house.above
Do not be deceived by these photographs.  The breeze that evening was not the cool salt tinged ocean breeze one expects, but rather a solid wall of heat from North Africa

The rambling white house is Milbury Meadow, designed by John Russell Pope in a non-classical mood for Harold C. Richard in 1926.  According to John Harris in Moving Rooms, the house contained a 17th century oak paneled drawing room imported from England, since destroyed when fire gutted the interior.

A classic, and almost archetypal Maine cottage, this superb example has escaped the insensitive modernization and 'upgrade' fever that has infected so many.

The very English Episcopal chapel was designed in 1906 by Henry J. Hardenburgh, best known as the architect of the Plaza Hotel.  A bench in its lovely sunken garden invites contemplation---of the portapotty at the opposite side of the garden.

For another view of York Harbor, I recommend this post from one of my favorite blogs, Streets of Salem.


The Devoted Classicist said...

Charming. But I wish they would invest in underground wiring/utility lines. And what do you think happened to the shops, e-commerce?

Blue said...

And a very pretty, well-sited porta-potty it is, too! Noisome, I should imagine, in all that heat. I think if it were -1º here (we hit 51º today) I too would be looking back to hotter weather.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Thanks for the Grand Tour, and for the good laugh at the end. The Emerson House looks somewhat like the Asher Benjamin design featured on your sidebar. I am amazed that the painted floors lasted through 200 years of family ownership — and use! I wonder if anything at all that I've ever done will last half as long!

The Ancient said...

In historic districts, there ought to be laws that make it basically free for power/telephone companies to bury overhead wires. This would never be more than a vanishingly small amount of money in a state or federal budget.

Besides, it's a shovel-ready project.

Donna said...

My hometown! Not just York but York Harbor--I featured almost-identical photos, except for one or two. And you'll be glad to know that our family house is just across from Trinity Church (for the "summer people"), so we have a semi-permanent view of the porta-potty!

Rose C'est La Vie said...

Oh this is cruel, DED, reminding us of the summer when it's brass monkey weather in England too. But I always love your gentle, illuminating odysseys which leave me always longing to visit Maine.

Donna said...

Thanks so much for the link! We really do have complementary posts, it's very interesting. I wish I could share all my Reading Room stories...but I can't. I did want to tell you that my stepmother runs the Old York Show House every year, and she wouldn't let me take any pictures either!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your site tremendously. Hoping you can help. Thought I found a brief mention somewhere here last week about a shingle home done by Andrews, Jacques, and Rantoul. Believe it was called Nanau...(?).
Interested in finding it again, but can't seem to get to it. If it is here somewhere, can you point me in the direction? Thanks.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Anonymous, the name of the house in question is Nannau. Although it is one of my favorites among all the shingled houses in Maine, I don't recall writing about it, and a search of the blog doesn't turn it up. It was built for a member of the Ogden family of New York. A picture of it can be found in Edwin Morse Hooper's "The Country House", here:


A couple of views of the ocean side here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9428166@N03/1834428740/in/set-72157603539527740

The Down East Dilettante said...

Anonymous: Also, an article about Nannau from 'Old House Interiors' magazine here:


smilla4blogs said...

I remember those stifling days very well, it's not often I have fans running at the cottage. Even the water was warm. Right now (like Cooper) I just want to crawl under a large fleece!

We always shoot past York on our way in, or out of Maine. Will definitely make a point of stopping after reading your post and seeing your wonderful photos.

Anonymous said...

...internet delerium....Thank you for the leads regarding Nannau...
along similar architectural lines,
I'd like to note the recent sale of Felsted with a prayer that this irreplaceable treasure remain in one piece! This one belongs in the s.p.n.e.a. collection.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Anonymous---I can't find any views online, but in case you've never seen, Felsted was already liberated once from a huge hotel addition on one side, which subsumed an entire wing.

Another Emerson house, one of his greatest, that was supposed to be saved for posterity, the Loring House at Pride's Crossing MA is now for sale, preservation attempts seemingly having failed. Needs enormous work, and its contents have now been dispersed. V. sad.



Anonymous said...

Philanthropy, too, seems to have gone overseas. With a brain-trust of support as demonstrated on loringhouse.org, maybe they could have written a book to fundraise...I would have made the purchase enthusiastically. Emerson adopted Shaw like no one else...As an aside, Do you suppose Mr. Codman (the diligent Loring caretaker) has roots in Lincoln...?

Toby Worthington said...

It would've been nice to see that painted floor at
the Emerson House...sigh.

Paul Gervais de Bédée said...

That Dabney building looks like a very successful restoration, is it as good as the pictures imply? You're surrounded by beauty there, very inspiring!

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

In my very early twenties, I used to sail in Bucks Harbor during the racing season (racing Ensigns). A few of the old timers I sailed against knew the waters inside and out, and they would make for the rocky cliffs to avoid the faster tide current. I soon caught on, and would follow them during long port tacks toward the windward mark. I always chickened out a few lengths from the cliffs, but one oldster in particular sailed so close, that his starboard spreader actually brushed a tree branch which overhung. I then realized what lifetime of local water knowledge meant... and no beaches.

the designers muse said...

Very pretty and interesting.

Sabra said...

When I was very small, my parents loaded me on the York firetruck (wearing my plastic fireman's helmet) for what was meant to be a kiddie treat of a ride from York to York Harbor. About halfway I began to panic as it seemed we'd gone much too far for my parents to ever be able to find me again. Ah, the perspective of youth!

Thanks for the tour, insights, and wonderful then&now architectural images.