13.2.12

GINGERBREAD VILLAGE

One rubs one's eyes in astonishment when one first sees it---a tiny settlement of even tinier Victorian cottages in the woods on a bluff,  arranged around a village green sloping down to Penobscot Bay. It is crowded, cheerful, festive, even a bit unruly in spots.  In the summer, with porches bursting with flowering plants and wicker rockers, sailboats in the bay and softball games on the green, it is like a stage set ideal of summer life 100 years ago.


One doesn't come upon it easily.  It is hidden off tourist Rte.1 midway between the groomed nautical splendors of Camden and the artsy hipness of Belfast, both harbor towns of stately white houses and upscale restaurants and galleries.  It is Bayside in Northport, founded in 1849 as a Methodist campground retreat.  Originally the faithful would pitch tents for their revivals; by 1869, the first cottage was built.  A hotel, the Wesleyan Grove House,  followed in 1875, and by 1879, about 40 of the eventual 300 cottages had been built. In the day  steamboats were the chief mode of transport up and down the coast, and it was a favorite day trip.  Today, there are no stores, and in summer, the loudest sound is likely to be the slamming of an old fashioned wooden screen door.  Nearby, on Temple Heights, a spiritualist camp still survives, with mediums available in summer.  

An early 20th century view, top, of cottages, and the hotel, below.
Passing by last week, I swung off the highway for a quick visual treat.  The sky was glowering, and the late afternoon light was not conducive to photography.  I walked around for a few minutes, but found I wasn't dressed for the sharp cold wind off Penobscot Bay (we've been enjoying a mild, mostly above freezing, winter, and I've gotten a bit casual about dressing warmly), and the metal camera even too cold in my hands.  It's just as well though, for had I taken pictures in the summer,  you'd all be calling your real estate agents.  One can imagine worse fates than a few summer weeks spent in one of these lacy dollhouses overlooking the sea.

Park Row, sloping down to the bay
I love the way the roof was raised on the cottage on the left
The tiniest of all
A gravity defying dormer.  And yes, the name of the cottage is 'Braking Wind'
As in practically every seaside town in Maine, real estate offices prevail over retail commerce in former storefronts
The same row 100 years apart.  The blue house, above, is on the left in the picture below.  The house between it and the yellow house has disappeared, one of only a very few not to survive.
The community hall, with yacht club offices in the basement
One is reminded of the colorful little houses of Key West.  Or would, if Key West had hills.  And snow. And no bars.  And spruce trees instead of Palms.  And no Drag Queens.  Other than that...
Almost perfect pitch.  I think this cottage was used in Mel Gibson's 'Man Without A Face, filmed here and at the former Frederic Law Olmsted's summer place on Deer Isle (props purchased from the Dilettante's shop also make appearances).  It is no wonder movies cost so much to make.  In the movie, this house belonged to a young boy who visits Gibson at his house (Felsted).  In the movie the boy merely bicycles over.  In reality, the two houses are fifty miles apart by road, or 20 by water.  $$$.

15 comments:

Parnassus said...

It's amazing how this summer colony has survived almost intact. The Park Row picture looks like the Maine version of San Francisco's Alamo Square, with its slope of gabled, Victorian houses. Much of the value in a place like this is the intact neighborhood; even one interloping, out-of-scale monstrosity can ruin the effect when it replaces one of the original houses.

Is the hotel still standing, or is it long gone?
--Road to Parnassus

Lynne Rutter | the Ornamentalist said...

how charming, so many of the same style so close together. my own lacy dollhouse is a bit lonely by comparison. lovely pictures. thanks so much for sharing these.

The Devoted Classicist said...

These charming cottages remind me of those Methodist campground houses on Martha's Vineyard. I wonder if there was an official architectural booklet with guidelines or suggestions for designs.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I don't think those could be any more adorable. So the film was expensive because of your props? ;-)

Toby Worthington said...

We're running out of synonyms for "charming" dear
Dilettante, but really there's no better word to describe
them. MGM would have built the very same thing on
one of their back lots in the late 1940s, but it wouldn't have been quite so nice.

ChipSF said...

Very interesting. This is quite similar to the thriving 1875 Bayview Association in Petoskey, Michigan.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

What a delightful community! I imagine that in the summer, these streets would have never-ending block parties.

The Ancient said...

Well, maybe nowadays, but remember that when this camp was still full of Methodists, they were barred from alcohol, dancing, card-playing, and theatre-going. (Though doubtless there was quite a lot of hymn singing.)

Donna said...

Great post; it's fun to see these cottages, especially in the winter. As others have noted, they do remind one of Martha's Vineyard, but even more so (for me) of another Methodist summer settlement at Ocean Grove, New Jersey. My husband is from this area,and whenever we go there, I desperately seek to avoid the typical Jersey Shore scenarios by seeking out places like this. There's a huge revival hall surrounded by all these cottages, and the rest of the Victorian city has been nicely preserved.

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

As Stefan said- Adorable! the movie the Bostonians comes to mind-though I don't think Vanessa Redgrave and Christopher Reeve got as far as Maine. pgt

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Anonymous said...

It does resemble Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard and also Onset, Ma., both "camps" at one time.