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.
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.
|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|