HOUSE TOUR 1: Parker House

Old houses that have had long family occupancy have an atmosphere and romance that cannot be easily faked. In our town, one such house is Parker House, a landmark which has surveyed the local scene since 1812.  Built for Robert Parker, whose wife Ruth was daughter of Joseph Wood, one of the founders of the town, it is a handsome four-square Federal, amply and well proportioned, with later Colonial Revival enhancements.  This is one of several houses in town that carry the probably apocryphal legend of having been stopped in mid-construction during the war of 1812, when we were briefly British again. The local parson left behind a journal of his days, and whether or not it is true that the other constructions were interrupted,  we know that he continued working on his own new house nearby, for he records hearing the cannons of battle in  Hampden on a warm September afternoon while shingling the roof.

  After a succession of owners in the 19th century, the house was purchased in 1900 by Mrs. Virgil Kline, a descendant of Mrs. Parker's sister Edith Wood Hinckley.  Mrs. Kline, married to the chief attorney for the Rockefeller interests in Cleveland, had had an interesting career as the manager and owner of the Boston Ideal Opera Company, a travelling light opera company that was instrumental in bringing Gilbert and Sullivan performance to America.  Mrs. Kline's own turreted and shingled summer house, 'Ideal Lodge', was just up the road from Parker House.  (For the story of that house, which should be read in conjunction with this post, click HERE:)  

Parker House as it appears today
Parker House as it appeared before the renovations of 1900 (Photograph courtesy of Maine Historic Preservation  Commission)
After a gentle renovation by Mrs.Kline's architect, George Clough of Boston, Parker house acquired new porticos and french door, with a grand balustrade around the eaves, giving the house the proper New England ancestral air that Mrs. Kline, an early collector of local antiques, sought.  The house became the summer home of Mrs. Kline's sister, Mrs. Frederick Augustus Merrill, who furnished the house with family artifacts and antiques collected locally.  In 1916, the property was conveyed to Mrs. Merrill, and has descended to her great-grandson, who has been restoring and improving the house since taking possession, with a sensitive eye to its unique character, while at the same time making it practical for the 21st century, and respecting the gently worn and faded qualities that give the house much of its aristocratic air.  His intelligent and subtle approach gives rebuke to many who have gut renovated similar houses up here (if you want a condo in Greenwich, buy a condo in Greenwich, or build a new house don't strip a beautiful old house of its elegant features and character.  Why be ordinary when you can be special?

Parker House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After the 1900 renovations, Parker House was almost an ideal of the Colonial Revival movement

The Parlor as it appeared in the early 1900's, with an 1830 Boston made piano  and one of a group of family portraits painted by J. Harvey Young

The interior was little altered in the Clough renovations.  In the hall, the robustly paneled front door and wide sidelights added by Clough give more light and presence to the hall, but the simple Federal moldings and newel post were retained.

The parlor as it appears today, with more of the family portraits by Young.  Dr. Frederick A. Merrill is over the fireplace
The modern chinoiserie wallpaper is a licensed Winterthur design

The wide pine board dado under the chair rail was boldly faux grained, probably in the 1830's or 40's,, to look like Honduran mahogany.    

French doors were added in 1900 to access the new side proticos flanking the parlor and library, giving a more expansive air to the square rooms

In true Colonial Revival fashion, with its strong sentiment for the past, the original  kitchen, with its huge cooking fireplace and bake oven, became the dining room in the 1900 renovations.  A new kitchen was installed in the service wing at rear.

The current owner removed partitions between the dining room, back hall and  a sitting room to make one large room, over 40 feet long, with three exposures.  He broke the length, and masked a difference in ceiling heights, with  antique Doric columns that echo those of the porticoes outside
Looking through to the front room
The ell kitchen was redesigned by the current owner, with a new window over the vintage stove opening  up space.

The upper hall

The brass bed warmer, designed to hold hot coals which would then  be run between the sheets to warm the bed  in earlier times was a favorite decorative accessory for the centrally heated Colonial Revival.   The one seen here to the right of a bedroom fireplace is still in place 100 years later.

A tester bed and printed cotton curtains and hangings, with a William Morris inspired paper, give this room proper Colonial Revival street cred.
Most of the contemporary pictures in this post were taken during a benefit house tour.  Despite the fact that there were 30-50 people wandering through the house at any time, only once did a person get in the photos (followed by so many others that I gave up---never have I seen so many people emerge from one bedroom).

The owner has created this video showing the evolution of the house from 1812-2012.

The vintage photographs are from the collection of the owner, and from other local collections.   Thanks to the owner for permission to post about his interesting house.



Bad Dilettante.   I had intended to make short posts all summer---about things of interest, little ideas that interest me, events taking place---but it didn't happen.  Trying to describe what August on the Maine Coast is like for those of us who work here in Vacationland while all of America is visiting, and a year's worth of events are scheduled in the middle two weeks, is like trying to describe being hit by a speeding train while parachuting off a the Empire State Building in high winds while waiting for a plane in an airport in Calcutta during a monsoon during the lightening round of Jeopardy while trying to play the kazoo standing on one's head 40 feet underwater during a triathalon without a paddle.  No, never mind.  That doesn't even begin to adequately describe it.  Let's just say it's intense, not for the disorganized or faint of heart and one doesn't get many breaks to sit down and upload pictures to the internet.

There are several particularly interesting museum exhibits up here this summer.  The big summer exhibit at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland features works by American Impressionist Frank Benson, all painted at his summer home on North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay.  It's a sweet, lovely show.  

'Rainy Day' by Frank Weston Benson, depicting the artist's own living  room on North Haven.
The Living Room today, with later murals by Benson  (VRBO)
Benson's North Haven Farm is available for summer rental, for those who want total immersion.  Click HERE 

Also at the Farnsworth is a fascinating little show, 'The Homestead Project'.  The Farnsworth Museum's campus includes the 1850 Greek Revival homestead of the Farnsworth family, a classic in-town Greek Revival village house..  For the Homestead Project, ten architects were invited by assistant curator Jane Bianco to submit designs for a 21st century house for the property, an urban house for the new century.

The Farnsworth Homestead

Architect Bruce Norelius, Devin Saez, Associate, and Brian Briggs, model builder, of Bruce Norelius Studio, Los Angeles, California and Maine (From The Homestead Project)
Christopher Campbell of Christopher Campbell Architecture, Portland, Maine (From the Homestead Project) 
The catalog for The Homestead Project may be browsed online HERE

At the Portland Museum of Art, is an exhibit of Frederick Edwin Church's Maine paintings and sketches, on loan from Olana, the Church homestead near Hudson New York and curated by John Wilmerding.  Sublime indeed.

Twilight: Mt, Desert Island, Maine (1865)
Mt. Desert Island from Dorr Mtn. (July-Aug., 1850)
Mt. Katahdin fromm Millinocket Camp (1895)
Of course, given my compulsion for comparison, it is irrestible to add this view of Mt. Katahdin by Marsden Hartley in contrast to Church's vision:

Mt. Katahdin # 2, by Marsden Hartley (Metropolitan Museum)
The Mount Desert Historical Society's Schoolhouse Museum in Somesville is a wonderful exhibit about the Mt. Desert-born architect Fred Savage 1861-1924), curated by Gerard Vasisko.   Savage worked for a time for Peabody & Stearns, who heavily influenced his work.  He also was associated for a time with Sidney Stratton, a former Richard Morris Hunt apprentice who shared office space with McKim, Mead & White, and was sometimes known as 'the almost partner'.   Savage's debt to all these designers is obvious, but he was a fine and original designer in his own right.  Although he worked in many of the eclectic styles of the era, it is the shingled houses he designed around Mt. Desert Island for which he is best known, and which almost define the standard for a summer cottage in that region.   Like so many of architects around the turn of the last century, he had a fine hand with drawings and renderings, as clearly displayed in this show.  Augmenting the drawings are vintage photographs and papers and catalogs from his office, from the collections of the Mt. Desert Historical Society and the Northeast Harbor Public Library.

Cottage for Mrs. Edith Randolph, Bar Harbor
Anna Clark Cottage, Harbourside, Northeast Harbor
Elevation for Clark Cottage (NEHL)
Unbuilt Cottage by Savage (NEHL Archives)
Rendering for Cottage for Frederick Jackson Turner, Northeast Harbor (NEHL Archives)
'High Seas', the Rudolph Brunnow cottage at Bar Harbor, by Savage
Design for dining room fireplace surround, Brunnow Cottage (MDIHS)
An exhibit I haven't seen, but intend to, features the recently restored 19th century panorama, by many artists, of John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress by the Saco Museum.   800 feet long, it is displayed in the old Saco Mills building.  It may not be high art, and who reads Pilgrim's progress anymore, but the opportunity to see an 800 foot long painting is irresistible, no?  For more about this fascinating project, Click HERE

There are so many other exhibits of interest this summer in Maine Museums, like the exhibit of 46 items from the Allie Ryan Steamship Collection of the Maine Maritime Academy, at the Castine Historical Society and the Wilson Museum in Castine, or 'American Moderns' at the Colby College Art Museum, featuring the work of Walker Evans, Berenice Abbott and Margaret Bourke-White, that I haven't had time to see yet, but worthy of attention.