Tag Archives: architecture

The tornado of ’08

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Wild weather is uncommon in New Hampshire, but in July of 2008 a tornado came to call. We heard the warnings issued from the weather service and I remember a good number of my co-workers lined up at our second-floor office windows eager to get a glimpse of it coming across the lake. I assured them that if a tornado did appear, I would be heading for the basement. My mother didn’t raise no dummies.

We didn’t see it that day, but it did tear a path through the towns of Deerfield, Epsom, Northwood, Pittsfield, Barnstead, Alton, New Durham, Wolfeboro, Ossipee, Effingham and Freedom … fifty miles in roughly eighty minutes. Something like 200 homes were damaged and one person was killed. I remember driving past some of the destruction in the days afterward, and it was amazing – a swath of huge trees knocked over like dominoes. I’d never seen anything like it.

Fast-forward to 2015, and a random post on Instagram. It showed a house that had been damaged in the tornado, now abandoned and almost overgrown. When I asked where it was located I was told it was nearby … and my curiosity level instantly doubled. I had to find it.

So on a clear, crisp, nearly perfect autumn day last month I set out on my mission. It really wasn’t that difficult … turns out most people around here know of it, or at least the people I work with whose business are houses. This house used to be very visible from the road, but these days the drive leading into it is almost overgrown. The property wasn’t posted, alleviating my fears of trespassing, and there was only a chain across what used to be the driveway. I parked on the side of the road and walked in.

My Instagram friend who had posted the initial photos that piqued my interest had also mentioned that it was surrounded by brambles and bear tracks. Now, the thought of bears wasn’t going to stop me, but I did keep an eye out for large black furry things. Wading through knee-deep weeds toward an abandoned house set waaaay back off the road inspires thoughts like this. It was a little unsettling. I kept going.

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Then … there it was, a beautiful old Colonial with classic lines, great proportions and 12-over-12 windows. Nature had nearly taken over. Through the Instagram post I’d learned that the entire back side of the house was gone, but from my angle it still seemed mostly intact. The side door was ajar. Everything seemed relatively straight. The windows were intact but the one closest to me was missing its glass. And …. it offered a glimpse of the reason why I came.

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Inside, the walls were covered with murals. It is estimated that hundreds of early murals lie undiscovered under wallpaper in New England. The painting of wall murals began about 1800 and continued until 1850, when mass-produced wallpaper became available and the desire for paint-decorated walls waned. Though some of the plaster here had come away from the lath, the vivid colors still jumped out into the room. The paintings looked as if they represented faraway places, with buildings that looked like temples and exotic trees. What a shame that these will likely disintegrate with the rest of the house; I took photos as best I could to document them, but they don’t do them justice. It made me sad to think that they, and this once-beautiful house, might be gone after the next hard winter.

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If I hadn’t been alone I might have ventured further, but the brush kept me from doing so. If anyone out there knows more about this place, or if anything can be done to save these paintings, please comment. As for me, I’m just happy I got to see it. Even if nature reclaims this house, I know what was once there.

Bayside

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Following my own advice to “explore just outside your front door,” last week was devoted to poking around the peninsulas of mid-coast Maine. Hitting what’s been the best weather of the year so far, it’s easy to love this area … sunshine or not. But sunshine we had and I’m here to report on one of my favorite places anywhere.

I learned about Bayside years ago, when my husband and I traveled the coast and happened to hear about it from a local. It isn’t marked on the main road; we were simply advised to turn at the Mexican restaurant and follow the road to the water. We did, we followed, we discovered. This is a charming little piece of the history of Maine.

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Bayside was founded in 1849 by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Maine.  The first purchase of land was only 25 acres; the intent of the church was to have a summer recreational area where they could gather once a year for worship and spend time socially in this beautiful area of Penobscot Bay.  And for 25 years these pioneer churchmen and farmers pitched their tents under the oaks and birches and worshipped God with sermons, songs and old fashioned religious fervor.

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As years passed, the tents gradually gave way to wooden cottages, the first being built in 1869.  In 1875 the Wesleyan Grove House was built, launching the campground to its fate as a summer resort in addition to its religious mission. Building lots were being sold at prices from $5 to $15 and more acreage was being purchased all the time. By the end of 1879, 40 cottages had been built – ultimately over 300 cottages were constructed and most of them are still here today.

By the 1880s Bayside was in full swing as a summer resort.  Steamships came from as far away as Boston.  One report mentions as many as seven steamers coming to the landing dock (still here today) in a single day.  The report goes on to say that “250 Hampden belles and their beaux came down Tuesday on the steamer Clifford.”  Bayside was the place to be!

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In the 1890’s more cottages had been built along with several retail shops to handle the needs of hundreds of visitors.  This was the era of clam bakes, picnics, hay rides, firemen’s musters, band concerts and excursions.  The first hotel had burned down but a new and larger one was put up.  Even a bowling alley was constructed, along with parks, a ball field, and tennis courts.

The glory of the late 1800’s is no longer present in Bayside, but the character of that old community still lies in the architecture and the people who come here year after year.  Many cottages have been owned by the same families for generations and there is a strong community involvement by those owners to keep Bayside as a place preserved in time.

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While wandering the quiet, narrow roads we met a man walking his dog who described his experience living here. In 1989 he bought his cottage for $5800; today it’s worth approximately $400,000 even though it’s on a 60×60′ lot. The original structure had a basement that was hand-dug, the cottage wide open, and you had to go outside for a toilet, but it had a wonderful old parlor stove, double mantel, and nice woodwork. Over the years he and his wife fixed it up; talking to us he lamented the taxes and the snowplow driver (who he claimed hated Bayside) but did show pride in the fact that his cottage was one of the nicest.

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What Bayside offers today are walks along the shore roads, with loons swimming nearby and the occasional seal looking for breakfast. Sailboats moored on the bay offer a beautiful backdrop to the island in the distance and Blue Hill on the horizon.  On clear days the mountains of Acadia are the distant shadows. Come here to hunt for beach glass. Swing on the swingset. Admire the charming architecture and clever cottage names (“Sqeezed Inn”). Sleep. Rest. Restore. Bayside is rare, untouched, and safe and sound in the 21st century.

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Source: http://www.baysidecottagerentals.com/Bayside