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A Century-old Coastal Victorian Cottage

A Family’s One Constant

By Lucie B. Amundsen
Published: April 28, 2011
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Photo by JAMES R. SALOMON
A family cottage or cabin can serve as a beacon to home.
Richard Horton and his siblings have moved around plenty. His sister, Marie, has now settled in the southern U.S., while Edward, his brother, has been around the world and back in the military. But one thing has always remained a constant in their busy lives: their century-old Maine family cottage.
   
As the story goes, just as the 1800s were ending, Richard’s great uncle Elmer made the bold move of purchasing a plot of rural property down one of Maine's long peninsula fingers that dip into the Atlantic. Elmer paid $50 for the plot with the stipulation that within one year he'd have a cottage built on the property – a requirement of a weary developer concerned about coaxing people to a far-flung location known only for boat building and cool breezes.
   
Far flung, indeed. The land is only a 22-mile boat trip from Portland, but nearly 70 miles by car given all the curvy roads hugging the water and lack of bridges between juts of land.
   
Undeterred, Elmer made the deadline. By 1894, with about $300 worth of materials, he had built a Victorian cottage bearing the moniker “Ocean Point of View” for its location on 75 feet of East Boothbay shoreline.
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A GRAND WATER VISTA – Views of multiple islands and lighthouses turn 70 percent of Ocean Point's guests into repeat visitors to the East Boothbay cottage. "But don't ask for a refund if it's foggy," jokes Richard.
Photo by JAMES R. SALOMON
A Rustic, Seasonal Cottage
    
Despite the cottage's dramatic location, wraparound porch and grand tower, Ocean Point of View possesses a rustic cabin-like feel. Its open-stud construction, with mostly unfinished interior walls, feels as relaxed as summer itself.
   
“Basically the house was framed out, sheathed and shingled, but that’s it,” says Richard, who laughs at the idea of it ever being a four-season place. One winter, there was a small roof leak that caused things to get a little slick. “It’s the only place I know where you can go inside and slip on the ice,” says Richard.
   

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Photo by JAMES R. SALOMON
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SIMPLE FARE – The dining room often hosts grand meals of seafood splendor, but in a relaxed atmosphere perfect for vacationing.
Photo by JAMES R. SALOMON
And in the winter, that thin sheen on the kitchen floor is all the fresh water you’re going to find in the cottage – or most anywhere in East Boothbay’s Ocean Point. The rugged Maine bedrock may be perfect for exploring tidal pools, but not laying water pipe. All tap water to the area is run from surface lines. “Service is turned off [by the utility] on October 15th and not started again until the danger of frost has passed on April 15th,” he explains.
   
After that, East Boothbay emerges from its hibernation. “For many years, we moved my aunt every spring to the cottage where she would live the whole summer,” recounts Richard. “Ocean Point of View was where she wanted to be, and she was able to do that until she passed away at 94.” (May all cabin lovers be so blessed.)

Ship Shape

   
Now, ownership and its responsibilities fall to Richard, Marie and Edward. “The cottage has been a good teacher,” says Richard, who has learned how to maintain a 117 year-old structure, alongside his siblings.
    
As one might guess, it’s never dull. Small projects, like replacing a few deck boards, can end up as a sizeable structural repair changing out a rotting sill. “We had to replace some of the pins [which the cottage rests on] with new 6x6 pressure-treated ones,” says Richard. And there’s sure to be more spring afternoons of sibling bonding under the cabin. “There are still some original pins under there.”

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COTTAGE STYLE – Part of Ocean Point of View's charm is its 100-plus years of history. Many of the original furnishings grace the cottage's rooms. "This place attracts people who appreciate drinking coffee on a quiet porch watching the water," says Richard. "It's not for the luxury vacation crowd."
Photo by JAMES R. SALOMON
Sharing the Cottage
   
However, this time spent readying the cottage season after season for family enjoyment (and for renters) has its upsides. On the spectrum of how well adult children get along sharing a family cabin, Richard feels “we’re really on the good end of that.”
   
The threesome and their families meld lifestyles and make the 4-bedroom main cottage and a small apartment off by the driveway work for everyone. And with the time available already limited by the short summer and their decision to sometimes rent out the place, the family doesn’t divvy up the weeks.
   
“We don’t clear out for each other,” says Richard, viewing cottage time as too precious a commodity. It’s when family children can take advantage of kayaking at nearby Grimes Cove or climbing up to the highest part of the cottage’s tower to carve their initials in its walls.
   
His secret to harmonious cohabitation? “It’s the little things like, ‘Where do you like to keep the coffee maker?’ Or, ‘How do you make your coffee?’ But we just figure it out.”
   
Little concessions are probably easier to make when in view of multiple islands, as many as seven lighthouses and the ever-changing surf. “When we get hurricanes out to sea, there will be surf of 15- to 20-foot waves not even 100 feet from the porch,” says Richard. “But every time you look out, no matter the weather, it’s a different view.”

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OPEN BEAUTY – The seasonal open-stud construction of the cottage gives it a certain rustic charm.
Photo by JAMES R. SALOMON
Renting Has Its Benefits
   
Even renting has some upsides beyond helping with expenses. “There have been quite a few artists, and a few times we’ve come back to the cottage to find a painting or sketch left on the mantel as a sort of thank you for opening up the place,” reminisces Richard.
   
About 70 percent of Ocean Point’s renters are repeat visitors who enjoy the place’s rustic sense of history, which is well documented with vintage photos throughout the cottage. “If you’re looking for a luxury vacation, you’re not staying here,” says Richard, though he did finally concede to putting in a dishwasher last year. “I argued that standing around and washing dishes is part of the experience, but my sister convinced me that sitting in the porch while the quiet dishwasher runs is pretty good too.”
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PORCH SIDE SERENITY – Because there are no bridges connecting the fingers of land that make up the Maine coastline, the pace by the water is slow and quiet. "You look across the water and the land you see is only 100 yards by boat, but to get to that same spot by car would be over 20 miles," explains Richard. "It just wouldn't be the same place with bridges everywhere."
Photo by JAMES R. SALOMON
Leisure
   
Thankfully, it’s not all work at Ocean Point. The family gathers around the old kitchen table often, enjoying Edward’s fresh shrimp and pasta dishes or Richard’s swordfish fillets. But it wouldn’t
be summer without eating lobster. It makes for an annual family event. On one such occasion, Richard’s uncle once famously said, “Whoever ate the first lobster must have been mighty hungry
or mighty curious.”
    
Richard digs out the big lobster pots three or four times a season to steam, not boil, the spider-like crustacean. “It’s a big difference,” advises Richard. “You lose too much flavor in boiling water. All you need is an inch and half.”
   
That, and an oceanside cottage in Maine, really makes for the perfect lobster experience.





Contributing editor Lucie Amundsen is a native Mainer living in exile in Minnesota.



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Photo by dreamstime.com

A LOT OF LOBSTER!


2010 saw a record 93 million pounds of lobster harvested off the Maine coast – that’s 12 million over the previous record.
   
How much is that lobster in the window? The 6,000 commercial lobstermen saw an average of $3.31/pound, up from $2/pound in 2008.
    
Homarus Americanus. If you’re in Maine in early August this summer, head “downeast” to Rockland for the 64th annual Maine Lobster Festival, a four-day celebration of Homarus Americanus, the species Mainers like to call “true lobsters.” You can pick out a real one by its five sets of legs, including a pair of large, meat-filled claws. (www.MaineLobsterFestival.com)
   
Shell Games. Live lobster available in seafood and grocery stores outside of New England are hard-shell lobsters. This is the rugged traveler type, which has inspired 8-piece lobster tool sets including hinged “crackers” to get past that hardy crustaceous armor.
   
But if you can come to New England in the late summer or early fall, you’ll be able to try a soft-shell lobster. It’s not a different variety, it’s just a different time of year.  Soft-shell lobsters have recently molted and have a new covering. These fresh shells are so delicate you can crack into them with just your hands.
   
Soft-shell lobsters also have less meat than their hard-shell counterparts because they’re still growing into their new shell. The meat has a softer texture that won’t work for grilling, and because their delicate state won’t allow for shipping around the globe, soft-shells tend to be cheaper per pound too.


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