Many of the beautiful houses in Camden-Rockport proudly carry more than a century of history, adding rooms and stories along the way. Visitors on the Camden Garden Club’s 65th annual House and Garden Tour will time-travel from the mid-1800s up to just last year. All of the current owners have created distinctive, original homes, in settings celebrating the natural beauty of their piece of midcoast Maine. Nearly all of the homeowners do their own gardening. Signe Mather, chair of the Tour, describes the six houses and seven gardens featured this July 19th as “Maine country cottages and gardens.”
One of the Rockport homeowners says, “We live in Anne Kilham’s house”….. and Anne lived in John Gribbel’s house….. and he lived in the Matthews place……and….. so it has been for 137 years, since 1875.” It will be their house only after they move on.
Originally this Greek Revival style home fronted on what was likely a dirt road that led to the current Aldermere Farm property and Lily Pond. Ice cut at the pond was hauled on sledges down across the property on its way to the harbor to be sent to warmer climes. “And it’s true that Harry Goodridge, Rockport’s legendary Harbor Master, who lived next door with Andre, the famous seal, did indeed shoot a large, aggravated raccoon in our cellar – and thus the walls are painted white to, ahem, obscure the result!” The Aldermere Farm property that stands across the road provides a link to the area’s agricultural past and represents a significant contribution to farmland preservation in the state.
Over the years, the house has been expanded to match the needs of successive owners. Initially, the living room was extended in around 1940, creating a sun-room effect facing the gardens to the south. Subsequently local artist Anne Kilham added the lower extension to the cellar in 1985 to serve as a studio with grand territorial views. This extension flows from the living room/sun-room extension with a concurrent roof line and myriad windows.
The current owners have lived in the house since 2004. In 2009, they removed an earlier addition and added an extension to the east. This provided a new kitchen, eating area, mud room and, finally, a bathroom on the ground floor (something the house had never had), along with a master bedroom/bath and laundry area on the second floor. Intentionally, no garage was built to preserve and share the openness of the view from the street and to minimize the footprint.
The house is sited in the extreme northwest corner of the lot, thus providing for maximum use of garden/lawn areas. Also remarkable is the expanse of ledge that flows from the house and down to the foot of the yard – “a reminder that Mother Nature was here first,” says the owner/gardener. The landscaping takes advantage of the southern exposure in a series of step-down beds and smaller planting areas which lead the eye to the expansive view beyond – an amazing vista in the heart of Rockport Village.
The owners were careful to keep the various additions’ external aspects faithful to the style of the original architecture, using proper scale, consistency of window size/placement, trim details and clapboards.
Inside, each addition has strived to continue the original finish details in door frames, crown molding, wood flooring and windows which permit light to enter from all sides of the house. “There are a total of 74 windows – both a blessing and a curse!”
The newest addition was designed by architect Peter Gross and built by Maine Coast Construction. Hardscaping and ‘big’ landscaping has been done by Jackson Landscaping – the rest is sweat equity by the homeowners, both husband and wife.
More information about the Camden House and Garden Tour can be had at www.camdengardenclub.com. Tickets can be purchased now for $25 online or starting July 1st in Camden at Surroundings and Whitehall Inn, in Rockport at Plants Unlimited, Hoboken Gardens, and Northern Kingdom Music Store; in Belfast at Brambles; in Waldoboro at Moose Crossing. Tickets the day of the tour will be $30, at the Northern Kingdom parking lot on Route 1, south of downtown Camden and at the Camden Hills State Park, Route 1, north of Camden.
All Tour proceeds make possible the hanging geranium baskets and holiday wreaths on Camden’s light posts, and the flower boxes and beds, the Village green, children’s amphitheater, scholarships and more.