Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Old House History - 1898 to Now

This feels like my Nancy Drew moment…. I’ve been digging through photos, deeds, Homeowner's Association files and chatting with all the neighbors to try and figure out the history of the house.  It appears to have evolved from many renovations over the years.  But what was built when?  And how?  And then suddenly we got our ‘ah-ha’ moment and started to fit the puzzle of the house's history together. The key? An old photo I found in a file folder that helped us figure it all out.

Here's the photo, which I'm guessing was taken about 1910.  It's a whole lot different than the house we have today - but explains a lot of the mysteries we have found. And notice the front door is on the side of the house, which of course would face the water, rather than the street like it does today.

But first, let's go back in history a bit.  Maine has been known as Vacationland for generations and that was particularly true along coastal Maine. This area was originally known as Loveitt’s Field - a seaside pasture for grazing sheep, but it evolved around the turn of the last century into a group of summer rental cottages.  Many of the cottages were owned by the Loveitt family - they were  known for their distinct paint colors- brown with yellow trim. 

Antique Postcard of The Cloyester hotel, dated 1906

There were also a couple of big hotels and 'casinos' (these were more like a resort than the casinos we know today) in the area.  A well known inn was the Cloyester.  It attracted visitors from New England and Canada every summer.  I came across this antique postcard and marveled at how its sentiment is the same in 1906 as it is today - "the rocks, the waves and the salt air"  attract visitors from 'away' to enjoy Maine in the summer with friends and family.  

Neighborhood folklore says there were a couple of small cottages that were associated with the Cloyester - including our home.  But when I do the deed search, I find it was owned by the Loveitt family.  So whether it was a Loveitt cottage or a Cloyester cottage, we'll probably never know.  But the house certainly had humble origins.  The floor plan below shows what was probably the 1898 version of the house, which is the current kitchen (see the physical history we had done here). 

Floor Plan - 1898, the original cottage

Today there here is a crawl space below the kitchen (not a full basement).  The kitchen has beautiful narrow bead board paneling on the walls, that we haven't found anywhere else in the house.   And behind the beadboard, we have found exterior clapboards that are painted on the inside (a cottage wouldn't have been a year round home, you wouldn't have insulation and wallboard.  Instead, the interior of the clapboards would have been painted to make the interior look nice).

Our next clue is a 1906 photo that a neighbor shared, which shows a portion of the house.  Now we can see that the main house has started to take shape, but without the shed dormer across the top.  It's painted white and there aren't any windows on the original part of the house.  There also isn't a chimney, so it probably wasn't a year round house.

With that photo and the basement structure as our guide, here's our best guess of how the house was constructed before 1906.

Floor Plan - Pre-1906

This next panoramic photo is one of my favorites and was kindly shared by a neighbor (thanks to a hint from one of our readers!).  It's a big photograph, probably 22 inches wide.  It shows the Cloyester hotel in the left foreground, but up the hill to the right is a portion of our house.

In this photo, the hip dormer has been added to the back of the house and there is a chimney.  So maybe it's now used as a year round house!  

Close up from large panoramic photo

We don't have a date on the panoramic photo, but let's look at it a bit more, because it does such a wonderful job of capturing the area at that point in time.  Look at how The Cloyester Inn juts out on the rocks.  And look how few buildings there were.  Things have changed so much!

Did you see the woman down at the bottom of the cliff!  What was she doing?  She seems so surprised by the photographer.   I'm not an expert on women's fashion, but doesn't that dress seem to be late 1800's or early 1900?  (and how could she climb up and down that cliff in that dress???) We don't have any other way to date this, but it's such a fabulous photo!

And that brings us to the 'ah-ha'  photo again.  Now the house is white again (or something pale), but it has porches on 3 sides.  We always guessed there was a side and back porch.  But never knew about a front porch.  Wow! Maybe this explains why the windows are so funky on the front of the house today?  The front porch would have hidden a lot.

Here is another photo that we know was pre 1921.  The Hastings Inn (the fancy house in the foreground) was a boarding house that burned down in 1920 or 1921.  Just up the hill to the left is our house.  It's hard to tell with the historical society logo on it (this is the only version they would allow me to share), but the house still has the 3 porches (the back porch appears to be enclosed) - but now a hip dormer has been added to the front, with 3 windows (today we have 4 windows and a shed dormer!).  

From that photo, we came up with this 'guess' at the floor plan pre 1921. 

Floor Plan - Pre-1920

This aerial photo from a former neighbor that wrote a history of the neighborhood is from the early 1930's.  The front porch is still on the house.... not sure when it disappeared.   Interestingly, deeds show the house was purchased as a foreclosure in 1932.  This was during the Great Depression, so it's not surprising that it went into foreclosure.  Houses are often renovated right after someone buys them, but it's doubtful there were many changes to the house during this period, because so few people could afford updates.

In 1944, the Willard family purchased the house.  During World War II, they probably didn't make many changes to the house.  So it was probably sometime after this that the rest of the changes were made, creating the floor plan we see today.  

Floor Plan - Today

Today, we have our funky front facade with the mismatched windows.  And we have a front shed dormer instead of a hip dormer, that extends over what was originally the side porch and the long front farmers porch is long gone, replaced with a smaller porch that has Arts & Crafts styling.  

The side and rear porch have all been integrated into the main house.

In 125 years, this house has seen so many additions and changes.  And now of course, we will put our own stamp on it.  But we will be careful to maintain much of its original style and grace, because it really is a special home with lots of history.

Pin It


  1. This is a very interesting project to follow. Can’t wait to see it as you go forward.

  2. Laurel:

    As the owner of this property for
    38 and a half years, we are enjoying, a long with others, your research on the changes in the structure. During our upgrade to the first floor bathroom 15 or so years ago we discovered the location of the original "camp" with it's spar varnished beams and ceiling and apparent front door.

    Advancing age prevented us from undertaking several needed projects and mandated our "downsizing". We're very pleased our love of the property is being carried on by you on aa much largerdcall


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...