The Coast Walk Project

Interview: Kristi and Matt Losquadro at the Saltair Inn

Oct 25, 2017: 60 degrees, raining, strong wind

Our next interviewees are Matt and Kristi Losquadro of the Saltair Inn on West Street in Bar Harbor. Saltair, built in 1887, began life as one of the Rusticator-era seaside summer cottages, just a couple of houses down from the Bar. Matt and Kristi were high school sweethearts in Virginia, and worked as a civil engineer and an FBI forensic examiner respectively before buying Saltair and moving to Maine in 2005. We have kids the same age, so we’ve been class parents together since kindergarten. We sat down together at the inn on a chilly October morning, with pouring rain and a strong wind whipping the trees by the shore.

Jenn:   I want to know things like how did you end up here, why’d you buy this house, what do you know about the history of the house? Random stuff.

Matt:   My folks moved here in ’92, and we started visiting them, and it was the only place that we both really felt like we wanted to keep coming back to. We’re not world travelers, we haven’t been all over the place, but we both really, really liked this place. Our jobs were fine in Virginia, but my commute was less than desirable. I had to go in towards DC with everybody else. Sometimes it would take a couple hours or more each way, so it was a pretty rough way to start your day, and to end it for that matter. I don’t know, it was just getting too busy.

Jenn:   You had both the girls at that point?

Matt:   Yeah. Two girls. We moved up here when Katie was five and Emily was almost two.

Kristi:   We decided we wanted to move here, then we looked at single-family homes, and we tried to find jobs. Matt wanted to build houses, and I could be a stay-at-home mom. I mistakenly at the time said, “What am I going to do all day? I don’t want to be a stay at home mom.” He was like, “You can have a book club, you can play cards, you can meet other moms.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to do that.” Now I look back and think, “Really? Do I want to work 12 hours a day instead of stay at home and have a book club and hang out with my kids?” I should have said yes to that.

Matt:   No, it was good you said no.

Kristi:   So then we decided on one trip, “Let’s look at inns. Maybe we could be innkeepers,” because Matt’s parents have been innkeepers. They were retired by then. I don’t know if you know Barry and Susan Schwartz, … they own the Hearthside Inn, we went to them and said, “Tell us about raising your kids in an inn. Is it horrible? What’s the worst part?” They convinced us that we could do it. Then we spent two years looking at inns all up and down the coast of Maine. Matt had spreadsheets on all the inns. This house was on the market, but [it wasn’t] an inn. We kind of had exhausted all [the available listings] – there was no room for kids, or they didn’t make enough money, or it was overpriced, or needed too much work. Then finally one trip we were like, “Let’s just go look at that Saltair,” because they had lowered the price. We walked in and we were like, “This is it.”

Matt:   We had come up that week to look at an inn in Camden, the Windward House. It was nice. It was a well-run business, but the owners had health issues so they were getting out.

Kristi:   It had a big owner’s quarters.

Matt:   A  generous owner’s quarters, the best we had seen so far. Most innkeepers don’t have kids. Either they never did or their kids are grown and gone, so they [just] need a bedroom and a bathroom and an office.

Jenn:   It seems like [all the other innkeepers] I know live in the basement, which you guys did for a while.

Kristi:   We did do that for a while.

Matt:   Five years.

Kristi:   But when we were looking at inns, we said, “We are not going to raise our kids living in a basement. We’re going to buy an inn that has good space.” That’s how we ended up here. Of course then we moved our kids to the basement after we moved in. This was out of our price range, a little more expensive, and it needed more work. It wasn’t a turnkey operation because it wasn’t an inn. We had to start from scratch, but it is still the only bed and breakfast on the water in downtown Bar Harbor, so we thought, “That’s a niche that nobody else has.” So we splurged.

Jenn:   You have that spectacular lawn.

Kristi:   That was kind of it. We started with four rooms and grew to five, and then to six, and then to eight.

Jenn:   Did you have to put all the bathrooms in?

Matt:   We put in two upstairs on the third floor and one down in the basement for us, but all the others were already here.

Kristi:   … Three of them we’ve gutted completely and redone.

Matt:   It was bad. Of the eight guest bathrooms, there’s only two we haven’t really gotten deep into.

Jenn:   You guys have done so much work on this place!

Kristi:   It’s been a lot. There’s always something to be done, and we keep finding more stuff to be done. At first we had to do hidden things, we had to rerun wiring and pipes. Not that the roof was hidden, but we had to do the roof. Then we flooded the basement twice, so we had to refinish the basement twice because that’s where we were living. People would say, “Your house needs to be painted, you need to do this deck over.” Yeah, but we had to do all this other stuff first. We finally got it. We’re in a good spot now, but even this winter, there’s two bathrooms that need to be redone. … We spent a lot on our own space, which most innkeepers probably wouldn’t do, but because we had the kids, we put that addition on. We could have bought a house in town and had a rental house like everybody else does for the money that we spent to put that addition on for ourselves, but it was worth it. It improved our whole quality of life. In the long run, it raised the value of the house too, but it’s not an immediate return.

Jenn:   It’s a quality of life thing.

Kristi:   Yes, it was really important.

Jenn:   You guys did such a nice job with it. If you didn’t know, it would be hard to pick out what was new.

 

Kristi:   That was Kay and Augusto. [Ed.note: of A4 Architecture.] They designed it, and they really did a good job. We had done a rough design, and then we went to Kay and Augusto. Then we were like, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could access our space right from the kitchen like you would a regular house?” And Kay said, “Why don’t we just take this wall out.” Things that you don’t see, architects see.

Jenn:   It’s like they can see through a brick wall, literally.

Kristi:   It’s perfect for us. They had recommended a contractor from Machias, and he did a great job. We’re happy.

Jenn:   Are you guys still doing [the work yourselves]? Like the bathrooms that you’re remodeling this winter, are you doing the tiling and all? I know you’ve done most of the [renovations so far].

Kristi:   Yeah.

Matt:   Bathrooms we pretty much do ourselves.

Jenn:   I’m impressed. I’m so intimidated by tiling.

Matt:   I think we do a really good job.

Kristi:   We do a good job with the actual tiling. I don’t do a good job of cleaning after the tiling. There’s a couple rooms where you can see spots where I didn’t scrub well enough and now it’s permanent. You can’t scrape it off the floor. That’s me. By the time you’re done tiling and scrubbing, the last thing you want to do is scrub out that bathroom.

Matt:   This one we’re going to do this winter is going to be completely rearranged. It will probably go down to studs because we’ve made the mistake in the past of saying, “Let’s just do what we need to do in this bathroom. We don’t have to take that wall of sheetrock down,” or, “We don’t have to demo that area of the ceiling.” And it always comes back to bite you. We end up going down to studs anyway. That’s phase one, you put some plastic over the door and you take everything out. We’re going to move the tub. We’re going to move pretty much all the fixtures because it’s a big bathroom, but it’s just not laid out real well. Half of the bathroom is this enormous two person jacuzzi tub, which …

Kristi:   It’s on its way out.

Matt:   Yeah. It was probably great 15 years ago, but now it’s not new anymore. The tubs they make today are so much better. Even though they might be smaller, they’re more comfortable. We like air jet tubs as opposed to jacuzzi tubs so they don’t vibrate the whole house when they’re on.

Kristi:   But people want them. People want jacuzzi tubs.

Matt:   You know what, they just want a tub. If it’s a tub big enough for two people, that’s a bonus. I don’t think they care whether it’s jacuzzi or an effervescent bath. I think it’s going to be a much nicer bathroom when we’re done. Huge walk in shower, two shower heads, and a nice bath. A double vanity. We’re doubling the size of all the fixtures, but I think it will still feel like a big bath when you walk into it. It’s not going to be cramped.

Jenn:   It sounds luxurious.

Matt:   It’s going to be. It has issues right now, but that’s what we do. My uncle was here for a few days last week. He’s a retired banker, so we were talking to him about the projects we need to do, and it was his opinion that this one is the first on the list because I think raising the rate will pay it off in a year. Then by year two it’s extra money because you’ve already paid off the project. I think it’s smart to do it.

Jenn:   Just in time for Katie to start college, right?

Matt:   Yes. I look around at these other inns, and there are several inns in town that have rooms that are priced higher than ours. I see the imperfections in our rooms, but still, we’re the only inn on an acre of waterfront property. The rooms that we have are generous in size to say the least. It’s the little details. It’s the little scuff marks here. Or it’s a little frayed here, it’s a little crack in the wall there. They’re not perfect. She’s reluctant to raise the rates until the rooms are perfect. It wouldn’t take much.

Jenn:   It’s just finding the time and the energy to do it.

Kristi:   And the money.

Jenn:   Well, that too.

Kristi:   Well you know. People nitpick them, “This isn’t done, this isn’t done,” you want it to be perfect.

Jenn:   Show me your pictures?

Kristi:   This is from Mrs. Barnes, who lived here in the 1960s. Let’s say ’68. She and her daughters stopped by a few years ago … and they brought us these pictures. We walked them all around. They’re the ones who told us [about the original layout.] You think the house looks so big – how could one family live here? All this where we’re sitting was back porch, like a screened-in back porch, that corner down there. That was all a back porch. [Ed note: It’s now a spacious kitchen.]

Jenn:   Oh I see.

Kristi:   Then upstairs  … we had divided bedrooms, like this Harbor Suite up here was like a second floor living room that was all open with bedrooms along the outside. It didn’t have as many rooms and bathrooms. The master suite was the old living room, and the dining room was this whole section. It was still, obviously a really big home, but it wasn’t probably as palatial as it might feel now for a single family. Then we’ve also met the Simons family who lived here from 1976 to 86. … A lot of people in town know the kids, the Simons. Carol and John. People our age would say, “I spent the night at your house, or I used to go to parties at your house.”

Jenn:   Neat.

Kristi:   Carol comes every year now, and she stays with us. We met her like our first or second year. She came up and stayed for the weekend and talked about the house. Previous innkeepers had told us the house was haunted and there was a ghost. Then this guy, probably he was a little younger than us, who used to be friends with them, proposed to his wife here. He came and stayed here. He wouldn’t even go up to the third floor because when he was a little kid and friends with them, they used to take him up there and they would see ghosts. We thought, “Oh my god, the house is haunted.” Then Carol came and we met her, and she was like, “No, it was all a setup. They used to terrify this kid.”

Jenn:   Oh the poor kid!

Kristi:   We don’t think it’s haunted. We’ve had no ghosts here.

Matt:   We’ve had more people come in and say that it feels very pleasant, people that are very sensitive to that kind of energy. They know as soon as they walk in that they’re very comfortable here.

Kristi:   Nothing bad has happened, the house has got a happy vibe. We had a medium here.

Matt:   She seemed pretty serious.

Kristi:   We didn’t know she was [a medium.] She was a guest here for one night, and she came downstairs. We always say, “Did you sleep okay?” She said, “Well not really, but it’s not your fault. There was a spirit, a ghost kept waking me up all night and wanting to talk to me.” We were like, “What?!” She said it was a little girl who was standing at the foot of the bed, and it kept poking her in the foot, waking her up all night. … They came down early for coffee, so they’re talking about this over coffee. We didn’t really want to talk about it in front of everybody else because she might freak somebody out. Then they left right after breakfast, so we didn’t get much time to talk. She said the ghost isn’t necessarily from the house. Ghosts come to her because she is a medium, so the spirit could have just come to her. And nobody else in that room has ever experienced anything, so it was kind of freaky.

Kristi:   The previous innkeepers, they were Tony and Elaine, and they had run this as an inn in the late 90s. Elaine’s father had owned the house. … Elaine was a Farrar. Then they sold it to Tim Gott and his partner. They bought it as an investment to flip it. When we bought it, … there was no history passed to us, it was very much a business transaction. A couple months later, Tony, the old innkeeper, called us. He was like, “I saw your website.” Talked to us on the phone a little bit. Then right before he hung up he said, “Enjoy the ghost. That house is haunted.”

So I was all freaked out that we bought a haunted house, that we had a ghost. I would have thought before we bought the house that it would be cool, but when you’re living in a house and somebody tells you that there’s a ghost in your house? It freaked me out. For a few days, like a week, I wouldn’t go upstairs by myself. Then finally I went up to the third floor and I had this heart-to-heart with “the ghost,” and I said, “We just want to raise our family here, we want to take care of your house, we want to restore it to its beauty. You’re welcome to stay as long as you want, but please don’t ever reveal yourself to us.” He or she never has, and we’ll just keep it like that. So there’s either no ghost, or the ghost is respecting our wishes.

Matt:   Mm-hmm.

Kristi:   No ghost.

Jenn:   It’s funny, somebody told me when we bought our house that it was haunted. I was nine months pregnant at the time. You know how it is. It doesn’t take much to freak you out. I don’t believe in ghosts, … [but] for like the first 10 years I was listening to all the creaks going, “Is that a ghost? Am I wrong? Are there really ghosts?” I’ve never seen anything. I don’t believe it.

Kristi:   Right. No ghost.

Jenn:   I don’t think my house is haunted. I think she was just screwing with my mind.

Kristi:   I think that’s what he was doing, too. Or, I don’t know. He said that it was a lady who haunted the house, he would smell her perfume.

Jenn:   Interesting.

Kristi:   I will tell you, every once in a while, I will be sitting somewhere, and all of a sudden I’ll get a whiff of perfume, then I think, “Oh my god, is that it?” Then I think, “No, it’s not. It’s something else.” But every once in a while, I’ll be cleaning up in a guest room, or I’ll be down here, and I think, “What’s that smell?” Then it goes. I don’t believe it’s a ghost, but because he said it, it makes me stop and think about it every time.

Jenn:   It’s funny how even if you don’t actually believe it, you can’t get it out of your head.

Kristi:   Right. You can’t stop.

Undated photo, ca.1896, courtesy of Matt & Kristi Losquadro.

 

Kristi:   So this house was built in 1887 by William and Elizabeth Rice. Nobody knows a lot about them. Elizabeth Rice was on the board at the hospital, and kind of helped establish the hospital. I don’t know anything about him. We googled them and looked in all these history books. They built six houses on this street. Then they sold to Bleecker Banks who used to be the mayor of Albany, New York. His company I think published … law books.

Photo courtesy of Matt & Kristi Losquadro, source unknown.

Kristi:   You know Raymond Strout?

Jenn:   Yeah!

Kristi:   He brought us a floor plan of the house from 1896. This is from when Bleecker Banks bought the House. There’s a whole list of previous owners. Look how many times this house has been sold. Raymond has a whole ledger. This is a page out of his book that has all the sales and stuff in Bar Harbor.

Kristi:   Matt thinks a lot of these changes here were probably done by Bleecker Banks. A lot of these changes probably date back to the 1900s.

Jenn:   This is so cool!

Kristi:   Yeah he showed up one day. Raymond was friends with John Smolley who was doing our roof, and Raymond said to John, “I have some stuff from the Saltair, do you think that they would like it?” John was like, “They would love it.” So he framed it all up and brought it over, said, “Here would you like to buy this from me?” We were like, “Yes, yes we would.”

Jenn:   He’s a good businessman.

Kristi:   Yeah. All done up too, and ready to go.

Jenn:   He does such a great job. … The house looks so much smaller in this [floor plan.]

Matt:   It was. This is the sitting room with the Acadia suite, this is the bedroom for the Acadia suite, this is the bath, and then this is the Chart room. So that’s how that end of the house on the second floor changed. You can see this is just a roof. That was a roof over this patio. This is the master suite sitting room. This is our breakfast room, and we’re sitting right here in the kitchen. That used to be all outdoor porch.

Jenn:   Looks like they just kept enclosing it.

Matt:   Yeah, they just kept building walls farther and farther back. … There was an addition here, here, and here. I think they were all done by Bleecker Banks. I think this little pencil sketch here was Bleecker Banks sitting down with his architect or his builder saying, “I want to put a room right here.”

Jenn:   Oh yeah.

Matt:   Then when he did that I think he did that addition. This says ‘Passageway,’ but it was basically a hallway from the old back door, which is the door that most of our guests come in because it’s on the street side. They think it’s the front of the house, but this would have been the front of the house. Servants and deliveries would have come in here to the foyer and come down this hallway to the back staircase. That stair right behind the fridge goes down to the basement where they did most of the cooking, and then up to the third floor where their sleeping quarters were. This is labeled ‘servants’ room’, this is ‘dining room,’ so I think this is the servants’ dining room.

Jenn:   Oh I see.

Matt:   That’s where they had their meals. They slept up on the third floor, and they did most of the cooking downstairs. There was an old dumbwaiter here that’s still downstairs in the garage that came up near the dining room.

Kristi:   Let’s see what else we have. These are just lists of the ‘who’s who’ and says, “Mrs. Bleecker Banks gave a dinner on Thursday at Saltaire in honor of Justice Edward Patterson of New York. Those present were Mr. and Mrs. Morris Jesup, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Redmond, and Mr. Henry Grant.” The Jesups were here having dinner. “Mr. and Mrs. William Lawrence Green are the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Bleecker Banks of Saltair.” I can’t believe they used to write this in the newspaper. We found these as the Bar Harbor Times was putting their historical archives in the computer, so every couple years you could google ‘Saltair, Bar Harbor,’ and a new little ‘who’s who’ article would pop up. …  And that’s kind of it. We’ve been collecting [information], but we don’t know a lot. We’ve rewritten the history of the inn [for the website.]

From the Saltair website:

"Saltair" was built in 1887 as a guest house for William and Elizabeth Rice of Massachusetts and New York. Mr. Rice was an investor and businessman. Mrs. Rice was one of the founding benefactors of what is now the MDI Hospital. Saltair was one of six summer "cottages" the Rice's built in the section of West Street known as the West Street Historical District, which includes 17 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. An expansive back lawn slopes gently from the rear of the inn to the water's edge. ... Saltair was designed by Boston architect Arthur Rotch, who designed over 15 other buildings in Bar Harbor, including St. Saviour's Episcopal Church located on Mt. Desert Street. ... Mr. Rice sold the home in 1896 to Anthony Bleecker Banks of Albany, NY. Mr. Banks was the President of Banks & Company, the publisher of the oldest law books published in the United States. He also served as mayor of Albany, NY in 1876. Mrs. Banks was Phoebe Wells. In 1926, the house was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Langhorne of Virginia and Washington D.C. Mr. Langhorne was a politician and Mrs. Langhorne was Mabel Johnson. Mr. Langhorne was a cousin of Lady Astor, society hostess and social critic who was the first woman seated on the British House of Commons in 1919. The next owners of the Saltair were Mr. and Mrs. Edward Browning. Mrs. Edward Browning, Ella, was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George McFadden and served on the Roscoe Jackson Memorial Laboratory Board of Trustees in 1953."

Kristi:   Matt was googling all the names of the owners. He was like, “Look, this guy went to VMI just like I did.” [That would be Marshall Langhorne and Virginia Military Institute.]

Jenn:   Isn’t it amazing how much is online these days?

Matt:   I couldn’t find a photograph of him. I really wanted to find like a picture in his cadet uniform or something like that. Couldn’t find one though.

[Ed.note: Drat, neither could I. I really wanted to surprise Matt! The most I could find was his VMI record, and this paragraph in the Register of the Department of State of 1912.]

Kristi:   There was a woman who had written a book – Walking Tour of Bar Harbor or something like that. Maybe she wrote the book about the historical walking tour, which had been published right when we bought the inn I think, and she stopped by once. … There used to be this West Street Owner’s Association, which really doesn’t exist [anymore]. At the time, she offered to research the history of all of our homes and put it all together for us, but nobody wanted to pay her to do it, so we didn’t do it.

Jenn:   Oh bummer.

Kristi:   When we moved onto the street, … the first group of neighbors that we lived here with weren’t so sure they wanted another bed and breakfast on their street. … We’re much friendlier now with all the owners on the street. They’ve all changed since we moved here.

Jenn:   What year was that?

Kristi:   2005 we moved here.

Jenn:   I’m just trying to think, isn’t the Kedge the only other bed and breakfast, or were there more?

Kristi:   The Tides was a bed and breakfast, right next door. Then the house on the corner was the Inn at Sunset and used to be owned by what was their last name? Smiths. The Smiths.

Matt:   Yeah, but that was not an inn when we moved here. It was previous to 2005.

Kristi:   Right. They all were closed except for the Tides. The Tides was operating …

Matt:   Until ’09.

Kristi:   Yeah, but not even really busy. They were just taking in guests more like as a hobby.

Jenn:   And the Kedge is closed now, isn’t it?

Kristi:   Yeah. Right, the same year … I think it had already been closed, but they bought it the same year we did.

Jenn:   A really big branch just fell off your tree.

Matt:   On the left?

Jenn:   Yeah.

Matt:   That’s actually not our tree. We don’t own any trees back here. Each of these trees is about a foot on that other side of the property line. Even that one right next to our chairs is a foot on that side.

Jenn:   So your property line runs like a diagonal? Well okay, then it fell off your neighbor’s tree.

Matt:   When they raised the canopy on all of these trees, that was probably seven years ago, you couldn’t see on the other side of those trees. The branches and the leaves came all the way down to the bushes. They limbed them all up, to improve their view, but at the same it opened up ours. Huge improvement. Then over here Mrs. Morell had allowed a whole row of Norway maples to grow up in this garden bed that kind of divides the two properties. I’m sure she did it for privacy purposes. They completely obscured any view we had to the west. When Joe and Jefferson bought that house, they asked us, just to be neighborly, how we would feel if they took down all those trees. It’s like, ‘yeah we’ve been wanting to do that for years but they weren’t our trees.’ So they took them all down and then raised the canopy down at the water.

Kristi:   Then the town decided maybe they wanted to turn that ferry terminal into a cruise ship terminal, and we thought, “Great, we just took out all the trees that blocked the ferry terminal.”

Matt:   It’s too bad we didn’t leave a couple of those trees.

Kristi:   The day after the vote – the vote last June where the town overwhelmingly voted to move forward – we came out, it was when we were out here in the morning, and we’re looking out on this beautiful summer morning, and Matt says, “Wow. You know what’s missing out there?” And I was totally unsuspecting, and I said, “No, what?” And he was like, “A big …” I’ll leave the bad word out.

Matt:   F’ing cruise ship.

Kristi:   Cruise ship. I was like oh god, seriously. That’s what’s missing from this view. It’s why I’m on the committee. Not to sabotage a pier, but just because I think it’s a huge decision that this town is making. You could forever be changing Bar Harbor, so make the right decision.

Matt:   We’ll move. I swear to God, I can’t look out back there and see boats like that. Not like that.

Jenn:   I don’t think anybody wants [a berthing pier.]

Kristi:   I think a berthing is only a good idea financially. Not for any other reason, but it makes the most money for the town. This whole pier process … some good ideas are emerging, like a multi use marina with a boat launch for kayakers and parking and a transportation center. Then a percentage of tendering there, which I think is good for Ocean Properties because nobody is even talking about taking all the tendering. Some people may feel, ‘yeah, take it all from them,’ but they’re running a good business down there. They don’t want to lose all their business.

Matt:   Unfortunately, we’ve got lots of sympathetic friends and acquaintances in the town, but not 5000 of them. We can’t hope that everybody comes by for a cup of coffee and sympathizes with how that change would affect us personally, speaking completely selfishly. I don’t think you can dispute that it would change this.

“Indian encampment at the foot of Bar/Bridge Street in Bar Harbor around 1881.” Photo from the Abbe Museum via Maine Memory Network.

Kristi:   Do we know anything else? We know it was an Indian encampment.

Jenn:   Yeah, I’ve seen pictures of that.

Kristi:   We talked with some people at the Abbe Museum about how they would love to dig up our backyard.

Jenn:   Are you guys up for that?

Kristi:   No.

Jenn:   Oh bummer.

Matt:   I went on a dig with the people from the Abbe years ago, and it was out in Goldsboro in this person’s backyard, and they took one meter square, ten centimeters deep, and they had a grid. Every year they came out and took meter one and then meter three and then meter five, and then came back for meter two and meter four. Sifted it all, found stuff, cataloged it. I said, “If you want to do it down by the bushes or something, I wouldn’t have a big problem with that.”

Jenn:   It’d be pretty cool. … It seems like if there was anything from the Wabanaki era [on your property] it would be pretty far down, because didn’t the town kick them off of here …

Kristi:   Before they built the houses.

[Ed.note: In 1881 the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association pushed the encampment away from the Bar. Through 1889, it gradually moved to the west, ending up along the mouth of Eddy’s Brook. In 1890, after West Street was extended to Holland St., the VIA moved the camp to the southern edge of town, on the east side of Ledgelawn Ave, and encampments along the shore were banned in the property deeds. (Asticou’s Island Domain, p.325-329. ]

Kristi:    I’ve heard that when they built these houses they brought in what they call the ‘rich dirt.’ The dirt is really nice here … So yeah, it probably would be pretty far down.

Jenn:    Yeah. When you look at the old photos, the ground just slopes right down to the shore.

Matt:   If we ever got around to possibly doing some kind of retaining wall down there …

Kristi:   Then we could poke around. When the neighbors built their retaining wall, at the end of the day the contractors would all leave and it was a big disheveled mess and I would go down there and walk all through it.

Jenn:   Did you find anything good?

Kristi:   I didn’t find anything. I was looking for bottles or something cool, but I didn’t find anything. I didn’t want to be obvious either, digging around their yard.

Jenn:   Yeah.

Kristi:   But every time we rip down a wall [in this house], we dig around in there. We’ve found a couple old bottles, an old newspaper in the wall, but it was nothing interesting. We were doing the basement, and Matt was getting in the wall behind the fireplace in the basement. There was this cavity in there. When you looked in, there was this big wooden box in the wall, tucked in behind the fireplace.

Matt:   It didn’t fall back there. Somebody put the box back there and then built the wall.

Kristi:   Matt was like, “Oh my god, come down here.” He’s shining the flashlight, “This was deliberately put in the wall.” We’re all excited, we were ripping out the wall anyway, and then we hauled this big box out. It’s this big wooden box. We got all excited, you know, ‘here’s the moment we find the cool treasure,’ and we opened it, and it was empty.

Matt:   It was actually a crate, and on the side of it was the name of an olive oil company. It was a shipping crate.

Jenn:   What a disappointment!

Kristi:   I know, it was such a letdown! … And the upstairs hallway has a bench. You could tell that the bench used to open, but somebody had sealed it shut. A couple of years ago we pried it open. We thought we’d see what was inside, but it was empty too. No treasures yet. We’re waiting to find some treasures.

Jenn:   We’ve never found anything more interesting than bits of newspaper in the walls [of our house].

Jenn:    It’s pretty cool, digging around trying to figure it all out.

Matt:    I’m pretty much done digging.

[Ed.note: Their research was pretty thorough, and I’ve only got a few notes to add:

– The inn is part of the West Street Historic District, which is #80000226 on the National Register. More info on that here and here.

– The inn’s architects, Rotch and Tilden, also designed several other local buildings, including Chatwold for the Pulitzers (demolished), Sea Urchins (now part of COA Deering Commons), and St. Saviour’s.

– Bar Harbor Times, June 26, 1947, p.10. “In 1923, largely through the efforts of Major George G. McMurtry, Joseph Pulitzer and others, the Bar Harbor Yacht Club was organized with the late Edward Browning as its first commodore.http://www.barharboryachtclub.com If you were paying really close attention up above, you’ll know that Browning was one of the owners of Saltair. Remember him, because one of these days the Coast Walk will get round the island and we’ll be talking about the Yacht Club.

– And here is a link to the MDI Historical Society’s catalog of the island’s summer cottages: although it doesn’t have any more info on Saltair, it’s a useful resource.

end of Ed.note.]

Matt:    … We had two guests show up yesterday by kayak. I think they’re from Blue Hill, and they kayaked into Bass Harbor, and then yesterday morning they were going to kayak from Bass Harbor to here. They got as far as Seal Harbor and he started sinking.

Jenn:    Oh my goodness!

Matt:    There was a hole in his kayak. They found somebody with a boat that was nice enough to tow them all the way here, I guess. They arrived while I was plumbing, so I didn’t see them come up. His boat is being repaired. He’s got it in our garage right now up on sawhorses with some sort of repair material on it that takes two days to cure. I can’t get the washing machine past his boat right now, so that’s my excuse for not finishing the laundry room project today.

Matt:    I’m 99% sure you gave me back that bag of sea glass and stuff.

Jenn:    Oh yes.

Matt:    That little cherub is missing.


A few years ago, Matt commissioned a still life from me of Kristi’s favorite sea glass pieces as a surprise gift for her. I love the colors of sea glass she found – those purples take decades to form. Most purple sea glass starts out clear, and the manganese in the glass slowly turns purple with exposure to sunlight (to UV rays, specifically.) Sea glass is all about chemistry and patience! The star of the piece, though, is the tiny, headless china doll. This type of doll was popular in the late 19th century and was known as a Frozen Charlotte: the name comes from a ballad about a young girl named Charlotte who refused to wear a cloak over her party dress and consequently froze to death.

 

Jenn:    Oh no!

Matt:    I’m sure somebody took it home.

Jenn:    Oh that’s awful.

Matt:    Yes it is. That was like the coolest artifact, and we’ll never find another one. It’ll never come up again.

Kristi:    Yeah, I had it out there in my jar of cool stuff, and it disappeared.

Matt:    Now every time I look at … the picture that you did for us, I go hm.

Jenn:    I hope it doesn’t spoil the picture!

Matt:    No.

Kristi:    No.

Jenn:    But I am going to look at the picture a little differently now.

Kristi:    I know. It’s gone. One of these days maybe it’ll show up. Maybe it just got lost.

Matt:    Yeah, I don’t think so. I think somebody thought it was just a piece of beach trash, that it had no value, and so we wouldn’t miss it.

Kristi:    You miss it.

Matt:    I do.

Kristi:    It was the coolest thing we ever found. We didn’t even know how cool it was. Then we got the sea glass book that said what it was, and I was like, “Oh my god, I have one of these. It’s there in the book.”

Jenn:    That’s kind of a sad ending.

Kristi:    You’d never find something like that if you were looking for it.

Jenn:    I’ve never found one and I’ve been beachcombing here for more than 20 years now.

Kristi:    I know.

Jenn:    I should probably let you guys get back to your day.

Kristi:    Yeah. I don’t know what else we could tell you.

Jenn:    If you think of something, you know where I live.  Thank you, guys!

 

WORKS CITED

Prins, Harald E. L. and McBride, Bunny. Asticou’s Island Domain, vol.1. Northeast Region Ethnography Program, National Park Service, Boston, 2007.

Register of the Department of State. Washington, DC, Government Printing Office, October 15, 1912. Online: https://books.google.com/books?id=T15OAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

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