More warm stories for icy weather … these originally appeared in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram in June, July and August of 2014.
While exploring midcoast Maine’s historic Pemaquid peninsula, just a few miles from Damariscotta, I stumble on the quintessential Maine cottages of Harborside.
The iconic red-and-white housekeeping cottages of Harborside in South Bristol were constructed in the early 1950s by Leonard Osier, high school teacher and thrifty Yankee. Osier saw the potential for extra income in his lovely boyhood home on the harbor, and built a few seasonal cottages for summer visitors. His first two sturdy cabins were the Cormorant and the Osprey.
Over time, his seaside compound grew to include the Gannet, Petrel, Heron, Tern, Teal, Mallard, Gull and Loon cottages. The charming, old-fashioned property is now in the capable hands of Osier’s daughter, Belinda, who carefully maintains her father’s legacy. Harborside’s long-time guests remember Belinda as a young girl delivering mail and messages. The younger Osier possesses the ideal traits of an innkeeper — she’s a natural teacher with a reverence for history and a terrific smile.
The Laracy family, above, has gathered at Harborside every summer for 41 years. “The smell of freshly cut grass always reminds me of Leonard Osier,” Mary Laracy says, remembering Osier on his riding mower. She now brings her children and grandchildren to share in the summer experiences she had as a child – playing with cousins, walking the grassy slope to the dock, and watching seagulls, turtles and cranes from the rocky shore.
The multigenerational Laracy family calls Harborside, “the compound,” and treasure their time here – rain or shine. With 2-3 new babies every year, the family has grown too large for everyone to stay at Harborside, but all enjoy their annual retreat to this old fashioned summer utopia. “We love seeing our kids enjoying what we enjoyed as kids.” When pressed, they all confess it’s mostly about “doing nothing.”
The Laracys appreciate the improvements the Osiers have made to the rustic cabins through the years. “One summer, new coffeemakers were the talk of the town.” But most agree that above all, they love that Harborside remains so unchanged from the early days. The family agrees that their week in Maine trumps everything — a few have chosen to miss proms and graduations to be here. “We can’t imagine not coming to Harborside,” they say. “We look forward to it all year!”
Micro Cottages, Macro Views
Leonard Osier carefully oriented the original cottages to take maximum advantage of seaside beauty and harbor views. Belinda Osier keeps spaces uncluttered, comfortable and filled with natural light. No fusty drapes here, surfaces are clean and attractively rustic. The mid-century aesthetic lends a feeling timelessness and familiarity — like visiting an old friend.
Harborside cottages are not large, but ocean views are broad and vast, dotted with sailboats, lobster boats, and the occasional schooner. Traditional cottages include an open room with kitchen, bath, one or two bedrooms, plus well-equipped kitchens that include a lobster-cooking pot. The cottages encircle a shared gathering space with a bring-your-own fire pit rule. Evening cookouts and toasting marshmallows are encouraged.
During my stay, I enjoy a late-afternoon glass of wine on the long dock admiring the harbor, boats, bright blue sky and tumbling white clouds. It’s a short walk to Shaw’s, the bustling nearby lobster pound, for seafood and conviviality. Two words: go early. The Laracys do.
Harborside is blessedly low-tech: if you want WiFi, you’re relegated to the owner’s porch, pleasant enough, but slightly removed from the action. The message here is decidedly unplugged – there isn’t a television in sight. This is a tranquil respite from the demands of the larger world, exactly what I want in a Maine cottage getaway.
Out and About
Just up the road in Bristol, Pemaquid Point lighthouse sits at the entrance to beautiful Muscongus Bay. The rocky cliffs, crashing waves and beautiful grounds are accessible for a very reasonable fee of $2.00. Check out the museum, art gallery and lighthouse, or enjoy a seaside picnic on the point.
Soak up some local history at Colonial Pemaquid’s Fort William Henry. The original fort was built in 1692; this mighty replica was built in 1908. Historic Pemaquid includes artifacts from colonial-era archaeological excavations, from musket balls to pottery. For non-history buffs, there are always the expansive harbor views.
If you feel the need to plunge back into civilization, Damariscotta is a few miles down the road with enough postcard shops, boutiques and pubs for everyone. Damaricotta is the epicenter of all things oyster: taste a few briny Pemaquids and add to the “middens,” enormous shell piles left by Native Americans.
Sand and Sea
Pemaquid Beach offers swimmers and sunbathers a stretch of unusually clean, soft sand on a protected cove. I spent a lazy afternoon among the beautiful beach peas and roses – that sand is so soft! Check out the salt pond preserve where Rachel Carson researched her book, The Edge of the Sea. For another idyllic setting, visit lovely Round Pond, a protected harbor on Muscongus Sound.
Or indulge in a lobster-boat sightseeing tour to spot puffins, seals and even whales from nearby Shaw’s Lobster Pound & Wharf. Or take the ferry from Shaw’s Landing to stunning Monhegan Island for a glorious day of hiking and exploring – don’t miss the fairy houses.
Get Away from it All
Harborside is a perfect spot to unplug, spend time with friends and family, and master the fine art of doing nothing.
“My most wonderful childhood memories are of Harborside cottages. Now my own children are creating their own memories at Harborside. What a gift!” says Lauren Sullivan. •