House Tour

Sitting Pretty

A family strikes real estate gold on a largely spoken-for stretch of Bridgton’s Highland Lake.

TEXT BY AMY SUTHERLAND
PHOTOGRAPHED BY IRVIN SERRANO
Highland Lake camp

ABOVE Kelly and Clinton Rockwell have created a water wonderland on Bridgton’s Highland Lake. Their camp is just steps from this spot, where they swim, paddle, and fish the days away with their three kids.

Sitting Pretty

A family strikes real estate gold on a largely spoken-for stretch of Bridgton’s Highland Lake.

TEXT BY AMY SUTHERLAND
PHOTOGRAPHED BY IRVIN SERRANO
Highland Lake camp

ABOVE Kelly and Clinton Rockwell have created a water wonderland on Bridgton’s Highland Lake. Their camp is just steps from this spot, where they swim, paddle, and fish the days away with their three kids.

The first time Kelly Rockwell asked her then-boyfriend, Clinton, along on her family’s summer visit to Highland Lake, he said no. He needed to stay in Washington, D.C., and work. She started to cry.

They had recently started dating and he didn’t understand how the long, narrow lake that stretches north from Bridgton loomed large in her family’s history. Generations have been converging here since 1960, when her grandparents bought a $4,000 cabin amid a smattering of fishing camps on Sanborns Grove Road. Kelly first visited the “Grove,” as it’s known, when she was in diapers and has returned most summers since to pick blueberries on Pleasant Mountain or fish off her grandparents’ dock. The tradition continued even after she and Clinton married, moved to southern California, and started a family of their own.

There was just one problem: the barebones, two-bedroom cabin had little room for guests. Her great-aunt bought a place in the Grove, expanding the family’s footprint, but the clan still needed to stagger their visits and scrounge around for camps to borrow. “We could never find one for more than a week,” Kelly says.

And she wanted to stay for weeks, long enough to see all of her extended family as they came and went. She yearned for her own place, but camps around here are passed down; they almost never go on the market. She didn’t even bother to look.

Then her mother spied the impossible one morning as she kayaked on the lake — a “for sale” sign tacked on an old camp. Better yet, it was one of the 10 or so in the Grove that hugs the shore. The Rockwells were in California and bought the place sight unseen.

“There isn’t one speck of anything that we didn’t build storage into.”

ABOVE Thanks to a built-in dry bar with a copper sink, the screened porch doubles as a cocktail lounge; Portland designer Vanessa Helmick repurposed live-edge planks from Portland Architectural Salvage as windowsills. BELOW When Harrison contractors Gary and Ryan Crowell learned a nearby barn was being torn down, they bought boards to use throughout the camp. Helmick paired the lumber with leathered granite countertops and a corrugated-metal backsplash in the kitchen (pictured: Kelly and Paige).

Highland Lake Camp

The first time Kelly Rockwell asked her then-boyfriend, Clinton, along on her family’s summer visit to Highland Lake, he said no. He needed to stay in Washington, D.C., and work. She started to cry.

They had recently started dating and he didn’t understand how the long, narrow lake that stretches north from Bridgton loomed large in her family’s history. Generations have been converging here since 1960, when her grandparents bought a $4,000 cabin amid a smattering of fishing camps on Sanborns Grove Road. Kelly first visited the “Grove,” as it’s known, when she was in diapers and has returned most summers since to pick blueberries on Pleasant Mountain or fish off her grandparents’ dock. The tradition continued even after she and Clinton married, moved to southern California, and started a family of their own.

There was just one problem: the barebones, two-bedroom cabin had little room for guests. Her great-aunt bought a place in the Grove, expanding the family’s footprint, but the clan still needed to stagger their visits and scrounge around for camps to borrow. “We could never find one for more than a week,” Kelly says.

And she wanted to stay for weeks, long enough to see all of her extended family as they came and went. She yearned for her own place, but camps around here are passed down; they almost never go on the market. She didn’t even bother to look.

Then her mother spied the impossible one morning as she kayaked on the lake — a “for sale” sign tacked on an old camp. Better yet, it was one of the 10 or so in the Grove that hugs the shore. The Rockwells were in California and bought the place sight unseen.

“There isn’t one speck of anything that we didn’t build storage into.”

ABOVE Thanks to a built-in dry bar with a copper sink, the screened porch doubles as a cocktail lounge; Portland designer Vanessa Helmick repurposed live-edge planks from Portland Architectural Salvage as windowsills. BELOW When Harrison contractors Gary and Ryan Crowell learned a nearby barn was being torn down, they bought boards to use throughout the camp. Helmick paired the lumber with leathered granite countertops and a corrugated-metal backsplash in the kitchen (pictured: Kelly and Paige).

Highland Lake Camp

LEFT TO RIGHT 1) A work by Readfield’s J. Thomas R. Higgins tops a walnut desk designed by Helmick and made by Gorham’s Tim Hill Fine Woodworking. The couple chose exterior colors seen on many camps in the “Grove.” 2) Fish of all kinds swim across the first-floor bath’s Cole & Son wallpaper. The paneling and oar towel rack are from Portland Architectural Salvage; Portland’s Distinctive Tile & Design supplied the faux-wood tile. 3) The custom living room chair, sized for a tight corner, is covered in leather that will age well in a sunny window.

ABOVE 1) A work by Readfield’s J. Thomas R. Higgins tops a walnut desk designed by Helmick and made by Gorham’s Tim Hill Fine Woodworking. The couple chose exterior colors seen on many camps in the “Grove.” 2) Fish of all kinds swim across the first-floor bath’s Cole & Son wallpaper. The paneling and oar towel rack are from Portland Architectural Salvage; Portland’s Distinctive Tile & Design supplied the faux-wood tile. BELOW The custom living room chair, sized for a tight corner, is covered in leather that will age well in a sunny window.

When they arrived later that summer, they found their new camp was cramped, dated, and dark. The couple hired the father-son team of Gary and Ryan Crowell, of Harrison’s Crowell Construction, and told them they wanted to see the lake from every room. They would also need to wedge three kids, now 8, 6, and 4, and sundry guests inside and make room for large family dinners. Building codes limited expanding the house by only 30 percent, so the Crowells would have to accomplish all that in 1,900 square feet.

The contractors opened up the first floor by tearing down walls and transforming a deck into a screened porch lined with windows. On the second floor, a pair of new shed dormers made space for a third bedroom and two baths. To squeeze in all the trappings of a young, fun-loving family, they built drawers under the master bedroom’s king-size bed and into the kitchen’s kickboards. A cushioned banquette in the dining area opens up like a trunk. Even the windowsills in the porch, where there was no room for end tables, do double duty. They are wide enough to set a drink on.

“There isn’t one speck of anything that we didn’t build storage into,” designer Vanessa Helmick, of Portland’s Fiore Interiors, says.

She furnished the house to withstand kids and lake life, using easy-to-clean, fade- and water-resistant Sunbrella upholstery and indoor/outdoor rugs. A backdrop of textured and weathered wood surfaces lends a classic, but updated, Maine rusticity. Reclaimed barn boards cover the kitchen, living room, and screened porch cabinetry and planks from a bowling alley, unearthed at Portland Architectural Salvage, serve as wainscoting in the first-floor bath. For the dining table, Gorham’s Tim Hill Fine Woodworking set a massive slab of live-edge black walnut atop steel legs.

Now the family stays at the lake a leisurely eight weeks. They’ve hosted as many as 40 relatives for a lobster dinner. And, for the foreseeable future, they’ve got a lock on their spot in the Grove. “This is a camp we can visit for decades,” Kelly says. “And hopefully our children will want it when we can’t go any longer.”

ABOVE 1) Grady and Paige leap off the family’s float. 2) The couple chose exterior colors seen on many camps in the “Grove.”


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