TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JEFF ROBERTS
Sixty-seven years ago, Frances Smith invested in shorefront on Embden Pond, in Embden — and a matriarchal tradition. “My dad loved the place, but in name it was my mother’s,” says Beth-Ellen Pennell, who inherited it from her in 2002. “There was something about having a piece of property that was hers on paper that was important to her.” Now the place is willed to Beth-Ellen and her husband, Steven’s, daughter, Elspeth.
Frances and Earle Smith erected a no-frills log cabin by former Windham kit-home builder L.C. Andrew, where Beth-Ellen and her brother spent happy childhood summers. Thirty years later, the Smiths fitted out the place for their retirement, adding plumbing, insulation, a basement, a sunporch, a first-floor bedroom and bath, and a second story. “The only thing left of the original camp was the pine floor in the living room,” Beth-Ellen says. Fast-forward another 30 years and the Pennells, newly retired from research jobs at the University of Michigan, were ready to remake the camp once again.
Working with Mark Gordon and Jill Crosby, of Rangeley Building & Remodeling, the couple added engineered-wood siding; a standing-seam metal roof; streamlined windows; cedar decks with glass-paneled railings that facilitate pond views; and a rear mudroom wing with eight-foot-tall French doors in a proud tomato shade. Inside, they absorbed the sunporch into a living/dining space dominated by the site’s blue-and-green panorama and a pantry into a tidy gray-and-white kitchen; carved out an upstairs bath; reconfigured a cramped staircase where Elspeth had hung a sign warning visitors to “watch your noggin”; and opened up the living-room ceiling, revealing the log cabin’s original beams. Below, the old pine floor, rendered in a whitewashed finish, bookends the room’s history.
With the cycle of renovations at the camp now well established, the Pennells tucked a newspaper behind one of the living-room walls when Gordon was Sheetrocking — “for our daughter’s sake,” Beth-Ellen says. “So when she’s tearing down walls in 30 years, she’ll find it.”
Designer and General Contractor: Rangeley Building & Remodeling
Roofing Contractor: Signature Roofing
Masonry Contractor: David Tanguay Masonry
Tile Supplier: Distinctive Tile & Design
Demolition and Site Preparation: Partridge & Kids Construction
Square Feet: 1,200
Project Cost: $500,000
Time It Took: 17 months