This Schoolhouse Rocks!
A couple rebuilds a former academic building in Newcastle with salvaged finds.
ABOVE Juliana McClain found the living room’s stained-glass mosaic “gem,” by Round Pond artist Liz Martone, at the Good Supply, in Bristol. The woodstove is a 1982 Elm by Vermont Iron Stove Works, which Lind bought in Cushing, via Uncle Henry’s, years before they owned the house.
TEXT BY JESSE ELLISON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
From the February 2022 issue of Down East magazine
When Joel Lind and Juliana McClain moved into Lind’s grandparents’ Newcastle home, it was known locally as “the Lind house of perpetual renovation.” His grandparents purchased the dilapidated former one-room schoolhouse in the early 1970s, when it had no foundation and, they joked, they “had to go uphill to get to the refrigerator.” Over decades, they put in a foundation and tacked on multiple additions. After they died in the early aughts — in the house, just as they’d planned — Lind and McClain felt drawn to the place, if not the grandparents’ remodeling efforts. They spent two years gutting and rebuilding the house and turning a porch into a sunny living room with a vintage woodstove. Now, they’re drawing up plans to redo the bath, and it’s all starting to feel like perpetual renovation. “We decided to continue the tradition,” Lind says.
Most of the materials used in the couple’s renovations came from job sites Lind, who owns a home-building and restoration company, worked on. The breakfast bar features beadboard from a Sears kit house on Pemaquid Point and a top made from pine wall framing pulled out of an 1810 house in Bristol. They counted the rings in the wood and got to more than 100, meaning the tree was likely alive in the 1700s. Lind installed shelves in the distressed-wood cabinet, in the corner, that once belonged to McClain’s father and stepmother, and he built the dining table from pine flooring rescued from an attic.
With the couple’s rescue terrier, Dottie, looking on, McClain reaches into a cabinet that Joel built for her as a gift using windows from a cabin he helped tear down on Pemaquid Point. They painted the lower cabinets, put in by Lind’s grandparents, sage green to match. Above the sink is, naturally, a schoolhouse-style fixture, from Lowe’s.
When their now-20-year-old daughter went off to college, the couple turned her bedroom into a guest room and workspace for McClain, who likes to sew. McClain enrolled in school to become an interfaith chaplain after Damariscotta Pottery, where she painted ceramics, closed in 2020, so she also uses the pine IKEA desk for studying and Zoom workshops.
The guest room, which Lind’s grandparents wryly (and presciently) called their “dying room,” pairs walls in Benjamin Moore’s Dior Gray with a rather heavenly sky-blue vaulted ceiling strewn with clouds that McClain painted for her daughter. A print of the former Sutro Baths, in San Francisco, hangs over the bed.
“Joel has done so much in terms of building this house,” Juliana McClain says, “but the inside is mostly me.” A shelf displays her crystal collection and a sheep’s skull she found on Metinic Island, and a gallery wall includes a painting by her great-grandfather, a hawksbill sea turtle her father bought in the 1970s, and an etching of Jonah and the whale. McClain painted the lamp while at Damariscotta Pottery.
A framed photo shows the former schoolhouse, which closed in the 1950s, in 1914. At left is a book that Lind’s grandparents made and sent to friends and family. It includes the debatable line, “After 19 years of working on our one-room schoolhouse, we are almost finished.”