Entertaining

Welcome to Mainedinavia

Where, last winter, friends gathered for a shvitz and Scandi-inspired meal

TEXT BY JESSE ELLISON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
outdoor sauna at Lincolnville Motel

ABOVE Felted-wool caps are traditional sauna-wear (hats are thought to prevent overheating), but Camden floral designer Molly O’Rourke and her son, Amon, donned more regionally appropriate headgear. 

When my friend Alice Amory purchased what was then a musty 1950s motel on Route 1 in Lincolnville in 2015, she told me her dream was to one day turn it into a year-round “sauna club.” Don’t google this phrase because, I promise, “erotic spa” or “a place for the sophisticated gentleman” is not what she has in mind. Rather, she was inspired by numerous trips to Scandinavia, where locals routinely bake in wood-paneled rooms as hot as ovens, then plunge into icy water — an invigorating ritual practitioners maintain improves circulation, boosts immunity, and promotes relaxation. She found further inspiration closer to home. “Traveling to Quebec and visiting the spa nordiques is really what made me wonder why there aren’t more of these places in Maine,” she says, referring to the dozens of health retreats in the Laurentians region, where saunas are a primary feature. “I guess our Puritanical roots might have something to do with it.” (For the uninitiated, sauna-ing is traditionally practiced au naturel.)

With a few seasons at the revamped Lincolnville Motel under her belt, last year Alice bought her first sauna — an electric-powered, cedar-barrel model with a convex Plexiglas wall that frames a Rothko-esque swath of snow, water, and sky. To mark the occasion, some friends gathered for a celebratory shvitz (minus the customary “cold plunge” — it was chilly enough that simply standing outside sufficed), followed by a Scandinavian brunch prepared by Alice, who previously worked in Michelin-star Manhattan restaurants, and served on vintage platters in the motel’s whitewashed “coffee room.” Being in a sauna, she explains, “can stimulate your appetite because your body is working, even if it feels like you’re just sitting there. And you’re sweating out all kinds of things, so you need to replenish.” Salty snacks are an obvious après-sauna choice, but fresh fruit, veggies, and cheese can also be “revitalizing.”

Sausages are so much a part of the Scandinavian sauna tradition that in Finland, public saunas often have an on-site grill for them. “People used to cook sausages using the sauna stove itself, but obviously a small electric sauna is not an ideal cooking space,” says Alice, who employed a charcoal grill instead and paired the meat with a citrus salad, vegetable frittata, handmade rolls spiced with cardamom, and an array of smørrebrød — Danish open-faced sandwiches on rye bread.

Eventually, she hopes to create a day-use facility with several outdoor wood-fired saunas, perhaps an outdoor hot-water soaking pool, and a café serving Scandi-inspired food and drinks. In the meantime, we were happy to have Alice’s “Mainedinavia,” as she calls it, to ourselves. “In an area where so many people are working so much in the summer, winter becomes something different,” she says. It’s a time for community, and for actually getting to see your friends.”

ABOVE Emily Seymour, co-owner of Rockland consignment shop Curator samples the smørrebrød. BELOW Among the artful offerings: beet-cured salmon, cucumber, cream cheese, and dill smørrebrød.

beet-cured salmon, cucumber, cream cheese, and dill smørrebrød.
The sauna’s Plexiglas wall frames a view of Islesboro and North Haven
The Lincolnville Motel’s “coffee room” i
citrus salad and kale-based juice
Alice Amory, Emily Seymour, and Jesse Ellison

FROM LEFT 1) The sauna’s Plexiglas wall frames a view of Islesboro and North Haven. 2) The Lincolnville Motel’s “coffee room” is decorated with owner Alice Amory’s signature sheepskin throws and a photograph by Rockport’s Jonathan Laurence. 3) The citrus salad and kale-based juice were so refreshing. 4) Alice holds court at the far end of the table; I’m on the left.

Welcome to Mainedinavia

Where, last winter, friends gathered for a shvitz and Scandi-inspired meal

outdoor sauna at Lincolnville Motel

ABOVE Felted-wool caps are traditional sauna-wear (hats are thought to prevent overheating), but Camden floral designer Molly O’Rourke and her son, Amon, donned more regionally appropriate headgear. 

TEXT BY JESSE ELLISON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE

When my friend Alice Amory purchased what was then a musty 1950s motel on Route 1 in Lincolnville in 2015, she told me her dream was to one day turn it into a year-round “sauna club.” Don’t google this phrase because, I promise, “erotic spa” or “a place for the sophisticated gentleman” is not what she has in mind. Rather, she was inspired by numerous trips to Scandinavia, where locals routinely bake in wood-paneled rooms as hot as ovens, then plunge into icy water — an invigorating ritual practitioners maintain improves circulation, boosts immunity, and promotes relaxation. She found further inspiration closer to home. “Traveling to Quebec and visiting the spa nordiques is really what made me wonder why there aren’t more of these places in Maine,” she says, referring to the dozens of health retreats in the Laurentians region, where saunas are a primary feature. “I guess our Puritanical roots might have something to do with it.” (For the uninitiated, sauna-ing is traditionally practiced au naturel.)

With a few seasons at the revamped Lincolnville Motel under her belt, last year Alice bought her first sauna — an electric-powered, cedar-barrel model with a convex Plexiglas wall that frames a Rothko-esque swath of snow, water, and sky. To mark the occasion, some friends gathered for a celebratory shvitz (minus the customary “cold plunge” — it was chilly enough that simply standing outside sufficed), followed by a Scandinavian brunch prepared by Alice, who previously worked in Michelin-star Manhattan restaurants, and served on vintage platters in the motel’s whitewashed “coffee room.” Being in a sauna, she explains, “can stimulate your appetite because your body is working, even if it feels like you’re just sitting there. And you’re sweating out all kinds of things, so you need to replenish.” Salty snacks are an obvious après-sauna choice, but fresh fruit, veggies, and cheese can also be “revitalizing.”

ABOVE Emily Seymour, co-owner of Rockland consignment shop Curator samples the smørrebrød. BELOW Among the artful offerings: beet-cured salmon, cucumber, cream cheese, and dill smørrebrød.

beet-cured salmon, cucumber, cream cheese, and dill smørrebrød.

Sausages are so much a part of the Scandinavian sauna tradition that in Finland, public saunas often have an on-site grill for them. “People used to cook sausages using the sauna stove itself, but obviously a small electric sauna is not an ideal cooking space,” says Alice, who employed a charcoal grill instead and paired the meat with a citrus salad, vegetable frittata, handmade rolls spiced with cardamom, and an array of smørrebrød — Danish open-faced sandwiches on rye bread.

Eventually, she hopes to create a day-use facility with several outdoor wood-fired saunas, perhaps an outdoor hot-water soaking pool, and a café serving Scandi-inspired food and drinks. In the meantime, we were happy to have Alice’s “Mainedinavia,” as she calls it, to ourselves. “In an area where so many people are working so much in the summer, winter becomes something different,” she says. It’s a time for community, and for actually getting to see your friends.”

ABOVE 1) The sauna’s Plexiglas wall frames a view of Islesboro and North Haven. 2) The Lincolnville Motel’s “coffee room” is decorated with owner Alice Amory’s signature sheepskin throws and a photograph by Rockport’s Jonathan Laurence. 3) The citrus salad and kale-based juice were so refreshing. 4) Alice holds court at the far end of the table; I’m on the left.


2 Comments

  1. Meri-Sue Vosburgh

    Go Alice, such a great idea and the view is lovely! I’ve just returned to Maine and the Winter communities are always active. Certainly a “sauna club” would be popular and I also wanted to comment on the great improvements to the motel.

  2. Brenda Ahlstrom

    Interesting article. Is the lincolnville motel functioning now..
    Or after the virus leaves our area? I am of Finnish decent and would
    Love to know more the operation.
    Thank you,
    Brenda

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