Another bunch of 'summer cottages'

By Barbara Dyer | Aug 17, 2014
Idle Hours and Anchorage photos from J. R. Prescott's book "Glimpses of Camden" published in 1904.

Included with the “summer cottages” should be some on High Street and under the mountains. Many cannot be seen from Atlantic Highway (Route 1 or High Street).

Mr. E. J. Wardwell had a wonderful house built there. At that time he could see Sherman’s Point and Penobscot Bay from his home, Gray Rocks. In the early 1930s there was a birch cabin and suspension bridge on that property. Living in that neighborhood, we “kids” found the “swinging bridge” to be a great adventure and playground. There was another cottage nearby called Woodclyffe.

Also up under the mountain is the Hilltop and Upland belonging to John R. Prescott of Newtonville, Mass. I even knew Mr. Prescott, although I was only 3 years old. But I shall never forget him for two reasons. My mother was asked to clean the “Hilltop.” During the Great Depression any money you could earn was necessary to help put food on the table. No one could afford to hire a baby-sitter, so I went with her. That cottage looked small to me, but probably I was allowed to sit in one room and wait. Later, I learned the house had  14 rooms. The cottage was 100 feet back from the road and 150 feet above the sea. It even had running water, modern open plumbing and porcelain tubs. There were five chambers on the second floor and bathroom. On the third floor or attic there were four more chambers and a bathroom. So, it wasn’t a small house after all. There was a fireplace and it had a little broom. I could not keep my eye off that little broom; it was just my size.

Mr. Prescott’s daughter came home and said,”Do you like that broom?”

I quietly said, ”Yes.”

She said, “You may have it.” To me it was the most wonderful gift I ever had.

Mr. Prescott, who was rich, came home and yelled, “What is she doing with the fireplace broom?”

His college-age daughter replied, “I gave it to her, Father.”

Mr. Prescott said, “Take it away; it belongs with the fireplace.”

Now, I happen to have a fireplace and my own broom. But I always remembered the man.

The other reason I remember him is because, with all his money, he wanted to make more. To do that, he rented his cottages and all of his friends and neighbors’ cottages to people who wanted to come to Camden in the summer. So he published several books describing the Camden area and has wonderful pictures of many, many summer cottages. He sold the books for 25-cents, but if you are fortunate you might find one in an antique shop for more than $100. I have a reprint of “Camden Mountains” he wrote in 1880. I have his original “Glimpses of Camden” 1900, “Glimpses of Camden” printed in 1904, and “Glimpses of Camden” from 1916. Because of these books, John R. Prescott saved some early Camden history. So I thank him for that.

Other cottages up under the mountain included Edgefield, owned by Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Borland of Chicago, Ill. He was a benefactor to Camden and owned the American Boathouse on Atlantic Avenue, where he kept his yacht. He had The “Monaloa;” it was pulled up to his building from the water by a turntable and animal power.

Another cottage in that area was Highland Cottage owned by Chauncey Keep of Chicago, Ill. He also was a good person to our town. Edgemont was owned by Miss M. O. Hill of Brookline, Mass., and Selbourne, owned by Harry Stearns of Boston, Mass., son of Joseph Stearns of Norumbega.

Others on High Street were the Martin Cottage, owned by Dudly Martin, the Adams residence, the Perry Cottage and the Hosmer House. They were all located near the intersection of High Street and Harbor Road (then called Ocean Avenue). The Hosmer House has been remodeled quite a bit and was one of the first to take in visitors that came during the summer.

Beyond Noumbega, on the same side of High Street, is the lovely home built by Dr. Phelps.

Then going down Harbor Road, to the water are several cottages, and they called the location Thorndike Park. There was Anchorage with 13 rooms, two bathrooms and eight chambers and a detached building with servants’ chamber and living room. Nearby in that location was Idle Hours, which had 10 rooms, a bathroom and seven chambers.. Fairlawn's entrance was opposite the above two cottages.

Of course, I have another story about the area too. Our family lived on Harbor Road during the Temperance era. “Bootlegging” was a profitable business, if you did not get caught. When the renter of these cottages and the “summer” people left for the city, my brother and I used to go down to the water to play. He was probably 7 years old and I was about 5. We would hear the speedboats coming and we would hide. They would leave the tins of alcohol under the porches there and speed off. We would get them, empty them on the ground and run as fast as we could for home, before the bootlegger came to pick up the merchandise. We never got caught, which was a good thing, and never told our mother what we had been doing or she certainly would not allow us to go to the shore to “play” again.

Barbara Dyer is Camden's official town historian. While she's officially retired from writing Who's Who, she often submits "just one more" column for publication.

Hilltop and Upland cottages as shown in J. R. Prescott's book "Glimpses of Camden" published in 1904.
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