Friday, May 8, 2009

Renovated Hurd Manor,
North Berwick Landmark Set to Open

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist
North Berwick got an early look at the newly renovated Hurd Manor on April 30 as new owners Ben Gumm and Sally McLaren hosted the 50th anniversary celebration of the North Berwick Historical Society. The iconic Victorian mansion will soon open its doors as the Angel of the Berwicks, an upscale Bed and Breakfast. Gunn and McLaren have spent the past four years restoring the manor to its former elegant self. While the couple has renovated other places in their careers, the Hurd Manor was different.
“This one is bigger than ever,” McLaren said of the project. “The sheer size of it for one thing makes it different. And because it’s so old, we needed to do renovations to bring it up to code but still wanted to keep the aesthetics intact.”
The result of the efforts is a building that closely resembles the original structure built in 1893 by North Berwick Industrialist Mary Hurd. The 25-room mansion retains its classic woodwork, stained glass windows, fireplaces, and 11-foot high decoratively painted ceilings and gilded plaster friezes. There will be five guest rooms and suites in the house and an additional suite in the Carriage House, the original home on the property before the mansion was built.
The first floor is highlighted by the music room, the largest room in the house. It is dominated by a fireplace with a spectacular mahogany mantle. “It’s unique because it is a double columned mantel, which is very rare,” said Gumm. “And there’s the ceramic tile. It’s all original. All the ceilings are decorative. They were painted over. In the 1970s, the owners scraped off the paint until they got down to one corner (of the original). They used that as a template and recreated the pattern. The original pattern was reproduced.”
The exterior of the mansion got a face lift also. It’s yellow with gray trim was changed to mulberry with a bright plum trim.
“It’s on the National Historic Register,” McLaren said. “That gives you a lot of freedom, unlike being in a historic district. As long as you leave things like slate roofs, it’s OK (to change things). We tried to update it in a way that you’re not going to walk in and say ‘Oh, this is new’.”
The connection with Mary Hurd is evident immediately upon entering. There’s a photo in the main entry way that pictures Hurd, her second husband, Daniel, and step daughter, Margaret Hobbs. McLaren said keeping that connection is important. “Mary is on the Register of Historic People,” she said. “She was one of the first female industrialists. So, it’s not only the house (that’s historic), but also the person.”
This is the couple’s first project in Maine. Previously, they renovated and ran an inn in Bethlehem, N.H. Prior to that they lived in southern Connecticut where they renovated three historic homes.
This home has particular significance to North Berwick’s history, so using it to host the Historical Society’s anniversary was important, McLaren said. “They are very supportive of what we’re doing,” she said. “This building and Mary Hurd helped make North Berwick what it is today. She was the benefactress of the school, bank, fire station, and library.”
Indeed, many of the Society’s members attending the celebration acknowledged the building’s symbolic value. Society President Royal Cloyd was one of those that did so.
“This was started by David Brooks, who restored it and it went onto the National Registry,” Cloyd said. “These people have now restored it so magnificently. It’s interesting for both its history and its architecture. It’s a spectacular piece of late 19th century architecture.”
Gumm and McLaren still have a few minor things to finish, but the building is essentially complete. They hope to open for business by Memorial Day. After four years of work, the end is in sight.
“There’s still so much of the original architecture,” McLaren said. “There are three sets of original pocket doors. None of it was taken or destroyed.”
The Hurd Manor is located at 2 Elm Street, at the intersection of Routes 9 and 4. FMI about the inn, contact Gumm at 207-676-2133.
Photo caption: The newly renovated Hurd Manor in North Berwick is set to open as the Angel of the Berwicks Bed and Breakfast. (Courtesy photo)

A New King of Horror

By Chip Schrader
Book Review Editor
Maine born Joe Hill’s stab at the exploding Graphic Novel genre follows up his chilling debut novel Heart Shaped Box. Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft follows a family’s return to a small town that is haunted by its own past. It has all of the elements of Gothic tale: a Giant house, a tragic family story, unfinished business, portals to other worlds, and of course, demons.
Following the violent death of their father, the Locke kids (Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode) move from San Francisco into a creepy old coastal New England mansion that every town seems to have. Tyler lives with the great guilt of having befriended the kid who would eventually murder his father.
Meanwhile, the youngest child, Bode, finds a doorway in the house that functions as a portal to the other side that knocks his soul out of his body. During these out of body experiences, Bode finds comfort in experiencing what it’s like to be a ghost as he watches his siblings from the other side and notices his own body looks like “a sock with no foot in it.” One day while playing outside, Bode meets a voice at the bottom of a well he calls “Echo” who is looking for a way out. As we can assume, Bode is in for a world of trouble.
Tyler and Kinsey are wrapped up in their own issues with grieving their father’s death, teen angst, peer pressure, and a new community and school to really pay much attention to what is going on with Bode. Adding to this, the kid who killed their father takes a bloody cross-country trek to eventually find himself in Lovecraft, Massachusetts where he can finish his job.
As the story proceeds, the many threads and characters intertwine into a stunning climax where the pages cannot be turned quickly enough. Hill creates intricate ties within a deceptively complex story. The characters and the story line are far more complex than the typical tale of terror, but with Hill’s masterful pacing and writing, it reads smoothly and logically.
Coupled with Hill’s sharp prose are the amazing full color illustrations of Gabriel Rodriguez. He doesn’t need to rely on blood and gore to render strange and terrifying imagery, although there are some pretty gruesome scenes. The characters are drawn with lifelike expression and detail, and the landscapes and architectures keep with the tone of the writing. The colors are vivid and they pop off of the page, and his use of angles gives the reader a more cinematic experience. Once the story is memorized after several readings, the illustrations are worth revisiting again and again.
This graphic novel hit the shelves last October, and has spawned a monthly series of comic books early this year. Graphic novels and comic books are immediately dismissed as kid’s stuff, but be warned, this book is not for children. It is a dark, brooding occult masterpiece that echoes the works of Alastair Crowley and H.P. Lovecraft, as the fictitious town is in reference to. The series will become a monthly habit for me to drop by the comic book shop to pick up the latest issue.
As far as the author, Joe Hill was born Joseph Hillstrom King, and grew up in Bangor. Anyone keeping track of the mythos of Maine authors knows that Stephen King resides in Bangor part of the year and happens to be the father of Joe Hill. According to Wikipedia, Hill chose to use this pseudonym so that he could earn readership upon his own merits, rather than as “the son of Stephen King.” Heart Shaped Box and Locke and Key are the work of rare talent. Joe Hill has easily earned his right to be at the helm of contemporary horror. Locke and Key is a must read.
Photo caption: Maine Author Joe Hill’s new graphic novel Locke and Key. (Courtesy photo)

York Middle School Students Present
Service Learning Project In Augusta

Eighteen schools across Maine gathered at the State. Capitol building on Thursday, April 30th to share, and recognize service learning achievements. Service learning combines citizenship, community, and curriculum to give students the opportunity to work as a team, problem solve, get hands on experience, and make an impact in their community.
Service learning stems from something students learn in class that broaches a problem in their community or a need. This year when students learned about how much waste could be decreased through composting (1/3 of our trash is compostable), students in Ms. Renfrew and Mr. Webster’s fifth grade classes at York MIddle School decided that they wanted to do something about it. They researched methods of composting and contacted local businesses that already compost. They also discovered residential methods of composting. To maximize their efforts, they designed an expo to bring together resources for residents and businesses to start a composting system.
At the ninth annual Hall of Flags ceremony in Augusta, six students from York Middle School represented their CompostKids service learning project.
They explained the process of the project, and informed participants about composting. They also learned what other students across Maine are doing in and out of the classroom to make a difference in their community.
“One project we saw was about tobacco and smoking and how bad it is for you. The students had replicas of lungs when you smoke and healthy lungs. They had a year’s worth of tar from smoking daily in a jar. They taught other classes and schools about the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes,” recalled Kelsey Cole.
Teacher Kelly Renfrew noted, “All the students learned a lot from that project, we’re going to see if that group can come to York classrooms to teach us more.”
“I liked teaching people there what kind of worms are used for worm composting bins, and answering questions about our project,” commented Shannon Todd. Spencer Cribby’s favorite part of the day was “...learning what other schools have accomplished and feeling good about helping the Earth.” Cori Galante enjoyed “...the awards ceremony, receiving the plaque, and getting our picture taken with Mrs. Baldacci.”
With new state standards incorporating service learning into the Social Studies curriculum, our community and students will have an increase in these types of learning experiences. Service learning is an unforgettable experience because it increases the level of involvement of students and ignites their desire to be part of change in how we live and learn.
Photo caption: Grade 5 teacher Kelly Renfrew; YMS students Spencer Cribby, Kelsey Cole, Shannon Todd, Cori Galante; Mrs. Karen Baldacci; students Kevin Wade, Michael Monz. (Courtesy photo)