HARPSWELL – Some houses can rightly be called a piece of Maine history.

But there’s a house near Gun Point Cove on Great Island that can rightly be called a collection of pieces of Maine history.

It’s a 6-year-old, two-story home owned by Allan Brown and his wife, Virginia Cassarino-Brown, sitting high on a hill looking down at the water. The pieces of Maine history start on the outside, where old cobblestones from Portland streets are used for the corner pieces of the several fieldstone walls, and old granite curbstones are used for window sills.

But the real history lesson begins inside the 3,500-square-foot home. The interior is mostly post-and-beam construction, using 100- to 200-year-old beams and braces from dismantled barns and homes across Maine. There are beams — notched and pockmarked with nail holes — from a barn in Appleton, northwest of Camden. There are beams from a barn in Wilton, the mill town near Farmington. And much of the second story is framed with the beams of an antique cape in Parsonsfield, in northern York County by the New Hampshire border.

NEW USES FOR OLD FEATURES

Throughout the house there are other remnants of old Maine, such as a barn door used as a mudroom coat wall and other barn doors, on rollers, used as room doors. Plus, there are lots of old doors of various sizes. Some of the floors in the home are made from old barn siding.

For many of the old beams and doors, Allan Brown regularly scoured Uncle Henry’s, the iconic Maine classified publication for people seeking or selling just about anything. He drove all over Maine with a used crane truck, gathering the stuff over a two- to three-year period.

A longtime physical therapist who sold his practice before building this house, Brown sought advice and help from stone workers and people familiar with post-and-beam construction, and began working.

“People would find out what I was doing and just started bringing me stuff,” said Brown. “It was a lot of work; I guess I had a passion for it.”

From a young age, Brown liked stone houses, and old houses. He studied architectural engineering for a while before going into physical therapy.

He and his wife had lived in Harpswell for more than a decade when they learned about this piece of land, off Route 24 near Orrs Island, that was being cleared. It’s more than a 100 feet above the ocean, with sweeping views. From one side of the house, you can see Mount Washington on a clear day.

“So I told the guy to stop clearing trees, and we bought it,” said Brown, who added that the house, including the land, cost the couple about $600,000.

The view alone would be a selling point. The Browns left a lot of the property wooded, especially behind the house. In front of the house is a little lawn and a field that affords nice views of the water.

Energy efficiency was important to the Browns, so even though they used a lot of old materials inside, the house’s envelope is tight and made of new materials. The windows, for instance, are energy-efficient, and the walls are 20 inches thick in spots. There are solar tubes on the roof connected to a hot water heater. And the house’s siding is a cement-based material that does not need to be painted.

Inside, the exposed beams and braces, along with fieldstone walls and fireplaces, give the house a very warm look, sort of like a rural mountain lodge on a cozy fall day. Although it looks old, the first floor has a contemporary layout: a fairly open floor plan where the entry flows into two sitting areas — one the Browns call “the parlor” — then into the dining room and kitchen. Both sitting areas have windows looking out onto the water.

Brown said there were lots of times when he wasn’t sure he could finish the house, which took about three years to build. Like when he was standing on the beams in the parlor, with no roof on yet, as rain began to fall. Another was when he was finishing the fieldstone exterior of the second story of the side of house.

“I’d be carrying these stones up the scaffolding all day long,” said Brown. “I was sitting in the parlor at one point (after the house was finished) thinking how I doubted at times if I’d get to the point where I could sit in the house and enjoy it.

“But we did.” 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]