The changes going on at Belgrade's historic overnight fishing camps on Route 27 near the bridge across Belgrade Stream have been attracting attention for over a year now as the compact cottages overlooking the water have been carefully rebuilt, the grounds cleared, landscaping added, and a new Loon Ridge sign put in place.
There also have been more and more vehicles, many belonging to out-of-state guests, parked beside "The Cottages Between Two Waters" (Messalonskee Lake and Belgrade Stream).
What's inside these neat buildings with their new raised roofs, rustic brown siding, flower boxes, touches of sporting décor, picnic tables and grills?
The answer is an amazing mix of nostalgia and modern amenities perfectly laid out for a restful vacation for couples, families, and yes, fishermen. Each cottage has a full kitchen area, a flat screen TV, a comfortable bathroom, an electric fireplace and one or two bedrooms with queen size beds, and bunks or daybeds to accommodate the younger set. Each cottage also has large windows offering views of the Belgrade Stream, the docks, the swimming area and especially the loons, geese and other wildlife that frequent the surroundings.
In keeping with an historic past, each cottage is decorated to match its name. The Pinecone, The Angler, The Whitetail, The Moose, The Loon, The Mallard and The Bear are filled with antiques, old prints, sports equipment, decoys, tin ware, baskets, mounts and other memorabilia that match the theme.
The family responsible for the modernization and preservation behind Loon Ridge are Sherwood and Laurie Booker, Shannon, Lindsey and Chris, whose Brown House Properties rental business has been established in Waterville for three decades and whose Brown House Appliances in Waterville sells items that are gently used.
With seven cottages remodeled and three to go, plus the main house and a building that used to be a diner, the Bookers are thoroughly immersed in their Loon Ridge project. They also love the property and stay there "every minute we can," And, they love to piece together the history.
Formerly Abenakis All Season Camps, and before that Hayden's Camps, this beautiful piece of property is believed to have once been a stage coach stop back in the early 1800s. Later it was a short walk from the train station. It's also rumored that Ted Williams stayed at the camp sometime in the mid-1900s.
"So many people stop in or toot and say, 'Hey, nice job,'" says Laurie.
"We're a local family trying to bring some integrity to the area," points out Sherwood. "We want people to come here for generations."