Landmark Maine house meticulously preserved

With just a few steps, from the front to the back of Carroll and Tom Fernald’s Somesville home, you travel from the 19th century to the 21st.

John Noyes built the two-and-a-half story clapboard house for his family in 1844. From the front, the exterior looks very much as it did then, except for the Colonial Revival porch that was added later. And while the original part of the interior has undergone some renovations over the years — a wall moved here; a closet added there — it retains the look and feel of a gracious older home.

The more recent and more extensive renovations and additions are thoroughly modern, but they are every bit as warm and inviting as the rest of the house right on Main Street.

Tom Fernald’s family bought and moved into the white clapboard house in 1954, when he was a small boy. He inherited the place and has lived there since his mother died in 1989. And it has been Carroll’s home since the couple married in 2003.

When they started remodeling, one of the first things she did was get rid of the heavy velvet drapes on the dining room doors, reminders that the house had once been a funeral home.

“They gave me the creeps, so we took them down,” Carroll said.

A door to a small bathroom was moved from the dining room to the front parlor.

“I thought it wasn’t nice to sit at the dining room table and have a bathroom right there, so we closed it off and opened it from the other side,” Carroll said.

Now, along that wall in the dining room is a huge, solid oak chest that previously was a hardware store counter in Magnolia, Texas.

Carroll Fernald is originally from Texas, too. She studied art and interior design at the University of Texas. And before moving to Maine, she was an interior designer in Houston.

Her expertise is evident throughout the Somesville house, especially the recent additions and remodeled rooms, all of which she designed.

“We’re done so much work to this house in the last 13 years,” Carroll said.

That includes adding an enormous master bedroom-and-bath suite at the rear of the house. They also enlarged and remodeled the kitchen and the adjacent family room, which had been a summer porch before Tom had it enclosed about 20 years ago.

“We added 8 feet onto the kitchen and 10 feet onto the family room because we have 10 grandchildren, and there was not one room we could all fit into, even in this great big house,” Carroll said. “It’s full of people for Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Fourth of July when the grandchildren bring their parents. We have five guest bedrooms upstairs, and they’re all full.

“It’s a great house. We’ve tried to keep it as traditional as possible while having it be functional today.”

There is nothing stuffy, frilly or pretentious about it, just tasteful, attractive and very livable.

The bright, open family room has knotted cherry floors, and the walls are lined with bookshelves. On the opposite side of the family room from the kitchen is the mud room, which used to be a breezeway.

“We added on to it and closed it in, and it has heat now, which it didn’t have before,” Carroll said.

At the rear of the house are a deck and a screened-in porch, both of which the Fernalds added when they remodeled and enlarged the interior spaces.

One of the most distinctive features of the original part of house is the cranberry-colored windows above and beside the front door.

“The whole front part of the house has a pink glow when the morning sun shines on them,” Carroll said. “When one of the grandsons — he was about 5 years old — would go from the back of the house to the front, he called it ‘going into the pink.’”

The yard around the Fernald house is as beautiful as the house itself, with gardens for perennials and vegetables out back and, in front, a stone wall along Main Street in which flowers bloom all summer.

“We have people comment on the flowers in the wall all the time,” Carroll said. “A lot of times people will stop, or they’ll drive by and give a thumb’s up. One day I was out dead-heading the geraniums and an Island Explorer bus driver stopped and said, ‘Thank you so much for making my days better with these flowers.’”

Towering over the front yard are two giant, old oak trees. Tom recalled that, one day a few years ago, a woman left a rather “imperious” message on their home answering machine.

“She was telling me I didn’t know what I was doing about the trees and I was going to kill them by putting bark around them,” he said.

The woman wanted him to call her so she could explain how to properly take care of the trees.

“We have arborists who look after them every few years, feed them and prune them, because we want to keep them alive,” Carroll said.

Tom added that the big, old trees aren’t just an asset to the Fernald property; they are an indispensable part of the traditional character of the village.

“It’s Somesville,” he said of the trees along Main Street. “If they go, what’s it going to be like through here?”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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