Island home and garden tours

Home and garden tours are always a treat, a chance to glimpse into other lives, gain ideas for ones own home, and to check out the real estate market in any given neighborhood or town. Additionally, home and garden tours are often fund raiser for deserving community organizations. Last summer on Great Diamond Island was a home and garden tour, which offered a fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes historical look into a rarified community on a gorgeous island in Casco Bay.  This home and garden tour raised several thousand dollars for Greater Portland Landmarks organization. While the gardens were lovely, the houses were really the highlight of the tour, with interiors that could be straight out of Architectural Digest or Martha Stewart Living. The self-guided walking tour started at the cove, where Diamond’s Edge restaurant, the general store, and the island’s gallery and museum are located. We tripped up the stairs (once the entrance to Fort McKinley) into the commons area, where we paused at the Taylor’s garden to enjoy the shady garden and waterfall before visiting our first house, the neat and tidy Young home. We enjoyed looking at the common’s pool and surrounding garden, as the water looked very inviting on a hot and sultry day. Instead of diving into the pool, though, we crossed the commons and made a beeline for the first of several lemonade stands, where island youths gave us cold lemonade and delicious cookies, courtesy of Whole Foods. That gave us enough sustenance to enter two townhouses, which were former officer’s quarters. The Burge home on the right featured a hunting and canine theme, with whimsical antiques on all four floors. We loved the attic space, with the 5 small beds covered with chenille bedspreads, each with a number on the bedspread – we could imagine this to be the perfect place for the children to escape to. The Smith home, on the other side, was restored twice, once when originally purchased in an abandoned condition, and later due to a fire. Highlights were the tin ceiling and mahogany counter top in the kitchen.

All that touring made us hungry, so we crossed back across the commons towards “downtown” where our friends bought sandwiches at the general store, and we met them at the picnic tables near the ice pond garden (we had brought a picnic lunch from home). Relaxing by the water with a view of the cove, we cooled off in the ocean breeze, before hiking up the hill to the Kinsey Home. There was a shuttle bus but we decided not to wait, and walked up the hill inspite of the blazing afternoon sun.  Thankfully the Kinsey home was air-conditioned (ordinarily a funny thought on the coast of Maine, but today it felt lovely). This is a fairly new home, but it felt classical in nature, with wood interiors and a separate “bunkhouse” of nautical flare. The view was of Peaks Island, and the channel between. On the “front” side of the house (non-water view) were the remains of an old lighthouse, evidence that the past and present are intertwined on Great Diamond Island.

Once again we crossed the commons, and caught a ride on the ever-present golf carts, always willing to pick us up and transport us (another aspect of this extremely well-designed tour, which we much appreciated). Now we explored the north end of the island, featuring houses with views of Falmouth. First was the Dietz home, a classic cottage built in the shingle style in 2000. Everything in this home was picture perfect, inside and out, full of architectural details. We then caught a ride to the community garden, developed in 2006, with lovingly tended raised beds. We strolled by the Fitch home, which while not officially on the tour, the owner kindly ushered us in the front door, which felt like a scene from out of Tuscany. This home was a former power plant, and the great room which dominates the house is at harmony with the exterior views (the house was the cover story of the September 2009 issue of Maine Home + Design magazine). Our final house was the Holbrook home, with a California feel to it. It seemed like a very comfortable house, with several porches to hang out on and enjoy the view.

Another golf cart swept us off to the east end of the garden to the Sommers’ garden, where the owner thoughtfully prepared a guide for us to walk around the house, enjoying the garden, with images in the garden to also explain the variety of plants. Leaving that garden we strolled down the hill to the “Moon Garden,” which was perched on the old engineer’s stone wharf, where supplies for the large batteries on the island came in. There are two Adirondack chairs on the edge of the garden, where we relaxed and enjoyed the view – this is a place I could spend all day, watching the ferries come in and out of the cove.

But alas the tour was over, which meant… time for ice cream! (purchased at the General Store). A perfect ending to a perfect day.

This summer, while there is no tour planned as of yet for Great Diamond Island, there is a wonderful opportunity to visit some gorgeous houses on a nearby Long Island. All proceeds will benefit the Long Island Civic Association. While of a different personality than Great Diamond Island, Long Island also invites visitors to glimpse into their island homes. This tour promises a combination of renovated historic island cottages, and equally charming new construction, from one end of the island to the other. The tour will be held June 25th, and will feature 10 homes. Bring a picnic lunch if you like, bicycles, and enjoy the day on Long Island. We have the best beaches in Casco Bay, offer several places to eat, as well as a library and art gallery. For your real estate questions regarding Long Island, contact our agent who specializes in island properties, Michael Urban.

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