The Dock House

Once a liquor-smugglers’ den, one of Freeport’s oldest buildings is now a stunning harborside home.

By Meadow Rue Merrill
Photographed by James R. Salomon
From our August 2014 issue

When Deborah and Greg Link visited Freeport a few years ago, their innkeeper suggested they look at a house on a pier that was for sale. “The first thing I said was, ‘I would never buy a house that looks like a seafood restaurant,’” Deborah recalls. “And my husband said, ‘I would never buy a house on pilings.’”

Forty-eight hours later, the couple, who lived in New Jersey at the time, had signed a contract to buy it.

“It was the view,” says Greg. “We pinch ourselves every time we look out the window.”

One of the oldest documented structures in South Freeport, the 200-year-old former cannery has also served as a boat repair shop and a Prohibition-era liquor-smuggling operation. A decade ago, the late Janet Newlin, a teacher who was active in community affairs, converted the derelict building into a house, painstakingly preserving the original hand-hewn beams and the pulley and hoist that once raised barrels of liquor through a trap door in the floor of what is now the front hall. The trap door is still there, covered with glass (at high tide, the water sloshes just five feet below), and a pair of kegs on a wooden trolley give a spirited wink to history.

In the main living space, leather chairs swivel to face the fireplace or the distant views of Staples Point and Winslow Park. The open design and large kitchen with polished granite bar allow the Links to comfortably entertain as many as 50 guests.

“Everything is designed to take advantage of the views,” says Deborah, who enjoys perusing cookbooks in her glass-walled studio at the end of the front hall.

A long row of white-painted wooden cubicles displays family heirlooms and knickknacks in an upstairs hallway that leads to the media room and an outdoor balcony. An open bridge with contemporary iron rails leads to the bedrooms.

The property includes a 40-foot dock and two cottages, which the Links rent out through their lodging business, The Boathouse at Harraseeket.

“People ask us how we survive in the wintertime,” says Greg, pausing to appreciate a family of ducks bobbing by the window. “But this house is absolutely cozy warm. It is not damp at all. It is probably the best-built house I have ever lived in.”