A family tradition endures on the Pemaquid Peninsula.
By Meadow Rue Merrill
Photographed by Cait Bourgault
From our July 2016 issue.[F]rom the deck of her cottage perched on the rocks high above Muscongus Bay in the village of New Harbor, Jinny McMillan can see waves breaking on nearby Little Island and the watery haze of Monhegan 10 miles away. “You can’t get any closer to the ocean than this,” says Jinny, who’s been vacationing on the Pemaquid Peninsula, south of Damariscotta, since childhood. “In the 40 years I’ve been coming here, little has changed. New Harbor is still very undiscovered.”
For many years, the Illinois resident and her late husband, Harry, followed her parents’ tradition of renting a Pemaquid summerhouse. “When we would pack up and leave, no one — not Harry, not our kids — would say anything. It was that emotional,” Jinny says. “Maine pulls at your heartstrings and instills in you a longing to come back.”
The pull was so strong that in 1994 she and Harry decided to buy a place of their own. After a few days’ search, they settled on the Muscongus Bay cottage. “It was in terrible disrepair,” she recalls, “but the view was extraordinary.”
The McMillans hired an architect to design a small addition with a second bathroom and enlarged guest bedroom. They nixed the attic in favor of a vaulted ceiling with rough-hewn beams. They covered the walls and cabinet with white-washed bead board and installed tinted blue glass in the windows to complement the setting. “It’s very soothing,” Jinny says.
Jinny, who has a retail background in design and home furnishings, has outfitted her 1,000-square-foot cottage with antiques, many purchased at the nearby Nobleboro Antique Exchange. Her affinity for the ocean is evident, from a hand-carved whale mounted on a beam above the dining table to collections of shells and model boats scattered about the house. A print of The Fog Warning, Winslow Homer’s painting of a fisherman rowing in a choppy sea, hangs above the sofa (the original was painted at Homer’s Prout’s Neck studio). “Everything in here is related to Maine,” she says.
The rambling gardens, lush with shrubs and perennials like hostas, hydrangea, cranesbill geraniums, silver mound, and ferns, are the handiwork of Kahren Hayward, of Snug Harbor Homes Gardening in nearby Waldoboro. Rugosa roses and sumac tumble down the shore ledges. Succulent sedums topped by starry pink flowers creep between the cracks of the oceanside patio, where Jinny likes to sit on the granite couch with her morning coffee and sip wine at sunset with friends.
Although Harry passed away in 1999, a month shy of the cottage’s completion, Jinny has since found comfort in the companionship of the sea. “Every morning I get up and lift up the shades, and I can’t imagine that I get to be part of this.”