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Project DetailS
Sheepscot River, Maine

Sortwell Chandlery

Sortwell ChandlerySortwell Chandlery

Situated at the water’s edge, a chandlery is a building used to provision merchant vessels and sailing ships. On a coastal site rich with history, the 200-year-old Sortwell Chandlery has remained even longer than the house that accompanied it because its location and character have been treasured since its construction. Our client’s family has spent summers here for more than 70 years and has had a lifelong connection to this place and its historical significance. Over time they had converted the barn-like structure into an informal cottage surrounded by tall pines and stone piers. The summer tides rose and fell below the plank floor, and a ladder provided access to the upper level bunkroom.

In recent years, rising sea levels put the Chandlery at risk. Whitten Architects was charged with repositioning and elevating the 200-year-old structure to provide a new foundation that accommodates today’s higher water surges, leaving the old extents of the foundation and maintaining the character of the original structure. To accommodate modern living, the program included a new kitchen, new bathrooms, insulation, a new stair, a new electrical system, and a wood stove with supplemental propane heat to extend the structure’s use into early spring and late fall. Because of proximity to the water’s edge, a screened porch was carved out of the southeast corner, which maintains the structure’s original feel while meeting setback requirements.

We worked closely with the local historical society, the local planning board, and the Department of Environmental Protection to lift, reposition, and design a compatible addition to the Chandlery. We also relocated and restored the adjacent fish house to serve as a shop, boathouse, and summer play space.

The Chandlery was raised three feet and moved back from the tidal river to provide space for the addition outside of grandfathered setbacks, which includes a shed roof design that springs from the eave of the old structure and adds an entry porch, small mudroom, new stairs, and a new full bath with a laundry and mechanical space. The screened porch provides a sunny exposure and down-river views. New Marvin windows and French doors open to the river, while a 13- x 15-foot light well cut from the second-floor space brings daylight and ventilation into the center of the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen space. The master suite, study, and private entry look upriver and are proximate to the existing dock and pier.

Old floors were salvaged, timbers were saved, and all new concrete footings and timber underpinnings were installed. New rough-sawn beams complement the older structure and new baths feature painted board walls and ceilings. Pearson Construction reinstalled and insulated the original floors, and 19th-century boards were resourced for the new stairs. New white cedar shingles with a weathering stain were installed over a rain screen wall with rigid foam insulation. The old Chandlery trade counters, bases, and cash till were incorporated into the new kitchen. A shaker-style wood stove adds warmth and character, and the direct-vent gas heat keeps everyone comfortable.

Soren Deniord’s landscape design works with the old granite footings, native plantings, and a timber gate to complement the stone wharfs and 19th-century waterfront that surrounds the Chandlery.

With the renovations, the Chandlery can now serve as a lifelong destination for generations to come.

In 2020, this project won an AIA Maine Merit Award for Renovation & Adaptive Reuse.

Project Completion Date: 2017


Trent Bell Architectural Photography


-Contractor: Pearson Construction
-Structural Engineer: Albert Putnam Associates
-Landscape Architect: Soren Deniord Landscape Architecture
-Site and Civil Engineer: Walsh Engineering Associates, Inc.

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