SORRENTO — In Eastern Point Harbor, a newly shingled boathouse hugs the shoreline. Through the four windows of its great sliding door, Calf and Preble islands loom in the far distance across the inlet.
The newly restored, cavernous structure once housed the Ewing family’s watercraft that slid out the big doorway and into the water for a summer of fun. Multiple generations of the Rhode Island clan began spending summers here in the 19th century.
Completed in 1927, the boathouse at one time changed hands and was sold for one dollar to a local lobsterman, Charles William “Willie” Bunker, who served as the town’s harbormaster for several decades and worked as a truck driver for Sorrento Lobster & Fish. But Bunker’s daughter Beth Bunker Anderson eventually inherited the boathouse and sold it to Gifford Ewing.
Like many old wood-frame buildings, the boathouse has taken a beating from the elements over years. In fact, the 90-year-old structure had started to sink into the beach and sea.
Gifford and his brother Bayard “Mo” Ewing decided it was time to take action and keep another local landmark — the only surviving boathouse on Eastern Point Harbor’s shore — from disappearing.
“The way it was leaning and sinking and rotting, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did,” Gifford Ewing recently said.
A fine art photographer, Gifford uses a 1920s-era Deardorff wooden field camera to capture dramatic seascapes and landscapes. Those striking, black-and-white images grace many households in Maine, New England and beyond.
Gifford and his wife, Mary, live in Denver, Colo., but come summer the Ewings head for some of the season to Sorrento, where they have a home. His dad was born on the kitchen table of the Ewing family’s ancestral summer home just up the street from the boathouse.
“The view inside is to die for,” said Gifford, excitedly walking around inside the newly completed boathouse.
First contemplating the project, Gifford and Mo consulted Sullivan contractor Robert Johnson, who wound up building a retaining wall. Then Acadia Post & Beam builders Paul and Chris Meynell tackled the deteriorated structure.
“We try to keep as much old as we can, because that’s the whole attraction,” Paul Meynell related. “It was a challenge because the building was in rough shape.”
Laying a new foundation, the Meynells replaced old crossbeams that previously had been shifted so someone could work on a boat. The sliding barn-like door was preserved, but raised a few feet. A smaller side door was added to carry smaller craft in and out.
The builders also salvaged and incorporated certain elements that give the place its character. They include a piece of wood signed and dated May 12, 1926 by the original builder.
The late Sorrento resident Sturgis Haskins also had left his mark on the structure in the form of his printed name in 1967. A local historian, sailor, photographer and croquet player, Haskins was passionate about preserving the local landscape and historic buildings. He died in 2012.
Completed last September, the boathouse will resume its original function, and some craft will be stored there. The handsome building also will serve as the setting for Gifford’s son’s wedding this coming June.