Furniture maker takes apart old house to build new home



The former Jordan homestead on the Bayside Road was taken apart and salvaged by Joshua and Julia Klein, who will use the home's elements for a new house on their Sedgwick property. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY STEVE FULLER

The former Jordan homestead on the Bayside Road was taken apart and salvaged by Joshua and Julia Klein, who will use the home’s elements for a new house on their Sedgwick property. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY STEVE FULLER

ELLSWORTH — For anyone who has driven down the Bayside Road in the past several decades, the old house was a familiar sight.

Drivers heading to Trenton or Mount Desert Island would see the aged clapboard on the left-hand side, just past the Jordan family cemetery and just before the Beechland Road.

Built in the first half of the 19th century, the Jordan family homestead disappeared over the course of this summer. The historic dwelling’s pieces and parts did not wind up in a dumpster or become a pile of ash. Instead, they were painstakingly disassembled and sorted into neatly labeled and organized bundles of wood stored in a storage trailer.

During the next few years, the wood will be stripped of paint, cleaned and repaired as needed before the pieces are reassembled in a new location in a new town — an old building being given the chance that few ever are: the chance to be born again.

Who would undertake such an endeavor? Enter furniture maker and conservator Joshua Klein and his wife, Julia, who had the seemingly paradoxical goals of both living in an old home and building their own home on their property in Sedgwick.

“I’m a hopeless antiquarian,” said Joshua, who operates Klein Furniture Restoration in Brooklin. “I love old stuff.”

As the couple discussed how they might make their dream a reality, the Jordan house came to mind. Both had passed by it over the years, and in his blog Joshua said they “fell in love with it” and decided to approach the family about restoring it.

Robert Jordan stands in front of the Jordan homestead in 1946. PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTINE JORDAN

Robert Jordan stands in front of the Jordan homestead in 1946. PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTINE JORDAN

The home had been empty since 1979, when Harvard Jordan died. The house had recently gone on the market, and the Kleins negotiated with the Jordan family to salvage the house while the family kept the property on the market.

Work on what Joshua called “the biggest restoration job I’ve ever done” began in May, and was completed on July 30 — one day before the designated deadline for the project to be complete. In the span of a little over two months, the Kleins and a team of helpers took apart the entire house and packed it into the storage trailer.

It is the latest chapter in the history of the home, which dates back to the 1800s. Its exact date of construction is not known, but there was a home on the property where the building stands as early as 1817.

In that year, Ebenezer Jordan deeded to Joseph Jordan “a certain messuage and barn, and a certain lot or parcel of land situate lying and being in Ellsworth” that is the same parcel of land where the home stood.

Messuage is an old term meaning “a dwelling house with its outbuildings and adjoining lands,” according to an online list titled “Legal, Obscure and Archaic Terms found in Ancient Land Records.”

Ebenezer was one of the first Jordans to settle in the Ellsworth area, according to Christine Jordan, granddaughter of Harvard Jordan. He came in the 1770s along with his brother, Solomon.

Is the house referenced in that deed the same one the Kleins just took apart? It is hard to say for sure. Joshua said he had an expert come in and look at the house who dated it to between 1830 and 1840, based on design and type of construction.

Christine Jordan spent a lot of time looking through old deeds filed at the Hancock County Registry of Deeds and said she believes Dyer Peters Jordan built the house. Born in 1810, Dyer went on to become a wealthy man who had ships built on the Union River.

Generations of Jordans that followed, including Christine’s father Robert, called the house home. Christine has a photo of her father as a young man, taken in the 1940s, standing with an ox with the house in the background.

Joshua said it was interesting as he worked in the house to see the different styles of design that were used. One of the parlors was done in the Federal style, while the other is Greek Revival. The upstairs of the two-story home appears to have been finished at a later date, perhaps between 1850 and 1860.

“It appears when it was first constructed that they finished off the parlors as they went,” he said. “You can see this because of the stylistic changes. You can really see the whole path as they moved up through the house.”

Two dormers on the front of the house are likely an even later addition, but Joshua said they will likely keep them as part of the house when it is rebuilt because they provide more light to the upstairs.

The Kleins hope to restore the home back to its original style. PHOTO COURTESY JOSHUA KLEIN

The Kleins hope to restore the home back to its original style. PHOTO COURTESY JOSHUA KLEIN

Overall, the Kleins hope to return as much of the home as possible to the way it looked in the 1830s and 1840s. That will mean dealing with some, as Joshua described them, “Victorianized” elements. That includes front doors and the kitchen that show signs of Victorian style from the later 19th century.

“We’re trying to figure out how to make this as aesthetic as possible while still having some modern conveniences,” said Joshua, such as insulation.

For heating, the couple hope to build a masonry stove. It’s a type of stove that uses a series of baffles, Joshua said, and provides a “really efficient way to burn wood.” They will even be able to use original bricks from the house, which were salvaged during the dismantling process.

Joshua wrote on his blog that he and Julia are purists in the sense that they “would much rather know what was original than think of new possibilities for the space.”

They will be forced to think of new possibilities for the back end of the first floor because it was “butchered up a bit” during the dismantling process, but they caught a break when it came to an exterior color scheme for the house.

Though very faded, Joshua one day found the remnants of paint colors on the outside of the house: bright yellow clapboards and red-brown trim. As he and Julia agonized over other layout issues, he brought her outside to show her his discovery.

“‘Whew, good,’” he recalled her saying. “‘Now we don’t have to pick paint colors out here! It’s already decided for us!’”

Joshua admits many people he encountered and told about the project thought he and Julia were crazy for undertaking it. He said it is the “most extreme version of historical preservation,” but said being able to build an old home with their own hands is just what they wanted to do.

“It perfectly suits us and we hope we will be able to give this gem a new life,” he wrote on his blog, where he shared extensive photo documentation of the Jordan homestead project (www.workbenchdiary.com).

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