Cindi Hooper is the new innkeeper as of December 17, 2012 and couldn't be happier! I spent 26 years as a litigator, primarily in Houston. I loved practicing law but then serendipity happened and my place is here, clearly. My story isn't too long so here goes:
I came to Maine in 1999 to lay my mother's ashes in the South Bridgton/Adams Pond cemetery with those of her husband's family, the Poors of Douglas Hill in Sebago. I was touched by the spirit of this beautiful state and its people and felt a strong draw to it but...I was in my 40's and it gets dark here at 4:00 o'clock in the fall and winter months and it just wasn't my time. Every person I met during that visit, however, said "you should have come a week earlier! You've just missed the Fryeburg Fair!"
I returned to Texas and practiced law another 11 years. As a trial lawyer, I was required to select my vacation time months in advance to protect it from trial settings and so I planned to visit a friend in Tennessee and see the fall colors in October of 2010. My plans fell through and call it karma, serendipity or the big 2 x 4 of fate, but in the back of my mind a voice questioned "I wonder when that fair is in Maine this year?" Yep, you guessed it: the Fryeburg Fair in 2010 was happening the week I had saved out for my Tennessee trip so up I came again with my partner, Julie Astin, and the fair was great, the draw was much stronger for me to come here, and Julie was "on-board" - struck with Maine-fever too!
I returned home and thought, and researched, and toyed with the idea of innkeeping and in November of 2011, we attended an aspiring innkeeper's seminar with the B&B Team in Kennebunk, Maine. At the end of the seminar I asked if there was a property for us to see since we had a couple of extra days in the state. We were sent to Noble House Inn and it was everything I had described in my "wish-list" inn exercise I had done at the seminar! It was also in Bridgton, a town I'd visited 12 years earlier when I'd come to lay the ashes. The broker didn't know my Bridgton connection when he made the recommendation and it was simply too much coincidence for me: this was meant to be! So I put my home on the market, never figuring it would sell, in the market, at that time. It sold in 3 months! We made a trip back to Maine hoping against hope that Noble House Inn would still be available - it was - I think it was meant for me and was meant to be so, here I am, a Gulf-coast gal, happy to be here for my first Maine winter, happy to have Maine plates on my car, and jumping into the wonderful world of innkeeping at the best place on earth: Noble House Inn.
I am learning to Facebook among a myriad of other things I am learning but I am having a ball and meeting such wonderful people on this journey! Julie had planned to get an job outside the inn but she's gotten involved as well and we are working like mad but having a wonderful time. Who could want for more? I mean, while the moving van was in the driveway, neighbors walked up with a fresh thermos of coffee, a cream pitcher, a sugar bowl, a coffee cake and a welcome to the neighborhood card! This is my kind of place and I hope to show the same kind of hospitality to every guest that we have the opportunity to host.
The 1903 Winburn M. Staples House
Winburn M. Staples was born February 8, 1855 at the family home on top of Baker Hill in Naples, Maine. After the civil war, the family moved to the Daniel Perley farm in South Bridgton. In school, Winburn excelled in wrestling and in the cold months winter sports. Upon graduation, Winburn had no urge to be a farmer, and so pursued work in business. His first job was as a general assistant at the uncle’s grocery & dry goods store in Pondicherry Square, at the site of the former I.G.A., an area known at the time as the “lower village.” He purchased this business from his uncle, eventually sold it and built a large new one in Post Office Square in 1885. It burned in 1898, was rebuilt and burned again in 1924.
Winburn married his Bridgton Academy classmate, Idalyn M. Gove and they built their first house, an Italianate across the street, which is currently owned by Henry Precht. In 1903, construction was completed on their next house here. He also owned, but never lived in the “Stone House.”
In the 1890’s, he bought the little steamer, “Lady of the Lake” and transported it overland using horses to haul it from Long Lake to Highland Lake. He operated the wood-burning 10-passenger steamer, charging a modest fee to drop passengers off here and there around Highland Lake.
Winburn Staples prospered in business and became influential in town. He served as town treasurer, selectman, representative in the legislature, state senator and Bridgton Academy trustee. He bought and sold real estate, particularly lakeside timber lots, which he cleared and sold for use as boys and girls camps. He, and other prominent citizens founded the Bridgton National Bank in 1908. He served as its first president. During the Great depression in the 1930’s, the region was left with no banking facilities. So, Winburn raised $10,000 to secure enough shares to open a branch of a Portland bank here in Bridgton, eventually giving the shares to the town, which was to use its income for the relief of the “Worthy Poor.”
In 1917, Winburn Staples and others created the Northern Cumberland Memorial Hospital Corporation, which did not establish a physical presence until the purchase and conversion of the William F. Perry House on Main Hill. The hospital formally opened in 1941, but Winburn and Idalyn had already died, within a month of one another, in the late winter of 1939. They are buried in Forest Cemetery.
Mrs. Handy was the second owner of the home and lived there alone. Rumors are that she wandered through the house at night and cut the curtains up vertically while they were still standing in the windows.
In 1945 or 1946, Dr. Fred Gilbert “Gib” Noble bought the house, paying $8000 cash with another $1000 for the furniture, linens, paintings and the parlor grand, still here in the living room. The Nobles raised their family in this house, living here for about 30 years. Gib Noble was renown for his hunting and displayed huge moose antlers over the barn door. The head of a Dahl ram he shot in Alaska is still in the family room today. He stopped hunting in his later years and took up golf. The third floor was finished and called “the dorm” where the children and cousins slept in the summer, and where Gib reloaded bullets at his workbench.
The Nobles loved to entertain and always had a lot of company at the house. The parlor grand was the center of much entertaining and is believed to be original to the home. It was built circa 1898 by the Gildemeester-Kroeger Company of New York. Kroeger, Steinway’s piano foreman, decided to break away from his employer to create his own piano company. So, with the financial backing of Gildemeester, the brand was born and this piece found its way to the home.
In the early 1980’s, Richard “Dick” & Jane Staretts purchased the home and converted it to a bed & breakfast. Work was done on the barn to extend the single-gable roofline and a new foundation was laid. This allowed for the creation of 3 levels of guestrooms in what is now called the carriage house. The Staretts opened “The Noble House B&B” and raised their family here until Dick’s death in 1997. The inn was purchased in 2000 and owned for a brief time by Steve & Sherri Matte, who added the sunny breakfast room. The home was purchased in 2003 by the current owners, Fredric “Rick” and Julie Whelchel, who have worked for the last eight (8) years to renovate and restore original features, including exterior stonework and the piazza stairs. Original blueprints remain with the house and are used for these restoration projects. Today the home continues to be operated as a full service inn and features four (4) suites, five (5) guestrooms and innkeepers quarters.
A collection of bottles found on the property includes a very early bottle from the Wales & Hamlin Pharmacy with its paper label still intact.
The home was designed as a Queen Anne Victorian and deeded in 1903, but construction was well underway by late 1901as evidenced by dated signatures found on the horsehair plaster walls during the 2010 parlor restoration. This project also revealed details shown on the original blueprints including a vestibule, inglenook and set of pocket doors in the parlor. Outstanding features of the home are the sister fireplaces with ornate masonry in the parlor and dining room. James Carroll Mead and Joseph F. Witham built the home. Witham was the grocer-owner of the “Brick Store” in the center village while Mead (1858-1915) was a painter, legislator and prominent citizen of Bridgton, likely a colleague of Sen. Staples. It’s worth noting that Mead’s father, Lt. John Mead was a painter as well, famous for his Masonic hall murals here in town.
It is believed that the carriage house was added in the 1920’s, making the home a prime example of the connected farm building, a style prominent on New England farms in the late 19th century and early 20th century. (Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn, Thomas C. Hubka, 1984)
In 2001, a movie was filmed here entitled, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”