A Family Compound on North Haven Island, Maine – Part I

Newly listed, the John Brown Farm occupies approximately 85± acres, largely meadow together with one of North Haven’s few hardwood forests.

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Property Details

An 1828 shingled farm house, the John Brown Homestead, a classic Cape in fine condition, sits on a crest overlooking meadow and grounds set with approximately 320 choice trees and ornamentals of 200 species, planted over 30 years. The residence is habitable year-round (“winterized”, heated with wood stove and furnace, deliciously well-watered, good septic).

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The Farm has four important out-buildings:

  • Detached two-car garage and tool shed
  • 2,640± square foot paneled and insulated, post-and-beam barn with furnace and separate well-water supply; presently containing tractors and equipment, but readily converted into an additional residence, with a full upper floor for storage, bedrooms, etc.
  • 1,200± square foot barn with six bays, for automobiles or storage (presently containing hay for cattle)
  • Open-air gazebo beside a pier on the larger of two secluded swimming ponds

Additional Property Available (contingent upon purchase of the Farm)

A 15± acre Shore Lot, which extends the property from the ocean southward to a total distance of nearly 3/4 mile.

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The Shore Lot faces a private, deep-water harbor sheltered from summer westerlies by a high headland, so that vessels within, both moored and recreational, are protected. The Shore Lot features a wide-mown meadow declining gently to the sea, with a stunning view of the islands of Penobscot Bay, its working lobster fleet, family sailboats, schooners, and the sailing armadas (e.g. NYYC) that annually promenade. Its serene 550± foot long “Shore Pond” beside the pebble beach, invites swimming, canoeing, model boat racing, P & Q.

Landscape Improvements

The present owners have embellished these properties immensely over the last 30 years, adding amenities and extensive plantings, with miles of graceful interior roads and footpaths, and meticulous clearance of dead wood.

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Compare two images of the Farm and Shore Lot, reflecting changes between 1991 and 2019 — a dramatic enlargement of open space

They’ve introduced over 300 trees into the landscape: flowering ornamentals, fruits, great shade trees, giant survivors from the dinosaur age like Bald Cypress and Metasequoia (soon to be the tallest plants on the island), trees and bushes that pour fragrance into the air. Like Olmsted, they sited these additions casually, without pomp or formality, throughout the grounds — deep in the woods, in hidden glens, along rivulets, by ponds where they reflect, as bold accents in open fields, in orchards, along lanes — wherever the plantings’ eventual form, texture, and size would best complement the area, as if natural to the space. They emphasized both long views over rolling meadows and surprising reveals. They ensured that there would be a continuous sequence of bloom unfolding, from early spring magnolia, fruit trees, and lilac, to Heptacodium in September/October. Extensive information about each planted tree and bush is recorded in a digital catalogue, and a copper identification tag hangs from every plant, for both specialists and the curious.

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Fresh Water Swimming Ponds

At the south end of the Farm, two gracious swimming ponds, 11 feet at their deepest (with shallows for non-swimmers), flow one into the other, continuously refreshed by artesian springs — pure clean water that warms in summer to a delightful temperature approaching 80 degrees. With a pier, raft, footbridge to a small island, shaded gazebo, thriving populations of largemouth bass and trout, distinctive dragonflies, croaking frogs, and a surround of varied ornamentals along its banks, the ponds are a magnet to young and old. In winter, there is skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, etc. Hunting too, if so inclined (deer are numerous).

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The Setting

Gazing up from the swimming ponds across a wide meadow, the farmhouse sits charmingly atop a high rise — a kind of “continental divide” on North Haven: water to the south flows into Fresh Pond and thence Pulpit Harbor; water to the north drains into the stream on the western edge of the property (the only watercourse of consequence on the island), thence into the large Shore Pond that forms the western boundary of the Shore Lot, and tumbles finally over a dam into the sea. The farmhouse faces south, as did most old dwellings, to retain heat. A continuous screen of tall spruce, arborvitae, and birch, densely planted along the public road 60 years ago by a savvy local arborist, stretches from the eastern edge of the swimming ponds, past the driveway entrance to the Farm, and along the northerly orchard beyond, ensuring the complete privacy of the estate. Handsome ornamentals line the screen’s inner face, and bloom successively throughout the season.



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Looking east over Penobscot Bay toward Deer Isle and Mount Desert. Moorings in the Shore Lot harbor.

Want to find out more about the John Brown Farm? Check out our property listing and stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series.