The temperature in Hancock was hovering near zero, but the big wood stove in the kitchen on Link Road radiated heat.
Kate St. Cyr and Robert Amburn occasionally strolled over to open the circular hole at the top to drop in a few logs. They explained that their house is a work in progress, as it takes time to renovate an old home the way they are doing it — by themselves and conscious of their responsibility to its history every step of the way.
The couple bought their Hancock home right before the pandemic hit. The timing was perfect for them. The old home, built in 1783, needed some love, but for Amburn and St. Cyr, it was exactly what they were looking for.
“We could see the potential immediately,” St. Cyr said.
Amburn is a carpenter and St. Cyr is a textile artist with an eye for design and aesthetic. The couple is renovating the home together room by room, learning along the way and taking time to research as much as they can about the home’s long past.
“I really cared about living in a house with a ton of history,” said St. Cyr, and after reaching out to the Hancock Historical Society and spending time working on and living in the home, they have been able to gather information that has helped piece together parts of its story.
St Cyr and Amburn are the 20th owners. They uncovered a document written by a past resident, Nettie Stearns Davis, who grew up in the house in the late 19th century. Around 1903, she described the rooms in detail in an essay for the Hancock Historical Society.
Using her descriptions as a guide for what the house used to look like, St. Cyr and Amburn want to respect the history of the space and restore the historical elements that have been replaced.
“I would like past owners not to be shocked,” St. Cyr said.
While consistently maintaining the feel of an old home, the spaces are stylish, comfortable and interesting. The rooms are uncluttered, with wood floors and Persian rugs. The furniture is mostly acquired second-hand from Facebook Marketplace, antique stores and estate sales. The couple has painted most of the rooms neutral off-white tones, and the selection of art, plants and taxidermy animals creates an environment that includes the hints of history.
One big clue to the house’s past is the blackened beams in the upstairs office space, evidence of a chimney fire that the couple figures must have occurred sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. Although they have tried to learn more about the fire, the town doesn’t have a record of it, and Amburn said the attic still shows the most damage.
“It changed the house; they had to rebuild both chimneys,” Amburn said.
In the essay Davis penned more than 100 years ago, she wrote, “I think one kettle was Brass and I can remember my Mother giving that a very thorough cleaning when she was getting ready to make a large batch of boiled cider sauce for winter. ”
St Cyr and Amburn believe they have found that kettle. Now it sits in their garden, a reminder of the past.
A little ways away from the fenced-in garden is a path that passes through a section of trees and over a stream leading to a big open field on their property. St Cyr and Amburn plan to get sheep and let them graze there. They enjoyed raising pigs last year, and both have experience farming.
“We’ll be able to see little sheep through the woods,” St. Cyr smiled.
At one point, a development was planned for that field, but ended up falling through before anything was built. This past summer, Amburn foraged for mushrooms in the woods behind that field, and they cleared all of the thorns and brush from their yard and around the rock wall.
“We always pick the hardest way to do things, but I like to think it’s worth it,” St. Cyr said back in the kitchen as Amburn described his plan to build replica 1800s two-over-twos using the original method to replace the casement windows in the room.
“Every time I do something with old glass, I keep it,” he said.
St. Cyr said, “A lot of love poured in. I’m very lucky to be completely obsessed with my home.”
It’s easy to miss the wishbone lines up along a beam on the kitchen ceiling, but they fit right in.
“We want to have a farm and raise our kids the way we were raised,” St. Cyr and Amburn said as they smiled at each other. “We were both raised in houses really similar to this.”
St Cyr and Amburn want to know more about their home’s history. If anyone has photos of the house at 48 Link Road or knowledge of the home, St. Cyr can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org