The Firs began as a farm at the turn of the 20th century. Photographs of grazing sheep at the shoreline of Washington Pond adorned the walls of the original homestead. In the 1930’s, the Mendleson family of New York purchased the property, and changes began to take place. Alan Mendleson Sr., the inventor of Bab-O cleanser, had a growing family, and the two-bedroom farmhouse was just not big enough to fit the whole family for a summer of fun. In the late 1930’s the family began to turn the barn into a four bedroom home, complete with a wood burning furnace for the “shoulder” season.
Soon, friends and extended family were coming to spend lazy days at the lake, and before long, a clay tennis court was added to keep the company happy and busy. Additional housing was needed and through connections with MIT, Alan got an experimental prefab house kit from their engineering school to build what we now call the Summer Cottage. “Summer” cottage because there is no heat source and the walls are made of pressed wood only 1/4 inch thick. To think this “experiment” has stood the test of time in rural Maine under blizzards, falling trees and snow loads that have collapsed wooden roofs!
In the 1990’s Alan Jr. turned The Firs into a rental facility for groups willing to lease the whole property and cook their own meals. Alan Jr. and his wife, Raymah, turned the lakeside boathouse into their year-round home and greeted the ten lucky families who came for a week at the lake each year.
Over the years the Mendlesons became friendly with the Stones, who had re-opened Medomak Camp on the other side of the lake as a Family Camp in 1995, just 2 years before The Firs became a rental property. When Alan Jr. wanted to build a home on Bailey Island (just a stone’s throw south on the lake) and needed to sell the part of the property with buildings needing updating, he called the Stones. With Family Camp and Medomak Retreat Center catering to week-long experiences, the Stones jumped at the chance to operate The Firs as a vacation rental with the flexibility of shorter stays, private rooms, family cabins, and the luxury of a bedroom over the water!
The Stones purchased The Firs in 2007 and began renovating immediately. The Barn was taken down to its good “bones” and rebuilt as a vacation rental with 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a lovely great room, and a brand new dine-in kitchen. The screened-in porch is a fine addition, and the huge covered grill for boiling lobsters and grilling is still the best place for cooking dinner, rain or shine! Little needed to be done to the Summer Cottage, apart from a few updates like the claw foot tub and old fashioned shower stall. The tennis courts are still good for rallying, and the lakefront has been reinforced and offers a level area for lounge chairs. Every season The Firs gets better and better as we keep the feeling of summertime in Maine while adding amenities that bring folks back year after year.