|Sisters Freddi Very & Sharon Very Chamberlain feel right at home in Pugwash.|
If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to renovate a landmark.
In the summer of 2000, two American women with family ties to Cumberland County bought the former Tide’s Inn/grocery store/laundromat at the junction of Durham and Water Streets in Pugwash. Sisters Freddi Very of Vermont and Sharon Very Chamberlain of Louisiana (both formerly of Massachusetts) bought it on a whim, lured to the area by the fact their maternal great-grandparents were born in Five Islands and enticed by the ridiculously low Canadian dollar that doubled the money with which they planned to buy a cottage.
“It was the last day of our vacation when we came to the village,” Sharon says. “We were having lunch when my son, Sean, pointed up the street and said, ‘There’s a house for sale’. We looked at it and that was it.”
Not put off by the rickety ladder they had to climb in order to get inside, they fell in love with the potential they saw in the huge three-storey building and signed the papers as they headed back to the States.
Sixteen summers later, the sisters invite their visitor to sit in the comfortable, refurbished parlour at the front of the house overlooking Durham Street and the post office. All the work to restore “the old Tide’s Inn”, as they call it, including new wiring and new plumbing and the restoration of as much of the original woodwork as possible, is finally completed.
“This is the first year I’ve come without a trailer,” says Freddi, a recently retired teacher.
Freddi and Sharon (a former travel agent turned accountant) had no choice but to spend their precious summer vacations working; after all, they’d bought a highly-visible, dilapidated building with a stunning view of the inner harbour hidden behind five-foot tall weeds. Along with the dedicated tradespeople they hired, what kept them from giving up on the gruelling renovation was the village.
Freddi says people would come in to say thanks for taking the house on, even though it looked pretty awful outside for a couple of years.
“A guy once pulled up when I was hanging out a window and he hollered, ‘They’re going to name a street after you guys’,” she remembers. “The community has been really embracing.”
Apparently, “We’d really like to see inside” is the most common phrase the sisters have heard in the last fifteen years.
“Everyone who comes in has a story,” Freddi says. “People are really invested in this house.”
What has touched them most are the kindnesses extended to them over the years, like receiving a sympathy card from the women who work at the post office when their mother died in 2006 or being handed tickets to the Legion’s lobster dinner as an enticement to put down their tools.
Even living next door to the salt mine’s harbour terminal has made them feel like part of the village, Freddi says.
“The guys next door will come over and say, ‘Welcome home. How long you home for?’ and that’s so nice. Even though I have a home in Vermont and Sharon has a home in Louisiana, this is home, too.”
|The old Tide's Inn returned to its former glory.|