June 24, 2018
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One-of-a-kind house is a living work of art

By Robin Clifford Wood, Special to the BDN

Bruce Harrod moved to mid-Maine from Oklahoma about 40 years ago.

“It was very easy to assimilate into the Maine environment because Maine appreciates people who do their own work,” he said. Doing your own work is one thing. Living your work brings the spirit of self-determination to an entirely different level, and that is exactly what Harrod and his family have done.

Bruce was a builder who specialized in finish work. In payment for some of his work, he received a piece of property in Corinth with a little shack on Kenduskeag Stream. For 15 years he lived there without electricity. Eventually the neighborhood expanded, electricity arrived, Harrod married and started a family and he began the gradual expansion of his humble home.

When Quanah and Johannah were babies, he built a second story. When they got big enough, he built them their own rooms.

As he expanded his home, Harrod wanted it to be a harmonic composition, a personal expression of his family’s aspirations. What used to look like three separate structures (including the original shack) is now woven together by what is likely the most elaborate, whimsical and painstaking cedar-shingling job on Earth.

“As a family, we decided on styles, colors, designs,” he said. “No one could really decide, so we just combined it all into an architectural statement.

“Someone said, ‘I like hearts.’ Well, let’s make some hearts. ‘I like fish.’ Let’s make some fish.”

Harrod is a fan of turtles, so turtles were added too.

Since the business-end of carpentry was not Harrod’s forte, he gave it up 14 years ago. He went back to school for a nursing degree and works at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in his second career. He doesn’t miss the carpentry work, however, because “I have my own place that is a lifetime of work.”

Bruce is an artist, a self-taught student of architecture and a believer in the beauty of mathematical proportion and geometry espoused by the ancient Greeks. A lot of home additions are glaringly different from the rest of the house.

“That always bothered me,” he said. “I was determined to find the right architectural proportion, make it all fit … The siding tied it all together. This house looks like a Christmas package all wrapped up.”

After a Bangor Daily News article on the house several years ago, Harrod received some calls from architects from as far away as North Carolina looking for technical information about siding houses. Other than window trim, soffits and fascia board, it consists entirely of cedar shingles cut with a jigsaw, he told them.

“You know it’s not difficult. It just takes perseverance.”

The other result of the article was a number of curious visitors. Some would knock on the door and ask to take pictures, or even honk in the driveway waiting for a guided tour. He didn’t like that part much. Harrod is content to let his house speak for itself.

“I quit talking to people because mainly they want to discuss why I did it. That’s self-evident, I think.”

A house appraiser once asked, “Why did you do all this? You can’t sell it for all the labor you have into it.” Harrod recognizes that the house would be worth more with vinyl siding than it is now, “but that’s not why I did it.”

“The individuality of our society is moving away from us. In some places building codes wouldn’t even allow a home like this. That’s part of what this is all about. Things don’t have to be that way. There’s still value in doing something for yourself, regardless of what everyone else thinks.

“This house is a deliberate manifestation of what’s important about life.”

Right now Harrod is working on an interior room using many of the colors and geometric shapes that adorn the exterior.

“I don’t expect we’ll ever be done,” he said. “It’s not the finished product, it’s kind of the journey.”

Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback at robin.everyday@gmail.com.

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