Capitol Island

“The Spent Wave, Indian Point, Georgetown, Maine” By Marsden Hartley” (1937)


Capitol Island

By Robert Boucheron


For the annual First Year Building Project at the Yale School of Architecture, students design and construct a small building, often a wood frame house in New Haven. Unique at American schools, the project is required of all students in the program. A faculty member who is also a contractor guides them through weeks of rough carpentry, roofing, sheetrock, and more.

In the spring of 1976, I was in the first year class. Our project was to be an office and sales showroom for a quilting cooperative in West Virginia, but it fell through. Funding for a house renovation in a black neighborhood of New Haven also stalled. The faculty was at a loss. As students made plans for the summer, the building project was likely to be cancelled.

At this point, a classmate offered an alternative to anyone who was interested. Ken Colburn and his wife and his older brother Ted had just bought an old cottage on the coast of Maine. They had spent summers there as children, and they had relatives nearby, including two cousins who lived there year-round. One of these, David, was the realtor who sold them the house. The other, Bob, was a home builder or handyman. The project was to make badly needed repairs.

The Colburns wanted to rent out the house during the summer months and use it themselves off-season. When I searched online after forty years, I found the “Colburn Cottage” is still available for rent, one or both of two furnished units, right on the water, and fifteen minutes’ drive from Boothbay Harbor. In the photos posted, the house looks unchanged. It is on Capitol Island, east of the larger Southport Island, reached by a narrow wooden bridge. People from Augusta, the state capital, bought and developed the little island in the early twentieth century, hence the name. Continue reading “Capitol Island”