By FAUNCE PENDEXTER
Holiday House in Ogunquit probably
has had as many famous people stay there as any resort of its size in the
State of Maine, yet Mrs. Henry Waak, its proprietor, stresses the comfort
and furnishings of the great old mansion rather than luminaries who have
visited it. She has succeeded in 25 years time in furnishing the house,
which was built in 1814, with antiques from the period in which the mansion
In addition to this, she has
preserved faithfully and in many instances, restored the simple beauty
which graced the building upon its completion 141 years ago.
Mrs. Waak is a native of New
Hampshire, having been born in the capital city of Concord. When she was
a young child her family move to Aroostock County and then later to Phillips.
In the Franklin County town she attended and graduated from high school.
Following her graduation front
high, school she went to Massachusetts and later to New York. Although
she was training to become a nurse, the then Gertrude Stillman decided
she preferred cooking to nursing, and she entered the employment of Schrafft's
for five years as a kitchen manager. Later she opened up a tea room of
It was while she was in New
York that she met and later married Mr. Waak, now a retired musician.
In looking back at the start of Holiday House,
Mrs. Waak said with a smile: "Imagine deciding to start catering to tourists
in Maine at the beginning of the depression. Yet that is just what we did
in 1930. We came to Ogunquit with the definite decision that we were going
to operate a tourist resort."
The house was a far cry from what it is today.
The buildings needed much attention. So did the grounds. It required hard
work, time and patience to bring about the changes that have made the Ogunquit
mansion so well known.
Mrs. Waak summed up well what has been accomplished
over the 25 years. She commented, "Today Holiday House is a typical
New England house furnished in the typical New England manner of the period
in which it was constructed.
She was a real pioneer in the tourist catering
business, for back in 1930 the vast bulk of tourist business was hotel
"I had the quaint idea that many people would like
to spend their summer vacation in a home where they could be comfortable,
have private baths and have peace and quiet," she said. The idea proved
feasible, for the people who came to us the first year kept coming back
again and again.
This pattern has continued through the years.
Mrs. Waak has had guests who have returned ten or more years in a row.
She bases her success upon the basic objective of keeping her guests comfortable.
She said that her 25 years as a resort
hostess have taught her much about psychology. She believes
an atmosphere combining friendliness without going to the extremes
of back slapping familiarity is the most satisfactory one in the
eye of the average visitant to a guest home.
An illustration of the restoration process undertaken
by the Waaks during the early years is afforded by replacement of ordinary
windows with the nine light over six light type which prevailed in the
period when the mansion was built.
Interior furnishings similarly are attuned
to that era. The great majority of the furniture is antique. The few pieces
which are not originals are authentic reproductions.
Fireplaces have been opened up in the home.
The large fireplace in the dining room, upon being opened, was found to
have its original crane. On the mantel above are to be seen a portion of
a collection of pewter plates, candlesticks, beakers and mugs. Also found
in the house, and now hanging over the fireplace below the mantel, is an
old Kentucky muzzle loading long rifle.
An Earlier Age
One cannot help but feel the atmosphere of another
era upon walking through the rooms of the mansion. There is no feeling
of gloominess, however. for the house is vibrantly alive.
In all the rooms Mrs. Waak has placed attractive
pieces of old glass, each item an antique glass collector's delight.
Ranging from clear crystal to glowing colored glass, the collector is scattered
through the rooms, adding cheer
During the earlier years
the grounds required a tremendous amount of work. Hayfields had to be turned
into lawn. Flower beds had to be cut out and planted. In all the Waaks
estimated that between 300 and 400 shrubs had been planted on the spacious
area. Last year's hurricanes, Carol and Edna, caused considerable damage
to larger trees and shrubs, and some replanting has had to be done because
While the collecting of antique colored and blown
glass is Mrs. Waak's hobby, she also has collected other antique
items. Already mentioned is the sizable number of fine pewter pieces.
She also has acquired a good many fine old trivets.
Both the stable and the shed of the original
building have been remodeled to provide guest bedrooms. Even the
old tieup was completely redone and converted to housing guests.
How she ever found the time to braid more
than 100 rugs is difficult to conceive, yet she has done this just that
in the past 25 years. One of these was a tremendous 14 by 11 foot affair
to be seen in the dining room. She also has made nine afghans for that
With respect to famous guests, Mrs. Waak said
that at one time 12 members of the Roosevelt family, including Mrs. Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, Elliott and Faye Emerson, Elliott's wife at that time,
yes, and the noted dog Fala, were housed there. This was the occasions
of Faye Emerson's appearance at the Ogunquit Playhouse in "State of the
Other eminent personages to visit Holiday House
have been: Ruth Chatterton, Richard Widmark, Judith Evelyn, Florence Reed
and Joseph Cochran, writer and playwright.
Mrs. Waak listed these noted personages in
response to a direct query. At the same time she commented, "We have been
impressed with many of our guests who have not attained fame as with those
who have done so. Frankly, we respect our guests for themselves; not for
specific achievements which may have gamed them public notice."
She did say she was particularly fond of Faye
Emerson. Of the talented stage, screen ,and television actress, she said,
"She is a grand person." Mrs. Waak has been Miss Emerson's guest in New
York, and their first acquaintance has ripened into a warm friendship.
Until three years ago, Mrs. Waak served meals
as well as providing guest rooms. She found this schedule too demanding
upon her time, however, and decided to limit herself to providing sleeping
accommodations and a comfortable, homey atmosphere.
The mansion is open from May until November,
and usually is filled to capacity from July 4th until Labor Day. Most of
the guests remain from a week to two weeks. During the winter months the
Waaks go to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Summing it all up, Mrs. Waak said, "'We have
enjoyed the people who have come here. Many of our guests have become friends
of long standing. Each year we look forward to serving them again."
HOLIDAY HOUSE - This spacious Ogunquit mansion owned by Mr. and
Mrs. Henry Waak has come to be know as one of the most noted guest houses
in Southern Maine. Many famous personages have visited here since
Mrs. Waak started catering to guests in 1930. The mansion was built
in 1814 by C. Eaton Littlefield, a carpenter. Later the dwelling
was occupied by a farmer, the surrounding land being utilized for raising
THE GREEN ROOM - The above illustrates one of the guest bedrooms
typical of Holiday House in Ogunquit. All furnishings here as in
all other rooms in the mansion are either genuine antiques or authentic
THE OLD FIREPLACE - Here is seen the dining room fireplace at Holiday
House, Ogunquit. On the long mantle above the fireplace is a part
of Mrs. Waaks's collection of pewter, while hanging below the mantel is
a Kentucky muzzle-loading long rifle.