2004 - Summertime brings to mind those carefree barefoot days spent in cozy lakeside cottages full of the laughter and great times spent with family and friends. Then there's that nostalgic sound of the soft "bang" of a wooden screen door. The summer cottage tradition that the Weirs grew and thrived on is still alive and well at Proctor's Lakehouse Cottages on Weirs Boulevard under the ownership of Fred Clausen. The Clausen family bought the property sixteen months ago and Fred has made a lot of changes since.
The properties' twelve cottages have been renamed after Winnipesaukee islands and the two efficiencies, eight motel rooms and the lakeside house itself, have undergone renovation and updating. The result is a property transformation that has to be seen to be truly appreciated. The scope of the whole project is best viewed from the lakeside than from the boulevard. The newly painted cottages and lakehouse gleam in the sun with colorful potted plants swaying in the breeze. The colors Clausen has chosen are a Colonial gray and white pulled together with what Clausen calls, "Proctor's green."
Clausen bought the property from Jean Ginn, whose family owned and operated the business for over fifty years. Mary Proctor, who is now 102 years old, lives in an apartment at the Congregate Living Center on the Taylor Home campus. Jean lives nearby at The Ledges and has expressed more than once that she is glad she sold the property to Clausen who has taken such an interest in restoring and renovating it. Jean has been by to visit the property and is very pleased with what the Clausen family has done, even if Fred did turn her old bedroom with the "best view in the house" into a registration office!
And what an office it is. Past the lovely veranda with its comfortable and cool freshly painted wicker furniture, lovely plants and through the casement window door, Fred has created a reception room that is not only welcoming, but is also interesting to look at with all the boating memorabilia on display there.
"I've always had a love for boating and have collected models and outboard motor models since I was young. Now I've added to the collection with boat license plates and signs. The main theme at the Lakehouse Cottages is boating because of the location," Fred explains. Indeed, when he first bought the property, Clausen created a very unusual business card that was printed on the side of a model outboard boat made by Hallmark.
In his former life, Clausen spent 25 years as a regional vice president of an insurance company and his knack for creative marketing reflects in his new profession. His attraction to the hospitality business began with his father who once owned The Cherry Hill Inn in Cherry Hill, New Jersey before becoming the general manager of The Balsalms and working in New York City. Fred grew up in the business. His brother owns a Holiday Inn in Vermont, so hospitality runs in the family. "All of us have liked 'the front of the house' in this business; dealing with the people. I've never been attracted to the 'back' (the food service) end of the business "
The Clausen family owned a condo in South Down and had been coming to the Lakes Region for ten years. When Fred decided he'd like to change careers, he looked at several other properties "for five, six, years and each one fell through. When this property first came on the market I resisted it. I didn't want to get my heart broken again. But looking back, now I understand why they didn't come together. One was a Bed & Breakfast and I can't cook!" he joked.
"I bought a lot on an island and rehabbed a cottage out there, so I figured if I did it once, I could do it twenty-two times!" Fred decided to go for it and this time, the purchase of the Proctor property stuck and Fred found himself the new owner. "The property had potential and structurally it was great, but it needed to be brought into the two-thousands," he said, adding that the property held no big "surprises" for him other than the normal things one would expect to find with the purchase of such a business.
Part of updating his new acquisition was renovating the lovely old lakehouse itself. The double French doors in the registration office open to Fred's working office and living quarters that have been transformed from dark and dated to light, airy and open with the application of a lot of white paint. The ceilings were raised exposing the original beams and a graceful archway was added that effectively opens up the space. The old stone fireplace has been preserved. The predominate wood here is oak, as it is throughout the property.
Fred is a self-described "workaholic, a type A personality. From spring to autumn he works 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and on the off-season, not much less. Renovating, restoring and running the property has largely been his pet project, with his wife Maureen, who works full time in Massachusetts, joining him on weekends. This summer, son Patrick who is in college as is daughter Kate, spent three months working with his father. "It worked out very well. We had a lot of fun and everything my son learned was from the ground floor up."
Thirteen rooms of oak furniture purchased from a Holiday Inn helped in the facelifts of the fully equipped cottages that now have names such as Breezy, Blueberry, Timber and Pitchwood. Clausen's personal touches are in each one. Every unit has a colorful map of the island it was named after hanging on the wall. Since "boating" is the theme that runs throughout the Lakehouse Cottages, on the walls hang reproductions of boat blueprints and nostalgic old boating ads that Clausen makes copies of and personally frames every time he runs across an interesting one. Clausen is as resourceful as he is hospitable. He even has his own labeled bottled root beer and coffee mugs which he dispenses to guests.
Every property has its shining jewel and for Proctor's Lakehouse Cottages it has always been...and always will be...its 350 feet of sandy beach shorefront on the Weirs Channel where guests enjoy safe swimming and an ongoing parade of boats passing by. New to the beach this year is a swim platform which Clausen says is "the best thing we ever did." In short, guests of Proctor's Lakehouse Cottages get good value their money. "Our rates are fair for what people get," says Clausen. A campy addition to a stay at Proctor's Lakehouse Cottages is the fact that the multi-screened drive-in theater across the street can be viewed nicely from the elevation of Lakehouse Cottages' sloping lawn. Guests can tune in their radio and sit and enjoy the movie!
For somebody who is relatively new to the business compared to the Proctor family, Clausen has a real knack for knowing what keeps his guests happy. Never content that things are "done" he is busy renovating two old boats on the property; one, a circa 1940s pond boat which came out of the Sundial Shop is being painted "Proctor green" and the other an early 1950s Barbour lapstrake Clausen plans to make into a picture spot for his guests. He is currently working on a scrapbook full of clippings and pictures of the history of Proctor's and is writing his own history with a registration book where guests are invited to write in their comments, "good or bad" says Clausen, who adds, "the vast majority of them have been very good."
And it's no wonder. There's nothing not to love about this lakeside property. There's a restful view from every vantage point with so many welcoming places to relax. "We definitely want it to be an upscale place, a family place...we've put a lot back into it," says Fred, who adds that this has been a banner season for Proctor's Lakehouse Cottages, which will close for the season in October. Fred Clausen will wind up the season with the satisfaction of knowing that he and his family are keeping alive a hospitality tradition at Proctor's that has been ongoing for over fifty years, and for Weir's residents and guests, that is a very good thing.
For more information on Proctor's Lakehouse Cottages call 603-366-5517 or visit their web site at www.lakehousecottages.com