BELGRADE — The Booker family didn’t realize it would attract so much attention from horn-honking motorists and curious onlookers when it began to restore the the boxy little shanties of a 60-year-old fishing camp on Route 27.

The old retreat nestled between Belgrade Stream and Messalonskee Lake is being transformed, and the intent is that it will become a year-round haven brimming with life and activity.

Laurie and Sherwood Booker, who along with their children, Shannon Booker, Lindsey Burrill and her husband, Chris, own and operate Brown House Properties Company in Waterville, bought the former Abenakis All Season Camps, which are across Route 27 from the Lake Messalonskee public boat landing, four weeks ago.

The Bookers had crews from their company start right in on remodeling the 10 cottages into what they’re calling Loon Ridges, with “luxurious cottages with a rustic Maine flare.”

Lindsey Burrill said people pull into the driveway to get a closer look at how work is progressing. Her crews were first to notice all attention.

“People were pulling into the boat landing across the way and looking at the camps rather than looking at the water,” Burrill said. “They were just watching to see what we we’re doing. Two weeks ago, after seeing all the changes, they were driving by waving and honking their horns. They’re people we don’t know, but are just excited to see someone doing something with the property.”

Laurie Booker said the 1822 home on the property was part of Maine’s Underground Railroad. She said celebrities stayed in the tiny fishing cabins built after World War ll, including Red Sox legend Ted Williams.

Muriel Jancovic, who bought the fishing camp with her husband in 1968, said in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, it was rented to anglers from places such as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She said they were hard-working people who couldn’t afford to pay for a higher-priced fishing camp with amenities. A clapboard hut with an ice box tucked in the corner of a screened porch was all they needed, she said.

The tiny cabins perched on a ridge overlooking 740 feet of stream frontage will have theme names like The Bear, The Mallard and The Loon. They will be covered in log siding, have green metal pitched roofs, cathedral ceilings, modern kitchens and windows trimmed with green and black shutters.

An old screen house in the middle of the cottages will be turned into a gazebo with a cupola.

The Booker family owns more than 300 rental units, including apartment buildings and single-family homes. It also owns a used appliance store in Waterville.

The cottages have been empty for some time. Laurie Booker saw the Belgrade property listed in the newspaper and thought it was time to do something different. She said it was an opportunity to create a summer resort that catered to families.

“When the kids were little we traveled all over the place and loved staying in cottages,” Laurie Booker said. “From our own experience we knew how important it was for family time. We would go on vacation three months a year and home-schooled the children. I wanted to provide other families with what I had to look back on so they could make memories.”

Sherwood Booker figures he will invest $150,000 to upgrade and winterize the cottages and that doesn’t include renovating the main house.

On the roadside, the family plans to erect a solid fence and landscape to buffer traffic noise.

Lindsey Burrill said she and her mother have been spending a lot of time at auctions looking for furnishings. They want to keep with the theme of each cottage.

In the living-room of the main house, a collection of items piled up in a corner included antique snowshoes and skis, fishing rods and bait baskets.

Laurie Booker said Loon Ridge will offer romantic getaways with champagne, ice-cream socials, lobster dinners and movie nights for the kids. Her husband said some of the best fishing is in the stream.

Rental fees for one-and-two-bedroom cottages will range between $750 and $1,000 a week, Sherwood Booker said.

“We polled the area and that’s right in the ballpark,” he said.

The wooden Abenakis camp sign will soon be replaced with a Loon Ridge sign, which will be landscaped and illuminated.

Laurie Booker said she couldn’t be more pleased with the response from the community and town officials.

“Everyone has been so supportive and helpful,” Booker said. “They didn’t want developers buying the property and making it into condominiums.”

The family plans to start advertising after three of the 10 cottages are ready for occupancy sometime in July.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

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