The large steam yacht in the middle is Cyrus H. K. Curtis’s 228-foot Lyndonia II, built in 1920. Curtis was a native Mainer who founded a publishing empire that made him one of the richest men in America. The vessel had a crew of 39.
Photo courtesy Penobscot Marine Museum. PMM Image ID LB2007.1.106413.
It was a special occasion in Camden each summer when the Lyndonia returned. “A Salute to Lyndonia”, by Fred E. Crockett in the July 1964 issue of Down East Magazine, notes that around the 4th of July during the early 1900s, when he heard the Lyndonia’s whistle blow and saw the graceful yacht, he knew summer had officially begun in Camden.
In December 1906, the Chief Engineer of the Lyndonia, Albert B. Bennett, purchased approximately 10 acres with a house and barn across the road at 115 Elm Street (the current address of Cedar Crest Inn). Following the death of Bennett’s wife in 1916, he and his four sons and two daughters moved from Brewer, Maine into their new home on Elm Street. The Camden Inventory and Valuation of Property for 1916, page 97, shows Albert B. Bennett was assessed a real estate tax of $26 for his property at 115 Elm Street. The location was a quiet spot on the crest of Chestnut Street hill and the road had no continuation beyond this point.
Two years later in 1918, during the period when the second Lyndonia was being built, Bennett built the first of several small camp buildings. This was the beginning of Cedar Crest Camp. A post card to advertise his new business had the words CEDAR CREST OVERNIGHT CAMP faintly visible and on the back was written; “Camp No. 2, one room, four windows, two beds”.
In the spring of 1929, Bennett expanded Cedar Crest Cabins by building five new cabins, according to William’s History of Camden, page 449. A large cabin in the foreground had a screened-in porch. There was an outside water faucet for the largest cabin and all of the cabins faced northeast with a view of Mt. Battie and Mt. Megunticook. Another post card from the late 1920s depicts the name Cedar Crest Cabins and features the driveway leading to the “old office”. At the right of the driveway was the sign, CEDAR CREST OVERNIGHT CABINS and on the left side was a miniature figure of a man holding a GO SLOW sign, with Albert B. Bennett standing next to his new office. At this time Bennett had retired as Chief Engineer of the Lyndonia but the dark trousers, brass buckle and white shirt were all part of his ship uniform.
Cedar Crest Overnight Cabins were open from May 1 to November 1. According to old post cards from the 1920s and 1930s, the cabins had electric lights, a community kitchen and a 3-digit phone number for contact information. Albert B. Bennett died in 1948 at the age of 78, and at the time of his death, was planning on opening Cedar Crest cabins for another year. A 1949 survey of the Bennett property shows there were 9.4 acres, a house, barn and eight cabins.
In 1949, Roger Brooks Converse and his wife, Phyllis K. Converse purchased Cedar Crest Cabins and Guest House following his military service. Over the following thirty-one years, Mr. and Mrs. Converse remodeled and expanded the business, which became Cedar Crest Motel, a familiar Camden landmark during these years. After her husband died in 1980, she sold the motel to her only daughter, Gypsie Underhill, wife of George Underhill and it grew to be known as the Cedar Crest Motel and Coffee Shop. The motel has always been well known for quality, affordable accommodations and housed a wonderfully inviting coffee shop located in the lower level of the first building. The coffee shop served thousands upon thousands of some of the finest home cooked breakfasts in eastern Maine. A local short-order cook named Rose was a fixture in the coffee shop for many years wielding her kitchen tools with impeccable timing and flare.
Business partners Bill Hahn and the Stephen Liberty purchased the Cedar Crest Motel in the spring of 2000. Among many improvements, the team moved the restaurant from the basement of Building 1 to the rear of the office in the original Bennet home in 2001. The restaurant expanded again in 2002 adding a three-season porch, a deck, and serving spirits, fresh seafood platters and live jazz performers every Friday evening. In 2008, the name was changed to Cedar Crest Inn as the rooms are more reminiscent of a New England inn than a chain-motel type room. At the same time, the restaurant gained its own identity by becoming Elm Street Grille.
In February of 2018, Jill and Ted Hugger purchased the Cedar Crest Inn from Bill Hahn and Stephen Liberty. Experienced inn operators, the Huggers also own and operate the renowned Cod Cove Inn in Edgecomb, Maine.