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After lying dormant for seven years, a historic property on Gloucester’s iconic Back Shore is springing back to life with the addition of two luxury waterfront homes. The first phase of the project, dubbed Aquarius, will include a renovated manor house, a new single-family home, and four townhouses, all with stunning views of the rugged shore that lines the east side of Gloucester. 

“It’s preservation of historic land here,” says Bryan Melanson, president of Melanson Development, the company that is overhauling the property. “We’re redeveloping something that had fallen into disrepair.” 

The property was first developed in the early years of the 20th century, when brothers John and Alexander Bowler built a pair of elegant summer homes, originally called High Cliff Lodge and Twin Light Manor, for their families. In the 1950s, the homes were sold to a new family who turned the private properties into seasonal lodgings, constructing seasonal motels behind the original buildings. In the 1990s, the property changed hands again and became the Ocean View Inn and Resort, a year-round hotel, restaurant, and wedding venue. 

In 2013, however, the Ocean View fell on hard times and closed its doors. For five years, paint faded and weeds grew high as the property waited for a buyer. 

“It was overrun with weeds and trees,” says Monte Marocco, the real estate broker handling the sales of the units. 

Then, in 2018, Melanson’s company bought the property with plans to transform the nine-acre parcel. 

The centerpiece of the new development is a complete renovation of High Cliff Lodge, which has been renamed Oceana in its new incarnation. Over the course of a 10-month build, Melanson carefully preserved many of the features of the original, including stone pillars and chimneys, carved wooden ceiling beams in the dining room, and more rough-hewn beams in the breakfast room. In 2019, Melanson received the Gloucester Historical Commission’s Preservation Award for his responsiveness to the city’s concerns and his dedication to preserving the historic qualities of the property. 

Modern sensibilities are very much in evidence among the historical details, however. A chef’s kitchen with a six-burner Wolf cooktop and quartz countertops flows into a living room and sun porch area, creating the perfect space for entertaining or just connecting with family. The master suite offers yet more views and a spa-style bathroom featuring a deep soaking tub and an oversized, glass-walled shower. An elevator connects the home’s three floors. 

Outdoors, three decks on two levels offer ample space for enjoying the ocean breeze and listening to waves crash on the rocks. 

The property sold in September. 

The team determined Twin Light Manor could not be restored and instead decided to replace it with a new home. SeaView is a six-bedroom 4,400-square-foot house that earns its name with a bank of tall windows that lines the front of the house, creating panoramic ocean views from the airy, open concept kitchen and living area. 

“Our thought was just to maximize the windows, maximize the views,” Melanson says. 

From the living room, a stone chimney reaches up two stories to the cathedral ceiling. A first-floor master suite enjoys more views. Five more bedrooms—one downstairs and four upstairs—provide ample room for gathering family and friends. 

Attention to detail is a signature of the homes at Aquarius. The decks on the sides and rear of the buildings were extended about a foot past the walls of the houses, allowing people to step out a little further for better views. The building team searched for a month to find a top ledge for the deck railings that would be large enough to set a drink down on. The butler’s pantry in Oceana (which also features a wine fridge that holds dozens of bottles) includes a built-in wine chiller that automatically senses what color a wine is and brings it to the proper temperature. 

As SeaView nears completion, work has begun on duplexes containing townhomes. Each 2,600-square-foot home will include three bedrooms and front decks with ocean views. Like their neighbors, the units will sport finishes that combine historical touches with modern style. 

A proposed second phase of Aquarius consisting of 11 townhomes is currently being reviewed by Gloucester planning committees. 

And when all the work is completed, the hope is, a new age will dawn on the Gloucester coast.

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