John's Center Pond Camp, The Way He Recalls It

John's Center Pond Camp, The Way He Recalls It

Beth Bates
Sep 22, 2010

Name: John
Location: Center Pond — Newark, Vermont
Size: 1,600 square feet interior, 6 acres / 887 feet of shore frontage exterior
Years lived in: 24 — owned

John grew up spending a lot of time at his neighbor's cabin on Center Pond in Vermont, or as he and his loved ones refer to it, camp. Forty years later, he bought camp and immediately began putting it back together the way he remembered it. The day after purchase, he put the furniture back to its' original positions, and more recently, he repainted the living room and kitchen in colors that were more in tune with his memories. Today, he divides his time between camp (sans modern amenities) and his home which is a stone's throw away.

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Appropriately, the clocks on the wall are out of order. When I visited camp, time was measured in light o'clock and dark o'clock. The main structure was build in 1912 with additions made throughout the 30s and 40s by Neal Wells. Aside from those structural additions including the patio and second floor, not a lot has changed. In fact, John's entire aesthetic is based upon his childhood memories of his Center Pond camp, and he operates under the design standard, "Would Mr. Wells approve?" The result is a charming blend of rustic and vintage. Equally as engaging as camp's interior is the breathtaking landscape. The sight of stars and sounds of loons at night are absolutely stunning!

Some elements with the best camp character include the moose head / hat rack, the porch swing, the range of literature laying around from Atlantic Monthlys dating back to the 70s to field guides of local flora and fauna to romance novels, and the totem pole support on the first floor. As a child, John watched the progress Mr. Wells made on the totem pole year after year. Today, it epitomizes the lore and history of camp. John curates the walls with a salon style sensibility that incorporates his children's renderings of camp from years ago, his daughter's history reports, and landscape prints. This quality of layered textures persists throughout and provides rich stories at every turn.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Haphazard!

Inspiration: Keeping everything as it is / was.

Favorite Element: J Findlay Center Pond sign made in Burlington.

Biggest Challenge: Keeping septic system in order.

What Friends and Family Say: My father (who is blind) says there's something beyond sight that is the essence of camp. He has a feeling that places him at Center Pond. On the other hand, one of my daughters (who is an architectural engineer) says it's architecturally challenged.

Biggest Embarrassment: Guests' reactions depending on their expectations. With no plumbing nor electricity and cell service only available at the dock, guests are sometimes surprised by the accommodations.

Proudest DIY: Ongoing. I am recently retired and happy to have more time to devote to keeping up with camp.

Biggest Indulgence: The purchase of camp!

Best Advice: Follow your dreams. Do what you want to do. I never imagined I could own camp, and now I do.

Dream Sources: The land surrounding camp though it is mostly property of Vermont River Conservancy.

Resources of Note:


  • Living Room: True Value, Wheat

  • Kitchen: True Value, Match White


  • Moose head : Found in Canada


  • Totem pole : Hand carved and painted by Neal Wells

  • Big window frames : Oak reclaimed from church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont

  • Black floral cushion on Morris chair that recently replaced old cushion : From parents from their 1942 wedding gifts


  • Linens and bedding belong to family friends' : Polly and Jamie Yerkes


  • Refurbished Airstream trailer / guest unit : Polly and Jamie Yerkes

  • Bird house : crafted by Neal Wells

Thanks, John!

Images: Beth Bates

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