A view of the Brownfield property the Donlon family is bringing to an upscale auction next month. They spent 26 months hand-building the 6,000-square-foot red cedar log cabin at the center of 173 acres.
BROWNFIELD — When Sean Donlon and his wife wanted out of Boston and city life in 2004, they bought 173 wooded, nearly untouched acres here.
He laid out bedsheets at each of the property’s four corners, rented a plane to fly overhead to find dead center, marked the spot and spent 26 months hand-building a 6,000-square-foot cedar log cabin.
He and his crew lived on-site in an RV and tents, then in a horse barn, without power for the first eight months.
They built four bedrooms, seven bathrooms, two garages and a barn that complemented the property’s two private sand beaches and a mile of Saco River frontage.
Now the Donlon kids are grown. It’s too much space. They’re hoping to make it someone’s next multimillion-dollar camp in the woods.
“I didn’t build it and design it to sell it, but I was 40 years old when I started,” Donlon said. “You’re young, you don’t mind the work. Now it’s getting to the point, I don’t have a maintenance guy, I don’t have a plow guy, I do it all myself. I don’t mind, we’re just not using it to its potential anymore. It would be nice for somebody that can.”
After 283 Wakefield Road didn’t sell on the open market at $2.7 million, it’s headed next month to an auction organized by an upscale auction house that bills itself as having “the world’s finest properties selling to the highest bidders.” Think French castles and Connecticut estates.
Donlon, a builder and developer, said the family considered property in all 50 states when they were looking for a drastic change 13 years ago.
“The stress and the city and the traffic was getting to me,” he said. “My daughter, the youngest, was actually excited to get out, to move out of town, which is unusual for a 14-year-old girl. She said, ‘Dad, let’s go.’ Of course, we bribed her with a horse, but that worked.”
As the list of potential sites narrowed, Maine stood out.
“Even growing up, I always used to love to go to the woods in Maine,” Donlon said. “I love the Saco River, the foothills of the White Mountains, beautiful, clean.”
After widening and grading just over a mile of abandoned town road to get to the gate on the property, Donlon said he built another half-mile to get to the future house. After the horse barn went up, his tent-based crew moved into it.
In siting the house, “I had to blast to get it where I wanted it,” he said. “We hand-picked through all the blasting, it was like a beautiful blue-gray granite,” and those pieces were turned into the veneer for the eventual 48-foot-tall, four-sided fireplace.
Close to 15,000 feet of old growth coastal red cedar logs helicopter-harvested on Vancouver Island, then dressed and kiln-dried, went into the project.
“You walk in and it smells like a cedar closet,” he said. “I left the cedar naked, if you will, for that reason. My wife and I were pretty adamant about no chemicals, anyway.”
Each piece for the house was custom-cut to length and he says proudly that no chain saws were used.
“It took a while because we did it all ourselves,” Donlon said. “Being in the middle of the woods, building a log home, I was having a great time. It was going to be 4,000 (square feet), but after I had the garage wing done on the right — the west wing, as we refer to it — I thought, you know what, I could do a second story on this thing and make the bedrooms huge.”
Each bedroom is 900 square feet with a walk-in closest and master bath. He can see someone turning it into a commercial hunting lodge, or subdividing the land or adding cabins.
The family spent 12 years in the area and loved their time here, he said, calling it a great little town where people keep to themselves.
The property is assessed by the town at $506,943. The Friday, Nov. 3 auction at ConciergeAuctions.com starts without a reserve.
“Being a developer, I’ve bought and sold tons of real estate; I understand the game,” Donlon said, adding that not many cabins in the woods like his exist, so it’s hard to find comps on the market.
“Of course, it’s bittersweet,” he said. “Who wants to part with a place like that?”
The Donlon family wanted to get out of Boston and looked in all 50 states before landing on property in Brownfield and building their palatial log home from scratch. It has four 900-square-foot bedrooms, several garage bays and a mile of Saco River frontage.
Granite on the 48-foot-tall, four-sided fireplace was hand-picked from the property after the Donlons blasted to create the building site.