Today we will shine the light on the Camden Maine Stay Inn on the Mid-Coast of Maine. We’ve created this spotlight series to offer up-close and personal views of what make the Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE) so special as planning begins for travel to resume. We started the series at the Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness, NH. From there we moved to the Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford, VT, and then to the Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield, NH. Next, we focused on the Grafton Inn in Grafton, VT, and then on to Massachusetts to focus on the Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead and the Deerfield Inn in Historic Deerfield. Our first spotlight in Maine will be at the Camden Maine Stay Inn, a beautiful, historic inn on Maine’s Mid-Coast. We will provide spotlights for planning romantic getaways to all ten of the DINE inns in the upcoming months.
Picture the Camden Maine Stay Inn
The Camden Maine Stay Inn is located in the heart of Camden, commonly regarded among the most beautiful, iconic seaside villages in Maine. Camden’s geography is unique – quite literally, it is where the mountains meet the sea. Camden is one of the few places in the United States, even the world, where one can hike or ski a mountain and cruise the ocean in the same day. When you combine Camden’s natural beauty with its quaint, coastal Maine setting and its varied cultural offerings, it is no wonder that the town is labeled the “Jewel of the Maine Coast.”
The Inn is blessed with an incredibly favorable location in the classic, charming High Street historic district of Camden which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is set among several lovely, quintessentially New England residences that date back to the earliest years of Camden’s existence. From the Inn it is only a short distance – a stroll of about four minutes – to Camden’s gorgeous harbor and quaint downtown. From there one can easily walk to Camden’s many fine shops and excellent restaurants.
Guests are drawn to the Camden Maine Stay Inn for many reasons. Notable among them are the Inn’s classic New England architecture and its location in a historic residential neighborhood in the center of town. The Inn’s elegant, comfortable guest and common rooms and its cultured surroundings, including extensive art and book collections and an antique Steinway piano are additional draws for guests here. The expansive gardens in the side and back yards of the Inn, including a year-round stream that flows from Mt. Battie to Camden’s harbor offer guests a wonderful outdoor setting for relaxation. Guests also appreciate the Inn’s relaxed, friendly atmosphere which is reflective of the good-nature and personalities of the innkeepers, Janis and Peter Kesser, as well as their focus on cleanliness, safety and attention to detail. Oh, and did we mention the delicious, gourmet breakfasts? They are best way to start a fabulous day in Camden.
The Inn’s eight guest rooms share a unique combination of traditional period details, tasteful decorating, and modern comforts and conveniences. There’s a sense of casual elegance with accommodations that are both sophisticated and comfortable at the same time. All guest rooms sleep two people, with some offering accommodations for three via either a sofa bed or a suite style arrangement. Guest rooms are found in both the 1802 main house and an attached and beautifully renovated Carriage House. The vintage wide-plank wood floors from yesteryear have been beautifully finished and can be found in almost every room, accompanied by fine Berber carpeting or a combination of the two. Amenities abound including high-speed wireless internet service, plush robes, pillow choices and fine soaps and lotions – all included with the stay. Tesla drivers are welcome to charge up at the inn’s own Tesla Charging Station.
Three of the Camden Maine Stay Inn’s guest rooms offer gas log stoves or fireplaces. In addition, TVs and DVDs can also be found in three of the guest rooms, giving guests the option to stay tuned in or not. Every guest room at the Inn offers a captivating view of either the park-like garden, a stand of mature evergreen and deciduous trees across the driveway, or the lovely white clapboard houses along Camden, Maine’s historic High Street.
Guests love the common rooms at the Camden Maine Stay Inn. You can enjoy quiet conversation and exchanges with other guests and the innkeepers in the Living Room, the Piano Room or the Den, all filled with unique works of art, books and furnishings. Guests are also welcome to relax and enjoy homemade breakfasts and afternoon refreshments in the Dining Room, Breakfast Room and Kitchen. The spacious downstairs of the house provides plenty of room for guests of the Camden Maine Stay Inn to spread out and unwind.
Camden Maine Stay Innkeepers, Peter and Janis Kesser, have spent decades amassing an extensive art collection, a portion of which has been placed throughout the Inn. Guests here will have the chance to enjoy paintings, photography, blown glass, wood, pottery, tapestries, and bronze sculptures on display throughout the common rooms of the inn. In addition, most of the guest rooms also have at least one piece of original art from the Kesser’s collection displayed. Two blown glass pieces by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly include an eye-stopping Machia found in the living room sitting on a bronze sculpture called The Dancer’s Table. The other Chihuly is a more modest, yet strikingly beautiful Sea Form in the dining room. Peter loves to tell guests about the late 1880’s paintings from his childhood home, one set in Wales and one in Montana. For those interested in fine art both Peter and Janis can, and have, talked with guests for hours about their mutual interest in art.
In keeping with sharing their collections, guests will find a wide array of books, collected by the Kessers through the years. Books are found on shelves in six of the eight guest rooms and in the den too. Not to be left out, the smallest guestrooms that don’t have space for a bookshelf feature their books outside these rooms in the hall. Both fiction and non-fiction books are available in every room, including classics, contemporary novels, thrillers, mysteries and short stories, plus poetry, history, biography, memoirs, religion, sports, art and music. There are even some young adult books available in rooms where families might stay. To top it off, there is a small collection of books about Maine or written by Maine authors displayed in the Inn’s Butler’s Pantry.
Another distinguishing feature of the Camden Maine Stay Inn is its extensive garden and lawns surrounding the inn. The garden covers more than an acre and provides an oasis of shade, streams, flowers and ferns for Inn guests. There are several sitting areas with cedar Adirondack furniture made in nearby Rockport scattered throughout the garden. A brook that flows from Mt. Battie through the property and ultimately ends in the harbor adds to the ambiance. In the warmer months, guests frequently take a cup of coffee in the morning before breakfast or a beverage in the afternoon outside to enjoy in the garden. The garden is also a popular reading and relaxing place and provides ample opportunity for guests who like to take nature photographs.
Guests often comment that breakfast at the Camden Maine Stay Inn is the highlight of the day. Janis and Peter are both innkeepers and breakfast chefs here. Janis, who loves to cook and feed others, takes care of all the baking and cooking, except the meat served at breakfast, which is Peter’s domain. He gets tons of compliments on his bacon! The Inn’s kitchen garden provides the freshest of tomatoes and herbs incorporated into breakfast dishes in the warmer months, along with fresh produce and goods from the local farm stands. All special diets and food allergies can also be incorporated with ample notice. One guest was so impressed with breakfast that she wrote a review saying, “Breakfast was amazing both days and if I were told that Janis is a chef at a high-end restaurant, I would certainly believe it. Her meals are perfect in every way, both in presentation and wonderful flavors.”
Breakfast is a gourmet two-course meal at the Camden Maine Stay Inn and included with the stay. The meal is served on wicker tables in the sun porch overlooking the garden and at an antique farm table in the Inn’s traditional dining room. Breakfast begins with coffee or tea, a selection of fruit juices and a mixture of fresh berries, melons or other fruit, which, during the warmer months are grown largely on farms within a 15-minute drive of the inn. Entrees rotate between sweet and savory daily and are prepared with the freshest local ingredients available. Some of the favorite dishes among guests are the Peach French Toast, Belgian waffles, Eggs Florentine, southwest frittata, and blueberry and apple pancakes. All breakfasts include a meat such as Peter’s signature thick, slow-cooked bacon, sausage or ham as well as a bread such as orange poppyseed bread, banana bread, or cranberry or cinnamon coffee cake along with the entree. Janis has spent the winter experimenting with some new breakfast offerings and she is excited to serve them to the Inn’s guests this summer.
In the afternoons, guests are treated to a complimentary selection of homemade cookies served with coffee and tea. Look forward to the Inn’s signature Maine Stay Mocha Truffle cookies and additional seasonal choices, plus dark, rich coffee that is brewed from beans roasted at Rock City Coffee in nearby Rockland. The Inn also offers a wide selection of fine teas.
Meet the Innkeepers – Janis and Peter Kesser
Peter and Janis recently celebrated their third anniversary of Camden Maine Stay Inn ownership. But their story started way before that. They appropriately describe themselves as being “from away.” Janis grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Peter was raised in Houston, Texas. Prior to moving to Camden, they lived for more than 25 years in Memphis, Tennessee, and both practiced law for many years, Janis as a trial attorney and Peter as a business attorney. They met on an airplane, while working and unlike many relationships that start that way, it worked as they are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary this spring!
The Kessers have four daughters, three of whom were adopted, starting in 1999 when their daughter Leigh was adopted from China at 11 months old. Eight quick months later Peter and Janis adopted eight-month-old Pilar from Guatemala. They then adopted Shiyan from China when she was almost two years old in 2003. “That was a whirlwind time in life for us with these little girls so close together in both age and adoptions. In addition to traveling to both countries for each adoption, we have taken multiple trips back to China and Guatemala,” shared Janis. Evidence of their travels are displayed throughout the Inn with paintings from both countries and gorgeous textiles from Guatemala. Often during the summer months, the Kessers’ daughters may be seen interacting with guests and helping around the Inn while home from college or on vacation from jobs. We’d be remiss in not mentioning the Kessers’ joyful Irish Setter named Paddy and two cats named Ella and Einstein who, being cats, vacillate between being friendly and aloof, all of whom round out the Kesser family.
The Kessers’ connection with the Camden Maine Stay Inn started when they were guests for many years. Peter and Janis loved to stay at the Inn on the front and back ends of their family’s summer vacations on Monhegan Island – a beautiful, rugged and tranquil island located about 10 miles off the Mid-Coast of Maine. They so thoroughly enjoyed their repeated stays at the Inn that when the former owners, Claudio and Roberta Latanza, told Peter and Janis they were going to retire and sell the Inn, they jumped at the opportunity to become the Camden Maine Stay Inn’s new owners and proprietors.
The Kesser family is in its third year of ownership and love the seasonality and outdoor adventures that Camden offers, and the opportunity to welcome guests into the home they’ve created at the Inn.
Camden Maine Stay Inn History
The Camden Maine Stay Inn house, built in 1802, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Kessers report that they have seen houses in town from circa 1799 and 1800 which makes the Inn one of the oldest houses in Camden. Camden was incorporated in 1791, so it is believed that the Camden Maine Stay Inn house was one of the earliest of Camden’s original homesteads.
The home, now known as the Camden Maine Stay Inn was historically referred to as the “Bass-Huse House” or the “Dr. Jonathan Huse House”. The house was built in 1802 by Alden Bass, a carpenter and a direct descendant of John and Priscilla Alden who came to America on the Mayflower. He was also a cousin to President John Adams.
The house was a two story, center chimney home typical of the Federal period. The house was bought and sold five times, often to a relative of a prior owner, until Dr. Jonathan Huse bought the house in 1843. Dr. Huse kept his medical office in the house. The Huse family owned the house for almost a century until they sold the home to Thomas and Rita McKay in 1939. Janis Kesser explained, “I have been told that Tom McKay was like a son to the Huse’s. You can see the Huse and McKay names on separate buildings in downtown Camden.”
In 1850, Dr. Huse added the third floor to the house changing the roof line to the steep gable that remains in place today. There were originally two separate buildings behind the house, most likely both barns or one big barn and a carriage house. Sometime between 1854 and 1870, Dr. Huse added a two story “ell” connecting the house to the carriage house and barn. At that time, the slate roof was added to the entire house, ell and barn. The slate was mined in Brownville, Maine, apparently the earliest opened mine in Maine. There is only one other house on High Street with a slate roof and it was installed at about the same time as the Huse’s roof was.
The kitchen was originally located where the current dining room is today. In 2020, the Kessers had the floors refinished revealing the many places where the dining room floor (which is original to the house) had been repaired.
The house remained a private residence until 1983. Bob and Sally Tiereney bought the house and transformed it into a bed and breakfast Inn with nine guest rooms and three shared baths.
In 1989, Peter Smith, his wife Donny, and her twin sister Diana Robson bought the house. They can be credited with transforming the Inn to its present layout, reducing the number of guest rooms to eight, each with its own private bathroom. They also enclosed the sunroom where breakfast is served today, and in a move that subsequent innkeepers have appreciated, they built the owner’s quarters in the top two floors of the barn.
Donny was an avid gardener and planted many of the flowers and shrubs that still thrive in the gardens today. They also installed the granite bridge that crosses the stream leading to the Inn’s large patio that is both secluded and offers beautiful views of the garden and Inn.
The three of them owned the Inn until 2002 when they sold the house to Bob and Juanita Topper. The Toppers owned the Inn for six years selling it to Claudio and Roberta Latanza in 2008. Claudio and Roberta owned the Camden Maine Stay Inn for ten years before selling it to the Kessers in February of 2018.
Several vestiges from yesteryear remain in the Camden Maine Stay Inn today. The beautiful Queen Atlantic stove, made in Portland around 1908, still sits in the kitchen today. The ell is home to three of the Inn’s guest rooms. In addition, one can still see the original carriage doors from the Inn’s driveway. The third floor of the house is now a two-bedroom suite named Huse. There are guest rooms named after each of the four prior innkeepers too. The two rooms in the front of the house, Tierney and Latanza, have floors that are original to the house. Also, the South Parlor (which is now called the Living Room) has original floors and the floors in the Dogwood guestroom are original to the carriage house.
INNside Tips from the Camden Maine Stay Inn Innkeepers
Janis Kesser had a few insider tips and pieces of advice to share. Her first tip offers the perfect place to walk to in Camden to watch the comings and goings in the harbor. Janis tells us, “Cattycorner to our Inn is a residential street that ends at the harbor. There you can find a park bench where we love to sit and watch the boats sail by in the summer and the ducks diving for their dinner during the winter. It’s also a great place to watch the meteor showers in August and to catch the full moon’s light on the ocean. It’s a lovely, tranquil place we love.”
Janis also shared that only about a third of the Inn’s garden had been cultivated and beautifully maintained with the remaining portions left to go natural. However, she confided that “In the fall of 2019, we began clearing the whole garden out. In the spring of 2020 we brought in truckloads of dirt, fixed some major drainage issues (including discovering a natural spring) and planted grass. We transplanted over 100 hostas to create a hosta bed near the sidewalk for all passersby to enjoy and we have installed rock lined walking paths throughout the garden and along the stream. Now the natural beauty of the stream is readily apparent to all guests! This spring, in 2021, we will be creating new flower beds and seating areas,” she finished. Guests coming this year will be the first to enjoy the newly refinished garden.
Finally, Janis shared an inside tip about great places to enjoy the natural beauty of the Camden area. “Many of our guests are familiar with nearby Camden Hills State Park and like to hike the mountain trails, but we also have many guests who are interested in less strenuous nature walks. We love to talk to them about the Coastal Mountains Land Trust and the many nature preserves and trails that are located nearby. These trails are off the beaten tourist path.”
Innkeeper’s Favorite Recipe – Vintage Eggs
Upon creating each of these DINE member Inn spotlights, we ask the innkeepers to share a favorite recipe. We’ve shared recipes for everything from sweet to savory. When considering a favorite recipe, Janis Kesser went right to her Vintage Eggs recipe without much hesitation. Here’s why…
“I love to serve a breakfast entrée called “Vintage Eggs,” says Janis. “This dish uses all fresh ingredients, and its recipe is very flexible. You can adjust the amount of mushrooms, scallions or spinach to your taste; just don’t leave out the tarragon and nutmeg. I serve the eggs with link sausage made right here in Maine and with one of our homemade breads such as orange poppyseed bread, banana bread or English muffin bread.”
Janis added, “The name of the dish mirrors the adaptability of its recipe. Originally I called it “Deconstructed Eggs Florentine,” but that was quite a mouthful for me to say to our guests before I’d had my second cup of coffee. As I was casting about for a new name, several guests suggested “Eggs Janis,” so that was the name for a while. But I never felt entirely comfortable setting a plate in front of our guests and telling them the dish was named after me. Ultimately, my daughters, who love to thrift shop, suggested the name “Vintage Eggs” to recognize that part of the dish comes from a recipe originally published in the 1940s. So “Vintage Eggs” it is, at least until we come up with a new name! I hope you enjoy this breakfast from the Camden Maine Stay Inn.”
VINTAGE EGGS from Camden Maine Stay Inn
2 whole mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 scallion, sliced with white and green parts separated
2-3 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
1 cup of Half & Half
2 tablespoons of grated swiss cheese
2 tablespoons of grated cheddar cheese
In a medium skillet, melt a dab of butter and a splash of olive oil.
Sauté mushrooms with salt, pepper and dash of tarragon.
Add all of the white pieces of the scallion and some of the green and sauté for 1-2 more minutes.
Add two handfuls of spinach to the skillet. When spinach begins to wilt, season with salt and pepper to taste and a dash of nutmeg. Add more spinach if you like.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet warm half and half until steaming, but do not bring to a boil.
Break eggs in two ramekins. Slowly pour eggs in the cream. Poach eggs until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. It helps to spoon the cream on top of the yolks.
Remove cooked eggs with a slotted spoon to a plate.
Add cheeses and salt and pepper to the cream and cook until cheese is melted.
Divide the spinach and mushroom mixture on two plates and top with the poached eggs. Spoon the sauce over the eggs and garnish with the remaining scallion greens.
Contact the Camden Maine Stay Inn
Address: 22 High Street, Camden, Maine 04843
Telephone: (207) 236-9636
Innkeepers: Janis and Peter Kesser
As we move further into spring, we know that plans for travel are getting closer and closer. Be sure to book directly with any of the ten Distinctive Inns of New England when you make your reservations.
In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic