Whitten Architects, a residential architectural firm with a 30-plus year history of excellence in Maine, was awarded last week by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Maine a "Merit Award for Renovation and Adaptive Reuse" of the firm's Sortwell Chandlery project located on the Sheepscot River. Whitten architect Will Fellis led the project.

"It's an honor to be recognized for our work on Sortwell Chandlery as it's a project I am personally very proud of. There's something special about extending the lifeline of a 200-year-old structure for future generations to enjoy," says Fellis, who has been a member of the Whitten Architects team since 2012.

Annually, AIA Maine sponsors a juried review of Maine architecture to recognize the important and diverse work of Maine architects. The jurors are nationally recognized peers who, after reviewing and critiquing the entries, select outstanding projects for recognition. This year's Wisconsin-based jury included Allen Washatko, principal at the Kubala Washatko Architects (TKWA); David Black, principal at Flad Architects; Jim Shields, principal at HGA; John Vetter, principal at Vetter Architects; Nick Carnahan, principal at Galbraith Carnahan Architects (GCA); and Ursula Twombly, formerly a principal at Continuum Architects and Planners. Out of 63 total submissions, the jury ultimately chose 15 projects representing categories that included Single Family Residential, Institutional & Commercial, Renovation & Adaptive Reuse, Small Projects Under $250,000, Unbuilt, and Student.

"The Sortwell Chandlery is a truly admirable effort to save an endangered structure. We commend the architect on the heroic measures taken to save the building, with the subtle and surgical ways that it was altered to serve the family for the next 200 years," said the AIA jury.

Situated at the water's edge, chandleries are buildings that provision merchant vessels and sailing ships. On a coastal site rich with history, the 200-year-old Sortwell Chandlery has remained even longer than the house that accompanied it because its location and character have been treasured since its construction. In recent years, however, rising sea levels had put the Chandlery at risk. Whitten Architects repositioned and elevated the structure to provide a new foundation that accommodates today's higher water surges, leaving the old extents of the foundation and maintaining the character of the original structure.

To accommodate modern living, the architectural program included a new kitchen, new bathrooms, insulation, a new stair, a new electrical system, and a wood stove with supplemental propane heat to extend the structure's use into early spring and late fall. Because of proximity to the water's edge, a screened porch was carved out of the southeast corner, which maintains the structure's original feel while meeting setback requirements. Fellis and the team worked closely with the local historical society, the local planning board, and the Department of Environmental Protection to lift, reposition, and design a compatible addition to the Chandlery.

"We worked very hard to ensure the character of this historic structure remained intact throughout its renovation, and couldn't be more pleased with the end result," says Fellis.

Fellis has been designing high-end residences along the coast of Maine for several years. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University School of Architecture in 2009 and was awarded for outstanding fifth-year thesis and had the distinction to participate in "Super Jury" at the University. After interning at a couple of architecture and engineering firms in Maine, he joined Whitten Architects in 2012 where he has worked on a number of new homes, renovations, and camps and cabins.

"Our studio approach at Whitten is one of continual collaboration with site-specific design and considered intention at the heart of every project we take on," says Rob Whitten, founder and principal.

Whitten founded Whitten Architects in 1986. Over the last 34 years, the firm has been designing thoughtfully considered homes in New England. With a focus exclusively on residential design, the firm has designed a range of project types from camps to cottages, new homes to historic renovations. The firm has won a number of awards over the years and has been extensively published in a variety of residential home design books and magazines. The team collectively offers decades of hands-on residential design and construction experience, as well as a common ethos that a home should reflect its occupants, and its design should develop from an appreciation for and an understanding of its site.