2018-06-28 / Front Page

The birdhouse man of Old Orchard Beach

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer


Frenchy Ouellet of Old Orchard Beach shows some of his birdhouses that are destined for new locations this week around Saco/Old Orchard Beach area. (Abigail Worthing photo) Frenchy Ouellet of Old Orchard Beach shows some of his birdhouses that are destined for new locations this week around Saco/Old Orchard Beach area. (Abigail Worthing photo) OLD ORCHARD BEACH – During the past few years, wooden faces have sprung up alongside roads in town. These birdhouses, decorated with facial features made from a variety of household objects, can be seen all over town, from the three smiling on Emerson Cummings Road across from Old Orchard Beach High School to those dotting Saco Ave.

“I started noticing them three years ago,” said Old Orchard Beach resident Jeanne Violette. “Now they’re popping up everywhere. It’s a mystery.”

The birdhouses have garnered local attention from residents, with multiple discussions taking place on the Old Orchard Beach Facebook page, the first of which dated Sept. 30, 2016.

Some visitors to the page speculated as to whom is behind the project, others gave tips on where to find them, and one asserted that he thinks they have cameras in them (they don’t).

As new birdhouses appear on streets, sharp-eyed residents will share photos and locations of the birdhouses. The houses bear no name or insignia of origin, leaving residents to wonder: Where are they coming from?

The man behind the birdhouses is Frenchy Ouellet, a Nashua, New Hampshire native who retired to Old Orchard Beach 12 years ago. Ouellet makes the birdhouses in his basement workshop and fills them with birdseed prior to hanging them around town. Ouellet started making the houses as a hobby and then began placing them around town for the birds to enjoy.

Walking through his backyard, it is apparent that this is a creative haven.

There are birdhouses hung all around the peripheral trees of the property, where there is an outdoor workshop area and fences decorated with items such as sports equipment, antique bells and signs with friend’s names who have visited.


In Frenchy Ouellet’s front yard is what he calls, “mama’s tree,” displaying 19 of his birdhouses, for his wife, Robin. (Abigail Worthing photo) In Frenchy Ouellet’s front yard is what he calls, “mama’s tree,” displaying 19 of his birdhouses, for his wife, Robin. (Abigail Worthing photo) In his front yard is what he calls “Mama’s Tree,” for his wife Robin, a teacher at Saco Middle School, which houses 19 of his birdhouses.

“It’s no big thing,” said Ouellet, shrugging modestly. He gestured with a broken piece of a pink lawn flamingo, holding it out in his hand. “Look at this, I was going to just throw it away, but then I thought, ‘wouldn’t that be a great nose?’”

He takes inspiration for the houses from all around, using objects both ordinary and unusual to make the faces for the houses.

As his identity has travelled by word of mouth, Ouel-

For his birdhouses Ouellet uses common items in unusual ways to make the signature faces. For example, in this birdhouse, the eyes are poker chips and a hose wheel valve for a nose that spins. (Abigail

Worthing photo) let said people will bring him items they think would be great for his birdhouses, some not even giving their name.

In his backyard, Ouellet has shelves filled with birdhouses, each one unique.

Ouellet has stories for the unusual items that make up the faces, including a birdhouse made for a local mechanic with spark plugs for eyes. On a cart he has houses laid out for specific locations and a list in his pocket of addresses where people have requested birdhouses, as well as sites where there is a good tree for a birdhouse.

“It’s just something good. He’s not doing it for recognition. He’s doing it for the birds,” said Ouellet’s neighbor Terry Merrithew, who has three birdhouses on her property. “Pretty soon there won’t be a street in town that doesn’t have one on it.”

Ouellet says he has made hundreds of birdhouses over the years, and refuses to take money for them.

“Not a penny,” Ouellet said. “Hey, this is my retirement. I just do it because it’s fun.”

Ouellet enjoys working with pieces of wood that will make interesting faces, especially longer pieces of wood that give the effect of a beard.

Prior to his retirement, Ouellet owned a drywall business, and his craftsmanship is apparent in the houses. He beamed with pride as he showed his most recent birdhouse, a piece with light bulbs for ears and part of a New Hampshire license plate as the perch that reads, “live free or die.”

This birdhouse has his most unique feature yet: A pair of dentures.

“Isn’t that funny? I’ll have to find a good place for that one,” Ouellet said. “I’ll let you know when I do.”

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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