James Jones inspires a Maine family to buy an island

Written by By Hermione Way, CNN Home

Editor’s Note: Watch a timelapse video showing a 5-day “homestay” in Sag Harbor

Visit the online home of an amateur filmmaker from Portland who recreated a fabled vacation to the deep South in North America’s smallest state. While millions of tourists from around the world trek to the balmy Caribbean Sea for less-clichéd holiday experiences, Wes and Jack have spent a week dwelling in the home of James Jones , the first African-American man to receive the honor of becoming an honorary member of the American Hockey League in 1934. The Jones-Guimaraes family property is located in Sag Harbor, a quiet seaside community located in New York’s Long Island.

(Originally published April 21, 2011)

When James Jones’ great-grandchildren remortgaged their house and sold it to fund a trip to the land of their forefathers, they didn’t expect it to be to Rhode Island.

The U.S. state, recently named the most beautiful in the country by Travel + Leisure magazine, is generally perceived as an older, rural area in the northeast. But the Jones-Guimaraes family have chosen to spend the week at the family’s Sag Harbor property, a 5-day “homestay” in which they have received a special invitation to stay at the property courtesy of James Jones and his son, Edward.

For the Jones-Guimaraes family — whose second child just became a bride — this week has been a life-changing journey, from a seaside town to New York City’s Central Park to the Norman Rockwell Museum.

“My grandfather and James Jones were friends, and we had our father-in-law come up from Portland, Oregon to help us run the summer house,” says Wes Guimaraes, a 44-year-old scuba diving instructor and hostel manager from Portland.

“(James Jones) lived in an apartment in Boston, and I used to visit him a lot, taking his dogs for walks, going to the theatre and so on.”

However, while Jones had returned many times to the family in the North end of Long Island, he never had a home to call his own.

“Every time he’d come home, he bought an acre (of land) and made a barn and a house. Now he’s helping my wife and her family to come down and live here for a few days at least,” says Jones.

Here, Jones brought the old estate — which he has called “Brown House” since 1934 — back to life. The restored property features a room once used as the nursery and patios overlooking the beach. It even has its own little shed where Jones spent time during the 1930s.

If this felt too good to be true for the Guimaraes family, it has been worth every second.

“This week has just been incredible, he’s been delightful and really surprised us,” says Wes. “He’s really great with the kids and very calming and wonderful with the dogs as well.”

Following the arrival of the Guimaraes clan on Long Island, Jones bought them a round trip ticket to New York City and took the family from house to house — including one near Central Park — introducing them to his favourite places and helping them sleep.

The holiday has brought the Jones-Guimaraes family a little inspiration for their own future projects.

“The best thing that James has done is to give us a life,” says Wes. “We’re all so excited to spend the next six months down in Oregon, down the coast, getting more used to it.”

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