United States Post Office on Temple Street

The original Kennebunkport Parker House was a restaurant built in Dock Square before 1872 by Wm C. Parker, who had emigrated from Sweden aboard a local merchant vessel. In 1874, Parker expanded into the store next door and opened it as a hotel. Both buildings were destroyed in the Dock Square Fire of 1877. A new and improved Parker House opened July 4, 1878, on Temple Street.

Sixty years later, the Temple Street lot that the Parker House sat on was purchased by the Federal Government as a site for a new Kennebunkport Post Office. When the Government first requested location bids, the over-large Parker House lot was too expensive at $10,500. Mr. Henry Parsons, Kennebunkport benefactor extraordinaire, bought the portion of the lot that exceeded the Government’s needs, on the condition that the Boy Scouts be allowed to use the building materials from the Parker House demolition to build their clubhouses in North Kennebunkport. The deal was struck. The lot was divided. Henry Parsons paid $3,000 for his portion bringing the price of the remaining property down to $7,500, which was the exact amount the Government was prepared to pay for a lot. The old hotel was full of furnishings and occupied by at least one squatter before it was razed in early 1940. The Treasury Department allotted $70,000 to purchase the site, acquire building materials, and build the Kennebunkport Post Office, which opened for business on December 26, 1940.

The Federal Works, a New Deal Agency, commissioned celebrated artist, Elizabeth Tracy to paint a mural for the Kennebunkport Post Office Wall in 1941. The Government-funded mural portrayed families bathing at Goose Rocks Beach but it was apparently the women in the picture that most offended the local literary set. Not fans of President Franklin D. Roosevelt or his new deal, to begin with, Booth Tarkington and Kenneth Roberts were very vocal in their opposition to the mural and spearheaded a movement to have it removed from the United States Post Office wall. Thanks to the considerable letter-writing talents of Kenneth Roberts, the question finally made it to the floor of the United States Senate in 1945. There, the mural was described as “a picture which, to speak frankly, depicts a group of fat women,” scantily clad, disporting themselves on a beach.” The maritime-themed mural that still graces the Post Office wall was painted by one of Kenneth Roberts’s favorite book illustrators, Gordon Grant and funded by a handful of summer residents and Kenneth Roberts.

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