Shipyards in the Village Below the Bridge

Shipbuilding in Kennebunkport and Lower Village was a family affair. Brothers, in-laws, sons, nephews, and grandnephews passed the shipyards above and below the bridge on both sides of the Kennebunk River back and forth from 1840-1958. I can’t always remember the dates of all the famial comings and goings without a visual aid so I’ve made this map to help me keep track. Eternal thanks to maritime historian, Charles S. Morgan for the shipyard deeds and document he donated to the Kennebunkport Historical Society.

Brothers, Daniel and Stephen Ward launched their first vessel, Schooner Nile, right out of Dock Square Kennebunkport in 1841. Vessels were launched from there until the Ward Brothers bought the land above the drawbridge near South Church on March 25, 1851. Stephen Ward died in 1867. His son, Charles Ward inherited the yard and went into business with his future father-in-law, William H. Crawford. Charles Ward moved to Alexandria, VA in 1873 and W. H. Crawford took on a new partner, veteran Shipbuilder, Stephen Perkins. Crawford & Perkins failed in 1878, having never been fully able to recover from an 1875 fire. Across the river in Lower Village, Clement Littlefield, in company with George Emmons launched the first vessel in his yard on November 8, 1845. Some of the largest vessels launched to that date on the Kennebunk River were built at the Emmons Littlefield Shipyard but the business went into receivership in 1856. Landing shipbuilder Nathaniel Lord Thompson purchased what was left of the failed Emmons Littlefield Shipyard in 1858. He sold “the upper part of the shipyard” to the Clark brothers on December 18, 1859 (B266 P393). Clement Littlefield was a sometime Master Carpenter for N.L. Thompson and for his sons-in-law, Abner and David Clark. David Clark sold his portion of the shipyard back to N.L. Thompson in 1872.

Jorge Christenson, born into a shipbuilding family in Bergen, Norway, in 1826, immigrated to Kennebunk in 1850. Clement Littlefield welcomed the Norwegian into his home and gave him a job in his growing shipyard. After a few years, Jorge Americanized his name to George Christenson. He started his own shipyard just below the drawbridge in 1858, where Herbie Baum later had his boatyard. He conducted business there until his death in 1891. His son William kept the Christenson Shipyard open through 1892 to complete the contracts on file.

Charles Ward, son of shipbuilder Stephen Ward, having returned from VA, purchased the Lower Village shipyard from the estate of Nathaniel L. Thompson. David Clark, son-in-law of shipbuilder Clement Littlefield, purchased the old Ward shipyard near South Church in 1882 and built ships there until his death in 1901. His nephew, George Clark built a vessel there in 1918 and George Clark’s son, Clement ran a boatyard near the Grist Mill from 1921-1958. Whew!

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