The Kennebunkport Inn lot has been through many changes since Ephraim Perkins built a family home overlooking Dock Square around 1800. At that time, the property extended all the way to the Kennebunk River. There wasn’t yet a bridge into Lower Village and except for Ephraim’s own wharf and store, there were no neighboring businesses. Over the years, the commercial aspect of Dock Square grew up around the Ephraim Perkins center-entrance colonial.
Kennebunk-born, Boston tea and coffee dealer Burleigh S. Thompson and his wife Harriet were living in Kennebunkport Village when the 1880 census was taken. They probably moved here from Cohasset Massachusetts to be close to their only child Hattie who in 1879 had married the successful Kennebunkport sea captain, Daniel W. Dudley. Descendants of Ephraim Perkins finally sold Harriet Thompson the classic riverfront homestead bounded by an elegantly curved fence, in 1888.
Burleigh S. Thompson built a large stable at the waterfront section of his property in 1892. In 1899, he decided to tear down the old Perkins homestead and replace it with a large modern mansion. It was reported in the Eastern Star that a new house would be raised on the foundation of the old one and was going to cost $30,000. The house was ready for Thompson family occupancy in September of 1900.
Hattie Dudley, according to census records, had tragically lost 4 of her 5 children; Benjamin, Lilian, Dorothy, and Helen. Her father Burleigh S.Thompson had died in 1907 and her mother Harriet died three years later. In 1910, Hattie was living apart from her husband at the house on Spring Street with her only surviving offspring, 28-year-old Ralph. Talk about painful changes.
In the wee hours of August 27, 1912, the night watchman at the Parker House saw that the ell of the Dudley house was on fire. He rushed in to find Ralph Dudley unconscious in a bedroom upstairs but managed to help him out of the building. The ell had to be rebuilt after just 12 years. Thousands of dollars in damages were covered by insurance.
Murray D. Hackenburg and his brother J. Lloyd Hackenberg purchased the house from Ralph Dudley, in February 1928 and launched The Kennebunkport Inn. The Grand Opening was celebrated with a dinner for 125 guests on Friday, June 29, 1928. Within a few years, a utilitarian rectangular annex was added to accommodate more guests.
In 1938, the old waterfront stable, in a serious state of disrepair, was torn down. J. Lloyd Hackenberg allowed public parking on the lot where the stable had stood for the first time that summer. Much to his brother’s chagrin, he also opened up a sandwich and ice cream take-out shack facing the parking lot, which Murray reportedly called, “Lloyd’s Folly”. He later built shops and a laundromat along the perimeter of the property on Spring St and Temple Street. J. Lloyd Hackenberg died in 1961. His property was put up for sale by his estate after 33 years in business as The Kennebunkport Inn.
In 1963, the Town of Kennebunkport bought the waterfront portion of the Ephraim Perkins homestead lot that Lloyd had used for public parking. The town expanded the lot out 100 feet into the mudflats with fill and riprap to hold it in place.
There have been a number of different owners since then. Each has contributed changes that make up The Kennebunkport Inn we know today. Changes can be painful to watch when you really love a place but like death and taxes, they are inevitable. That’s history for you.