Hurricane Fire Extinguished: Dock Square Fires Recalled

Shortly after I posted my Throwback Thursday column last week, I read in a local Facebook Post that Hurricane Restaurant in Dock Square was on fire. My mind was immediately flooded with images of the two previous fires on that side of Dock Square that had caused so much damage.

All but one of the commercial buildings on the north side of Dock Square were destroyed by fire in 1877. The anchor of the block had been the first Parker House Hotel and Restaurant built around 1870 by Swedish-born William C. Parker. It was described by the press as “a miniature rival of its Boston namesake.” Mr. Parker, who had followed Captain Sylvester Brown to Kennebunkport after serving as his first mate, was perhaps best known in Kennebunkport for the large opulent hotel he built on Temple Street after the 1877 fire.

The block of small stores was eventually rebuilt. Reuel Norton, the former Parker House clerk, leased a lot from the Perkins family directly across Spring Street from what is now Colonial Pharmacy. In 1883, he built an 18-room hotel and restaurant where the Parker House had once stood. The Norton House had a boat landing along the riverside affording the Cape Arundel crowd easy access to it from their canoes.

The first Norton House was found to be completely engulfed in flames at 10pm October 2, 1893. The 9-year-old hotel and restaurant building was a total loss. Two Kennebunkport engines saved the adjoining buildings with aid from the Kennebunk Fire Department.

Reuel W. Norton rebuilt the Norton House in 1894 in the same location. The new shop sold the best cigars that money could buy. Fruit, confectionary, ice cream, and sodas were served at an elegant soda fountain. Dainty tables lined the riverside porch connected to an expanded canoe landing. The new Norton’s offered no rooms for rent, but the Post Office was moved into the new Norton Block.

Wilbur (Frank) Goodwin bought Norton’s around 1900. He also took over the role of Postmaster. In 1925 he and his wife Mina, who owned the adjoining lots, asked Kennebunkport Selectmen for permission to extend their wharf and move Goodwin’s and the Post Office a few hundred feet closer to the swivel bridge. The Perkins family had raised the lease amount on the land where Norton’s stood from $50 to $400 a year. The plan was approved. George Clark was hired to move the building.

The following notice appeared in the Star on January 8, 1926. “The Post Office and Goodwin’s Ice Cream Parlor building has been moved quite rapidly and has but a few feet more to go. It certainly is a queer sight, in fact some of those who have not been informed of the moving, come down and stand in front of the building in rather a dazed manner, as though they were wondering whether they were in the right town or whether they had a little too much of “that hard cider” the night before.” Star 1-8-1926A

Rexall Drug Store occupied the Goodwin’s Ice Cream Parlor building during the early 1940s. Riverview Restaurant opened there in 1946. Patricia Brannen ran it for over 50 years. The late Brooks MacDonald, who had worked at the Riverview in his youth, opened Hurricane Restaurant there in 2000. He was a member of the Kennebunkport Village Fire Department. In January of 2019, Hurricane Restaurant was purchased from the MacDonalds by native Kennebunkporter Taylor Benenti.

Last Thursday, I rushed to Dock Square with trepidation to document potential losses. Our heroes from Kennebunkport and Kennebunk Fire Departments had caught the fire in time to avert another disaster in the 1894 Norton’s/Goodwin’s/Riverview/Hurricane building and possibly all the commercial buildings on the north side of Dock Square. THANK YOU!!!

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