Atwater’s Edge in 1925

Inventor Arthur Atwater Kent introduced his first major invention, the Unispark Ignition System in 1906. Before that, automobiles had to be started by cranking an ignition mounted on the front of the hood. The driver would then jump into the car and hope it continued to run long enough to get the motor into gear. Kent’s invention enabled the ignition to be engaged comfortably from the driver’s seat and was an immediate success as automobile companies clamored to improve the mass appeal of driving.

In 1910 the Kent family bought The Nesmith Cottage beside St. Ann’s Episcopal Church at Cape Arundel and drolly renamed it AtWater’s Edge. They hired local workmen for $1.50 a day to renovate. Kent offered the workmen all the Bourbon they could drink to deepen their enthusiasm for the job.

The Atwater Kent Radio, an invention for which Kent is best known, did not go into production until 1922. The success of the wildly popular radio catapulted the Kent Family into wealth of impressive proportions.

A photographer from the National Photo Company came to Cape Arundel on August 11, 1925 to capture pictures of Atwater Kent’s summer home and some of his celebrity friends.

The photographs taken that day are now in the collections of the Library of Congress. The first picture here shows Atwater Kent sitting in front of what was left of the 1921 wreck of the British freighter Wandby by 1925.

The second photo shows the Kent family in front of their Kennebunkport cottage.

The third shows Kent and his daughter coming out of the breakwater in one of the many speedboats he designed.

In the fourth picture, Atwater is clowning around with Kennebunkport authors, Booth Tarkington and Kenneth Roberts. Kent was known for making the best Mint Julep in Kennebunkort during prohibition. Takington and Roberts were also known to imbibe.

In 1927, Atwater purchased the Bar Harbor Cottage of W. K. Vanderbilt. When he moved to Bar Harbor, he gave several of his ten Kennebunkport automobiles away to local residents.

Atwater’s Edge at Cape Arundel was finally sold to the Horace Liversidge family in 1946 and the house eventually became the rectory for St. Ann’s by the Sea but ask anyone in Kennebunkport, they will tell you it’s the Atwater Kent’s House.

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