A beach by any other name…

Dare I broach the contentious subject of the names of Kennebunk Beaches? When your use of the name, “Mother’s Beach” evokes an alarming reaction from some of the local “old timers,” you may assume they are having a hard time parting with the name their mother called it by, “Kennebunk Beach.” But this argument did not begin during our lifetimes.

Long before the Parsons family built their homes on Crescent Surf, their beach was called, Hart’s Beach. We all call it Parsons Beach now.

When Richard Boothby and his swashbuckling bride Mabel Littlefield moved to the Kennebunk Beaches in 1730, the stretch of sand that now runs from Lord’s Point, (formerly called “Two Acres”) to Boothby Road was naturally known by everyone as Boothby’s Beach. After the Boothby’s vacated the name was changed to Wentworth’s Beach and then Kennebunk Beach. The Kennebunkport Seashore Company often called it Bathing Beach. Lots of old postcards designate it Dipsy Beach for the Dipsy Baths that were very popular there. I have even seen it referred to in the 1840s and 1850s as The Horace Beach after the Barque Horace was wrecked there in 1838. When Willard DeLue came to Kennebunk in 1951 and asked the local folks on the beach what they called that stretch they all responded in the same way. They called it Kennebunk Beach, thank you very much! Some time between 1951 and 2000 beachgoers started calling it Mother’s Beach because the sands slope so gradually to the sea that mothers feel safe letting their children bathe there. Or maybe because there is a playground there now?

If you head east from “Mother’s Beach,” passing Boothby Road you will come to Middle Beach, or will you? Sadly, there is very little sand left on Middle Beach. When the center crescent was actually a sandy beach it was known as Pebble Beach. When Willard DeLue wandered there in 1951, folks told him it was called Second Sands.

Mercifully, the longest and eastern most crescent, Gooch’s Beach, has always been known as such or at least in the records I have examined.

If you think it is confusing for newcomers to sort out all these name changes, imagine the challenge of researching the history. What do you call the beaches in Kennebunk?

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