United States Presidential Connections to the Kennebunks

We in Kennebunkport were proud to call the 41st President of United States, George H.W. Bush, our summer neighbor most of his life. His son, our 43rd U.S. President, George W. Bush, now spends his summer vacations in the house at Walker’s Point. You might have even seen our 42nd President, William Jefferson Clinton, playing golf at Cape Arundel Golf Club, once or twice. Do you remember any other presidential visits?

One that you probably won’t remember was when our 5th U.S. President James Monroe came to Kennebunk on July 15, 1817. The British had stormed Washington during the War of 1812 and set fire to Whitehouse. It was still under reconstruction and not ready for occupancy when he took office on March 4, 1817, so he spent his first summer as President touring New England.

Representatives of Wells and Arundel formed a committee to plan a proper celebration for the dignitary’s visit. Joseph Dane, Henry Clark, George W. Wallingford, Simon Nowell, Horace Porter, John U. Parsons, Joseph Storer, Samuel Curtis, Jr., and George Wheelright all agreed that a ceremony should take place in the part of Wells then known as Kennebunk Village.

The President’s arrival at Jefferd’s Inn, (later the Mousam House) was announced with cannon fire. The people of York County, dressed in their Sunday finest, lined Kennebunk’s Main Street. Touched by the reception, the President instructed his assistant to drive his carriage to a spot just past the Meeting House and he proceeded across the Mousam River Bridge on foot, tipping his hat to the crowd as he passed under an evergreen arch adorned with local garden roses. He made his way to the Storer mansion for an elegant luncheon prepared by Mrs. Storer, Kennebunk’s most tasteful hostess. After lunch he returned to Main Street on foot, walking toward a group of lovely young ladies all dressed in white that were stationed on his final approach to the carriage. They waved their handkerchiefs as the President drove out of site on his way to Biddeford, Saco and Portland.

Happy Presidents Day Weekend!

George Bush age 13 in Kennebunkport in July 1937
Playing Golf at Cape Arundel Golf Club. President George H. W. Bush, President George W. Bush, and Jeb Bush at top. President George H. W. Bush and President William J. Clinton in cart.
The carriage President James Monroe used during his visit to Kennebunk in 1817. (Ken Joy)
Jefferds Tavern, President Jame Monroe first stop in Kennebunk where he got out of the carriage and walked down Main Street.
The Storer Mansion where President James Monroe had lunch in July 1817.

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