Throwback Thursday

Bickford Island Causeway

Work on the Pier Road Causeway Project has begun. The Town of Kennebunkport will elevate and rebuild the portion of Pier Road between Stone Haven Hill and Bickford Island where tidal flooding issues are increasingly impacting public access to the pier. But it won’t be the first time. Bickford Island at Cape Porpoise was called Neck Island on early records. Andrew Brown bought the island from Thomas Perkins in 1766. The island was then called Brown’s Island. The Browns sold it to Adam McCulloch in 1793 and 12 years later, the McCullochs sold the island to John Bickford. It has...

Kennebunkport History Lost & Found

Today’s Throwback is an update to a post I shared for Veterans Day 2023. I had learned that a boulder at Stone Haven Hill in Cape Porpoise used to have a bronze tablet honoring Civil War Veterans embedded in it. I lamented that the original plaque had been lost for many years. The Civil War marker had first been unveiled in 1913 by Stone Haven Hotel owner, Justin M. Leavitt, a Civil War Veteran. The hotel burned in 1931 and Justin Leavitt passed away a few days later. The significance of the plaque and the boulder were lost in time....

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...

Happy Valentines for 77 Years

Emmanuel Joseph, born in the 1790s in St Ubes, Portugal, came to Kennebunkport in 1817 as a cook aboard a ship commanded by Captain Samuel Pope. The locals felt more comfortable calling the foreigner Joseph Manuel, so that became his name. Shortly after his arrival, Joseph encountered the charming teenage local girl, Sarah (Sally) Wildes. He was smitten but Sally was still quite young. After sailing on two more merchant voyages out of Kennebunkport, one with Capt. Pope and another with Capt. Crediford, Joseph asked Sally to be his wife. The couple filed intentions to marry in July 1820. Joseph...

Throwback Thursday

January 27, 1914, at midnight, the City of Boston steamer George A. Hibbard struck Schooner Olive F. Hutchins broadside and punched a sizable hole just aft of the foremast on her port side. The Cape Porpoise vessel had been returning to Boston Harbor from a four-day fishing trip off Jefferies Ledge with 25,000 lbs. of fish in her hold. They were just off Castle Island when Capt. Merton Hutchins saw that the Hibbard was coming right for them. He screamed an alarm down the cabin companionway to rouse the sleeping crew. By the time his men stumbled on deck barefoot,...

Fifty years ago, in Kennebunkport

The photographs I’m sharing today were all taken by Stephen Moore Johnson who lived in the Josiah Linscott House on Pearl Street next door to Tory Chimneys. I have shared his 1970s pictures before. He donated tons of prints and negatives to the Kennebunkport Historical Society in 1993. Johnson worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for 31 years and earned the Career Intelligence Medal for exceptional achievement in 1973. He had already retired to Kennebunkport before our own George H. W. Bush became Director of the CIA. Take a snowy walk around Kennebunkport with Steve in January 1974. Temperatures fell...

Dudley’s Field on Elm Street

I recently received a query about the bank branch on Elm St. When was it built and for whom? Coincidentally, I also received some material this week about the old Dudley mansion on Elm St. next door to where the bank branch stands. It always amazes me when questions and answers present themselves in the nick of time. When the elegant federal house on Elm St was built around 1806 it had a large front lawn running clear to the Kennebunk River. A rum distillery was built on that lawn in the 1820s and was run by the sons of...

To the Victor Belong the Spoils

The Kennebunks have been blessed with reputable historians since European fishermen found this place sparsely populated by native families early in the 17th Century, but their versions of our stories don’t always agree 100%. The area between the Kennebunk River and the Mousam River, which was originally called The Cape Porpoise River, was at first a kind of no man’s land. It was included on so many original grants that disagreed as to the location of the boundary between Wells and Cape Porpoise that half of its smattering of occupants had acquired their lots from one town and the other...

Throwback Thursday

I was thrilled when Kate Kelley, The Photo Angel® sent The Kennebunkport Historical Society an old picture of Dock Square Kennebunkport. Kate’s passion is in reuniting old photographic portraits she finds at antique stores with the subject’s descendants by tracing their genealogy. This time, because the picture she found was of a Kennebunkport location, we were the lucky recipients. The first thing I noticed, when I had an opportunity to study the details, was that the sign above the corner storefront in the building that now houses Compliments says, “The Garrick Players this week’s attraction the right hilarious comedie Twelfth...

Forefathers Inn

I’ve heard a lot about Forefathers Inn since I moved to Kennebunkport in Y2K but some of the facts about its ultimate fate are still fuzzy for me. Maybe you can help. Tea houses were all the rage in the Kennebunks, especially during Prohibition. Forefathers Spring House, later known for serving up a different kind of refreshment, opened as a tearoom in an 18th Century house near Townhouse Corners in 1917. Forefathers spring water, “Pure as Nature Flowers” apparently made the tea especially delicious served with “unusual dainties for tea and lunch.” By 1957, the Forefathers’ Inn menu included steak,...

Kennebunkport Methodist Church that stood on Maine St., next to the Bank-turned Customs House-turned Library from 1835-1960

The Kennebunkport Methodist Parish needed a place to hold services in the river village of Kennebunkport. Oliver Bourne made his lot on Maine Street next to the Custom House available for this purpose. The modest one-story Methodist Chapel was dedicated in April of 1835. In 1862, the one-story structure was raised up. The first floor became the second floor. Local businessman Samuel Gould gave a bell for the new belfry. Twenty years later, the belfry was replaced by a new sharp steeple, funded by Boston & Kennebunkport Seashore Company founding member, Enoch Cousens. Parishioners moved to the Church on the...

Kennebunkport Hutchins Letters donated by the Westbrook Historical Society

Mark Swett of the Westbrook Historical Society contacted me at the archives several weeks ago. He found some very interesting Kennebunkport Hutchins letters mixed in with a donation Westbrook Historical Society received that had been stored away for many years in someone’s attic. “Some of the letters between members of the Moses Hutchins family [who lived at 5 School Street Kennebunkport] date back to the Civil War,” said Mark. “Would you like me to send them to you at the Kennebunkport Historical Society?” “Yes Please,” said I, trying to contain my excitement. A carefully packed box arrived a few days...