Throwback Thursday

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...

Ward Family Houses in Kennebunkport

The Wards are one of those Kennebunkport families that keep popping up in my local history research. Nathaniel Ward moved here from Salem, Massachusetts in 1789. He married ferryman Shephen Harding’s daughter. When Lydia Harding Ward died, part of her father’s property near the mouth of the Kennebunk River was sold by the Ward Family to the United States Government. We all know that property today as Government Wharf. Nathaniel Ward’s eldest son, Nathaniel, Jr., a boatbuilder, built a house at the corner of Maine and School Streets in 1812. His son Charles, whom I have featured in several articles,...

I Love My Job

A yellow stagecoach on sleigh runners turned up in Barnstead, NH recently after having been stored away in a trailer there for decades. The gentleman upon whose property it had been abandoned contacted me at the Kennebunkport Historical Society to inquire about it since Kennebunkport was lettered above the doors on both sides of the coach. I recognized something in his photographs of the 10x4x6 foot vehicle. The shape of the coach reminded me of old photos I have seen of Ham Littlefield’s stagecoaches. He had a stable on Ocean Ave at the foot of Wharf Lane until it burned...

Veterans Day Edition – Thank You for Your Service!

There is a monument at the Cape Porpoise Pier honoring soldiers and sailors who served in the American Revolution and a plaque in Cape Porpoise Square honoring veterans of WWII, Korean, and Vietnam conflicts. WWI Veterans were honored upon their return to Kennebunkport in 1919. An all-encompassing Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Eagle perches proud in the center of Dock Square. I’ve always wondered why Kennebunkport does not have a monument specifically honoring veterans of the Civil War. Imagine my surprise to learn that there once was a bronze tablet honoring Civil War Veterans on Stone Haven Hill that has since...

Then It Happened

Kudos to L. Blake Baldwin of Video Creations in Kennebunk for converting this 16mm film from our collection. It was produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after the Maine Fire of October 1947 to warn folks to prevent forest fires, “It happened in Maine so don’t let it happen to you.” Keep an eye out for shots in the Kennebunks in 1947. This is the clearest copy of this footage I have ever seen. Thanks, Blake!

Jane Morgan’s Kennebunkport Playhouse Ghosts

“I was awakened from a sound sleep and saw this figure of a Quaker lady surrounded by a gray haze. She glided by the foot of the bed and went out the door,” recalled musical star Jane Morgan’s good friend Muriel Pierce to a reporter in the mid-1960s. The newspaper man and his photographer had agreed to spend a misty moonless night in the farmhouse next to the foundering Kennebunkport Playhouse. Photogenic believer Jane Morgan conducted a guided tour of the most haunted corners of the old house, stopping briefly to let the photographer capture her stunning silhouette in a...

Springs

Did you ever wonder why Spring Street in Kennebunkport is so named? It was the way to the freshwater spring that stood along Mast Cove between The Village Baptist Church and the White Columned Nott House. Its location is clearly indicated on both the 1856 map and the 1872 map of Kennebunkport. That spring was in use long before the town of Kennebunkport fashioned a town water system. In fact, residents of Kennebunkport were already relying on the spring for drinking water before the Village Baptist Church was built in 1838. When Captain Eliphalet Perkins conveyed the lot to the...