Nesmith-Kent Cottage // 1891

One of the most iconic summer “cottages” in Kennebunkport’s late 19th-early 20th century summer colony is the Nesmith-Kent Cottage, located next door to the often photographed St. Ann’s-by-the-Sea summer chapel. The cottage was built for Julia and Mary Nesmith, the daughters of John Nesmith a wealthy industrialist and textile manufacturer from Lowell MA. The sisters named the cottage “The Pebbles”, and spent their first night there on July 24, 1891. The half-timbered shingled house stood at the edge of the ocean near a former War of 1812 fortification. The sisters sold the property in 1910 to Arthur Atwater Kent, prominent radio manufacturer based in Philadelphia, who invented the modern form of the automobile ignition coil. Kent renovated the cottage extensively, increasing its size, and renamed “The Pebbles”, “At Water’s Edge” in a cheeky play on his last name. In 1919, he expanded again, purchasing a lot adjacent to his mansion which was the old fort constructed to protect the ships moored in the harbor during the War of 1812. In early 1919, workmen uncovered a few bones of what was calculated to be a seven-foot-tall man and two skulls of white men that had clearly met their end at the hands of Native people; one pierced by an arrow and the other scalped. The Kennebunkport Historical Society has one of these skulls in their collections. Today, the Nesmith-Kent Cottage is owned by the St. Ann’s-by-the-Sea congregation as their rectory.

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