The Billows Cottage in Kennebunkport, Maine was built in 1895 for a B.S. Thompson, a wealthy coffee and tea merchant. The house was originally designed by Henry Paston Clark, a Boston architect who was very busy furnishing designs of some of the summer colony’s most iconic buildings and cottages. For this cottage, he designed it in a blending of Shingle and Colonial Revival styles with a side-gabled roof punctuated by dormers and sweeping verandas with rubblestone foundation. By 1904, the cottage was purchased by Robert C. Ogden of Philadelphia, who helped establish Wanamaker’s Department Store. Under Ogden’s ownership, the house was remodeled and expanded numerous times, but still retains its charm!
Juniper Ledge Cottage // 1889
Ellen Kemble (Bartol) Brazier was born in New York City in 1844, the eldest of four children of Barnabas and Emma Bartol. Her father had many business interests in sugar refining and the family was able to travel the world from his wealth and success. The family spent most of their time in Philadelphia, but like many of the city’s wealthy residents, they often summered elsewhere. Ellen Bartol married Joseph Harrison Brazier in 1866 and they had two children. When her father Barnabas died, Ellen inherited some of his remaining fortune and as a part of high society, she had a summer cottage in Kennebunkport built. Working with Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, she oversaw the designs of Juniper Ledge, this gorgeous, eclectic shingled residence in the Cape Arundel summer colony. Ellen would summer at the cottage until her death in 1925, but before she died, she joined her daughter in the 1910s and 1920s at Women’s Suffrage events and fundraisers, helping to pass the 19th Amendment, allowing women the right to vote in the United States. Ellen is buried in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia next to her husband, not far from her parents.
Grayling Cottage // c.1900
John Bach McMaster (1852 –1932) was born in Brooklyn, New York to a rich plantation owning father and mother who ran operations in New Orleans until the outbreak of the Civil War. After this, John graduated from the College of the City of New York in 1872, worked as a civil engineer in 1873–1877. Falling in love with the field of American History, he switched careers and in 1883, became professor of American history in the University of Pennsylvania. McMaster is best known for his History of the People of the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War (1883), a valuable supplement to the more purely political writings of earlier years. The book was a huge success and John was able to purchase house lots in the newly established Cape Arundel Summer Colony in Kennebunkport, Maine, a colony populated by many wealthy Philadelphians for summer homes. He first appears to have built “The Kedge”, a chunky, but beautiful cottage on a cliff. McMaster would also have this larger cottage built by the turn of the 20th century, which in design, appears to be a more eclectic Shingle style dwelling. Just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic, the house features continuous cedar shingle siding, sweeping porches to provide views of the ocean, a prominent chimney, and Colonial-inspired fanlight motifs.
“The Dory” Cottage // 1888
Before Miss Gerrard purchased the Glen Cottage (last post) in 1900 in Kennebunkport, Maine, she had already summered in her own summer cottage nextdoor for over a decade. In 1888, she hired an architect from New Jersey to furnish plans for this charming shingle and stone cottage as her summer retreat. The cottage features a prominent brick and rubble stone chimney facing the street with a gambrel roof. The entrance is tucked away under a recessed porch and looks to be the original dutch-door. I can’t imagine how amazing summers in this house would be!
Glen Cottage // c.1850
Not all of Kennebunkport’s summer “cottages” are grand, Shingle style mansions… Glen Cottage was originally built in c.1850 as a Greek Revival style cape house. As the town developed into a desirable summer colony for wealthy residents of Boston, New York and Philadelphia, the small cottage caught the eye of a Ms. Garrard. Margaret Garrard purchased Glen Cottage in 1900 and hired Maine architect William Barry to transform the old cape, adding the dormers, octagonal bay, and door hood. Here, she ran the Bonnie Brig Tearoom for twenty years. Tea houses were important social centers for wealthy summer residents Later owners renamed the tea house, “The Old Tree Tea Tavern” and “Periwinkle” but in 1926, the name reverted to The Bonnie Brig Tearoom. Today, the cottage has reverted back to residential use with the owners lovingly maintaining the old cape.
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.
Oliver Walker House // c.1809
The Oliver Walker House in Kennebunkport Village is one of the better examples that shows how overlapping architectural styles can work really well on an old house (when done right)! The original house was constructed around 1809 for Oliver Walker (1788-1851), a sea captain who later accepted the call and became a deacon for the South Congregational Church in Kennebunkport. Walker died in 1851 and the Federal style property was inherited by his only surviving child, daughter Susan, who had married Portland native, Captain John Lowell Little. Under their ownership, the traditionally designed Federal house was modernized with fashionable Italianate style modifications of the decorative brackets and an enclosed round arched window in the side gable. A later Colonial Revival projecting vestibule adds to the complex, yet pleasing design. I have a feeling the interiors of this house are just as spectacular as the exterior.
Samuel’s Stairs // 1810
Houses with unique names are always the most fun to research and post! This stately Federal style mansion in Kennebunkport was built in 1810 for Samuel Lewis (1777-1857), a cabinetmaker and carpenter in town. Lewis also worked as an undertaker and made glass-top coffins from 1801, until his death. It is estimated that Mr. Lewis made 2,500 coffins during his career – including his own. Samuel was a quirky character and built his home as a large addition to a 1762 home, which possibly remains today as an ell. The 1810 house with original transom and sidelights at the entrance was two stories as built which contained a spiral staircase that ended on the second floor at a skylight. Thus, the house became known locally as “Samuel’s Stairs.” A later owner added the third floor, but maintained the Federal proportions. SWOON!
Lord-Gould House // 1799
Believe it or not, this stunning Federal mansion in Kennebunkport was a marriage present! When Phebe Walker married Nathaniel Lord in 1797, Phebe’s father, Daniel had this home built for the new couple. Phebe and Nathaniel had a total of nine children before Mr. Lord died in 1815 at 38 years old. Before his death, the wealthy couple used part of their property to erect a larger home, which is now known as the Nathaniel Lord Mansion. The couple sold the property, and it was owned for some time by Captain Alden B. Day, who passed it down to his daughter Nellie and her husband, William Gould. The property remained in the Day-Gould family until 2017. The house is very well-preserved and looks much like it would have appeared when built in 1799 besides the later entry added in the mid-19th century.
Benjamin Coes House – “Tory Chimneys” // c.1785
One of the hidden architectural gems of Kennebunkport is this Revolutionary-era house with some serious proportions. The house was built around 1785 by Benjamin Coes, a sailmaker from Marblehead, who settled in the burgeoning Kennebunkport in search of new work and opportunities. He married Sarah Durrell and the couple erected the seventh house in town, which is part of this property. For his work, Mr. Coes used the first two floors as his residence and the third floor was used as a sail loft, with an exterior staircase. A young boy, Joseph Brooks, would work in the loft and he would go on to marry Benjamin’s daughter, Sarah. The couple inherited the family house and retired here. The property was sold out of the Coes-Brooks Family when Maine State Historian, Henry Sweetser Burrage and his wife Ernestine purchased this house in 1917, which would be used as a guest house. The couple and lived in the house across the street. Ernestine Burrage, who was Chairperson of the Kennebunkport Chapter of the Red Cross, allowed the ladies of her chapter to gather there three times a week to roll bandages for the soldiers injured in battles overseas. It became the headquarters for the Kennebunkport Red Cross. It was likely Ernestine who had the chimneys painted white, which resembled the old Tory Chimneys in Revolutionary-era New England; where, when painted white, they served as a quiet signal which indicated that a home’s residents were loyal subjects of the British Crown.