The village of Kennebunkport in Maine is a well-preserved enclave of Federal period houses built at the heyday of shipbuilding and maritime trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Many sea captains and shipbuilders erected stately homes in the village, with high-quality design and woodworking inside and out. This Federal period home was built for Asa Hutchins (1769-1860) a blacksmith who was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and settled in Kennebunkport in the late 1700s. The house exhibits a central chimney a feature more common in Colonial-era homes, with a five bay facade and projecting entrance.
New England History Blog
Kennebunkport Post Office // 1941
During the Great Depression, the federal government built over 1,100 post offices throughout the country as part of the New Deal’s Federal Works Agency. Many of the post offices funded and built in this period were designed by architect Louis Simon, Head of the Office of the Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury. Few architects had such a role in designing buildings nationwide than Federal architects who designed buildings ranging from smaller post offices like this to courthouses and federal offices. They really are the unsung designers who impacted the built environment in nearly every corner of the nation. As part of the Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts, artists were hired to complete local murals inside many post offices built in this period, depicting local scenes and histories of the towns they were painted in. In Kennebunkport, artist Elizabeth Tracy who submitted a preliminary sketch of her piece “Bathers” which was approved depicting a beach scene, though the townspeople had not been consulted. Unfortunately, the opinion of a vocal part of the Kennebunkport populace was highly negative to Tracy’s painting, largely due to the fact that her beach scene depicted people on a beach in adjacent Kennebunk, not Kennebunkport! Within a few years, the townspeople gathered funds to hire artist Gordon Grant to paint a satisfactory replacement mural in 1945. The new mural remains inside the post office.
Captain Nathaniel Ward – Abbott Graves House // 1812
In about 1812, Captain Nathaniel Ward Jr. of Kennebunkport purchased this home in the village from housewright and builder Samuel Davis. The Federal style house is five bays with a central entrance with pedimented fan over the door. Two end chimneys would heat the home in the winter months when Nathaniel was out at sea and his wife, Sarah, would be maintaining the home and caring for their six children. The couple’s eldest son Charles Ward, served as the second American Consul to Zanzibar in Africa. In his role, Ward bickered continuously with the Sultan, whose word of law changed with the wind and he eventually left his position and settled in Salem, Massachusetts. This house was later owned by Abbott Fuller Graves (1859–1936), a renowned painter before he built a Prairie Style house in Kennebunkport in 1905.
Benjamin Mason Store // c.1815
Across from the Luques Store in Dock Square in Kennebunkport, another 19th century commercial building serves as a visual anchor to the vibrant village, this is the Benjamin Mason Store. Built in the 1810s, the Federal style commercial block was originally owned by businessman Benjamin Mason (1777-1855) who built a house in 1812 just nextdoor (which has since been converted to commercial use). The store is three-stories with a cupola at the roof. Later porches were added as the village prospered.
Luques Store // 1827
In 1827, a young Andrew Luques (1791-1873) built a store in the village of Kennebunkport, Maine where he sold dry goods, hardware, and fancy goods to the area’s citizens. As the village grew around him, the store grew and occupied the entire block near a drawbridge, which spanned the Kennebunk River to Harbor Village in adjacent Kennebunk. The business did well and the store was eventually inherited by Anthony Luques in the late 1850s. Anthony expanded the store, modernizing it and added a Mansard roof for an additional floor. Anthony continued operating the store until his death in 1890, when it was sold to a member of the Dennett Family. Around 1900, the building was occupied by a few businesses, with one taking advantage of the town’s recent desirability as a summer resort colony by selling bathing suits and hammocks. The building remains a visual and important anchor to the human-scaled and walkable village of Kennebunkport.
Roswell B. Fitch House // c.1850
Roswell Burrows Fitch (1833-1908) was born in the seaside village of Noank to parents Elisha and Mary P. Fitch. At twelve years of age he commenced to be self-supporting, and from then until he was fourteen, occupied a clerkship in a general store in town. In his teens, summers were spent aboard ships fishing for a livelihood, and his winters attending school. Upon completing his education, he became clerk in a store, and was afterwards engaged to assume the management of a union store which was erected for the special purpose of being placed under his charge. The store, located on Main Street in Noank, was eventually fully purchased by Fitch, and he did well financially. He may have had this house built or merely bought it years after it was built in the mid-19th century. When he sold his business in 1890, he “Victorianized” the classically designed Greek Revival style house with Queen Anne embellishments. The renovations in 1890 included an octagonal tower, an elaborate porch, a two-door entry likely replaced the sidelights and transom, brackets and applied decoration at the gable and cornice, and a Palladian window which was a Colonial-inspired addition. Hodge-podge or eclectic houses are some of the most fun!
Roswell B. Fitch Store // 1851
Roswell Burrows Fitch (1833-1908) was born in the seaside village of Noank to parents Elisha and Mary P. Fitch. At twelve years of age he commenced to be self-supporting, and from then until he was fourteen, occupied a clerkship in a general store in town. In his teens, summers were spent aboard ships fishing for a livelihood, and his winters attending school. Upon completing his education, he became clerk in a store, and was afterwards engaged to assume the management of a union store which was erected for the special purpose of being placed under his charge. This building was constructed as the union store in 1851 with eighteen-year-old Roswell becoming an active partner in the business. In his twenties, he slowly bought out, one-by-one, the twelve other owners, until he possessed absolute control. The eclectic Greek Revival and Italianate style building features classical detailing, but with a bracketed cornice and gambrel roof which is capped by a parapet. Mr. Fitch retired from business in 1890 and got to work “Victorianizing” his nearby home. Stay tuned for the next post which features his home in Noank.
Robert Henry Peckham House // 1872
Another of Noank’s stunning Victorian-era seaside cottages is the 1872 Robert Henry Peckham house which is located across the street from the village’s most ornate cottage, the Deacon Robert Palmer House (featured previously). The house exhibits a gambrel roof which reads as a mansard roof at the side elevations. A round arched window is set into the gable end. Decorative cut bargeboards add much complexity to the design. It appears that in the early 20th century, as Noank was re-establishing itself as an artist colony, the owners added the small wrap-around porch and stone garden wall.
Noank Train Depot // 1858
Starting in 1848, rail service connecting New Haven and New London, Connecticut commenced to provide transit between two of the state’s economic centers. The New Haven and New London Railroad was completed in 1852 and almost immediately, work commenced on extending the line eastward as the New London and Stonington Railroad. This completed the “Shore Line” route between New York City and Boston through other lines and the span became re-organized and named the Shore Line Railway. One of the many village stops along the route was in Noank, in this 1858 rail depot. The small train station is covered in board-and-batten siding with an overhanging gable roof supported by brackets. In 1976, much of the shoreline track was purchased by Amtrak, which is now known as the Northeast Corridor. The Noank station was cancelled as a stop, and the building was sold from the holdings, it is now office space, seemingly for the Noank Village Boatyard.
Thomas Jefferson Sawyer House // 1840
Thomas Jefferson Sawyer was born in 1807 in Groton, Connecticut as the tenth of 13 children of William and Prudence Sawyer. It appears that his parents were running out of names by the time they had ten children, so they named number ten after the then President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson Sawyer moved to Noank’s coastal village in 1840 and built this interesting Greek Revival house with an atypical hipped roof. Sawyer was a sea-captain who remained in Noank until his death and he was a very active member of the local Baptist church. The Sawyer House remains as a unique example of the Greek Revival style captains house, which the village is known for.