One of Maine’s most charming libraries is right in the coastal village of Ogunquit, and like many of the greatest, it was built as a memorial to someone. George Mecum Conarroe was born Nov. 9, 1831. His father, George Washington Conarroe, was an accomplished Philadelphia portrait artist who provided his family with every advantage mostly from an inherited family fortune. The Conarroes and their cousins, the Trotters, who summered at Cape Arundel, had been associated in a very successful steel venture for several previous generations. George M. Conarroe apprenticed in a Philadelphia law firm and was admitted to the Bar in 1853. He ran a successful probate law practice and his prudent real estate development investments enhanced his formidable fortune. Nannie Dunlap, daughter of another leading Philadelphia lawyer married George M. Conarroe in 1868, they were inseparable. He built a summer estate in York Cliffs, a burgeoning Summer colony just south of Ogunquit (then a part of Wells). George died in 1896, and Nannie fought to keep her late husband’s legacy living in the coastal area he loved so much. She hired Philadelphia architect Charles M. Burns to design a new summer chapel in York and this beautiful village library in Ogunquit. The library was constructed of fieldstone taken from the site and is a lovely example of the Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne architectural styles in Maine.
Ogunquit Maine History
Perkins Cove Drawbridge // c.1941
The Perkins Cove wooden footbridge in Ogunquit, overlooks one of the loveliest little harbors in the Maine coast and spans the narrow entrance to the port. The iconic bridge is perhaps the only double-leaf draw-footbridge in the United States and luckily for us, is right here in Maine! The small channel was once very shallow, but in about 1940, the cove was dredged to make room for larger fishing vessels. A new drawbridge was soon added to allow access to the small peninsula while also permitting fishing vessels to pass underneath. The bridge has been modified a couple times since it was constructed in the early 1940s. The new bridge spurred development of some of the area which was already a mix of fishing shacks and artist studios. Since then, many of the original fish shacks have been converted to restaurants or shops due to the high value of the land now. It was also announced this year that the bridge would soon be demolished and replicated with Federal funds with a new harbormaster building. Hopefully the replacement will closely match the existing, which is a huge draw (pun intended) for the tourists who flock to the area.
Winn House // c.1780
One of the oldest extant houses in the village of Ogunquit Maine is this charming Cape house thought to have been built in the 1780s. The house was later purchased by James Winn (1783-1861) and his wife Philadelphia Maxwell Winn (1785-1855), probably about the same time as the birth of their first child, James Winn Jr. in 1808. Both James Sr. and his son in 1846, launched a 161–ton brig out of Kennebunkport with Captain James at the helm. After several trips James Jr. succumbed to an illness that was aboard the vessel and died at the New York Marine Hospital. Over 150 years later, the house, largely untouched, was seemingly threatened by development pressure on the busy highway. In 1980, the home was donated to the town by then-owner, Phyllis Perkins, and moved nearby to a park on Obed’s Lane. It now houses the Ogunquit Heritage Museum.
Colonial Inn, Ogunquit // 1897
As Ogunquit surged in popularity as a coastal summer retreat in the late 19th century, the flocks of city-dwellers needed a places to rest their head after splashing in the crisp Maine ocean. The original structure began with a mid-19th century house, likely in the Greek Revival style. It was expanded in the 1880s when it opened as a hotel for tourists, equipped with a mansard roof. The hotel consistently sold out of rooms in the summer months and the proprietors decided to expand in about 1897 with a sizeable Queen Anne style addition. A fire in 1951 destroyed the rear wing of the building and the conical tower roofs were removed, resulting in the final form seen today. The hotel is historically significant because it is the only surviving 19th-century hotel in Ogunquit that still serves as a hotel and largely retains its historic appearance, enhanced following a 2013 restoration by the owners who worked with David Lloyd of Archetype Architects. Other hotels of the period have either been converted to condominiums or been engulfed by modern alterations. The hotel was thus placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a large, and worthy addition!
Nellie Littlefield House // 1889
One of the most charming buildings in the quaint village of Ogunquit Maine has to be this Victorian inn, located right on Shore Road, the town’s main thoroughfare. The house had its beginnings in 1889 when Joseph H. Littlefield constructed it for his wife Ellen “Nellie” Perkins and their family of four children. Joseph was a member of the esteemed Littlefield Family, which goes back to before Edmund and Annis Littlefield and their six children traveled from England and settled in the town of Wells in 1641. The family was prosperous in the area, and Joseph used his wealth and position in local affairs to develop summer cottages and buildings at the beginning of the town’s large development boom in the late 19th century and early 20th, catering to summer residents and tourism. The Littlefield House was passed down to Joseph and Nellie’s children after their passing, last occupied by Roby Littlefield (1888-1988), who served in local and state politics. It was Roby who was instrumental to establishing the Ogunquit Beach District, which allowed the government to acquire the beachfront in Ogunquit, making it public. The old Littlefield House is now an Inn, known as the Nellie Littlefield Inn & Spa, and it retains so much of its original charm.
Ogunquit Playhouse // 1937
Opened in 1933 in a converted garage and relocated to the existing building upon its completion in the summer of 1937, the Ogunquit Playhouse is an important part of Maine’s historic twentieth-century cultural landscape. The Playhouse was founded by former Hollywood director and Broadway producer Walter Hartwig and his wife Maude, and the building was designed by theater architect Alexander Wyckoff. The site on Rt-1 was intentional as the highway was the main coastal route for the inter-war summer tourist travel. The Colonial-inspired theater was in keeping with the historic nature of New England, but with the grandeur to attract a nation-wide summer audience. Early articles mentioned the building constructed of “…steel and wood, painted white with green shutters and roof, is simple in line, suggesting the Colonial architecture of New England”. Walter Hartwig died in 1941, and his widow Maude took over as the producer for the upcoming season. In 1947, she engaged George Abbott, New York’s most distinguished playwright/producer to share in the managerial duties, and in 1950 John Lane arrived as co-producer. Lane acquired the property in the following year, counting among his first tasks the rebuilding of the stage which was destroyed by a storm the year prior and changing the landscape to move the parking lot in front of the building to the side. The Ogunquit Playhouse continues its 26-week season runs from May through October, with off-season co-productions at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH. Go see a show before the season is over!
Old Ogunquit Methodist Church // c.1880
Ogunquit, which means “beautiful place by the sea” in the indigenous Abenaki language, was first a village within Wells, which was settled in 1641. Ogunquit grew as a fishing village with shipbuilding on quiet tidal waters protected within smaller alcoves. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the village was discovered by artists, who flocked to the area for the natural scenery and bucolic coastal scenes perfect for painting. At this time, summer residents came to the sleepy village en masse, facilitating the construction of summer resort hotels and commercial buildings. Ogunquit seceded from Wells in 1980, and has been one of the most visited villages in Maine. Ogunquit has been a destination for LGBT tourists and businesses, adding to the rich culture there. This church building, shows the history of the town well. It was constructed as the village’s Methodist Church after 1872 in a vernacular Gothic style with lancet windows and entry. The church merged with the nearby Wells Methodist Church in the 1970s and later moved to a new church building between the two towns. The former Ogunquit Methodist church was purchased and converted to a gift shop, frequented by locals and tourists alike.