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.
When Ridgefield, Connecticut was settled in 1708 by Europeans, there was only one Episcopal Church in the state, and the general assembly allowed dissenters their own churches so long as they continued to pay taxes to support the Congregational Church. Ridgefield’s first Episcopal church, St. Stephen’s was built in 1740 on land granted by the Proprietors who founded the town and laid out lots along the towns new Main Street. In 1776, St. Stephen’s minister, Epenetus Townsend, a Tory (loyal to the British), was ordered to leave town with his wife and five children when the Revolution picked up steam. He was appointed chaplain to a British regiment and in 1779, the battalion was ordered to Nova Scotia. En route by vessel, a severe storm arose and all passengers were lost. The church was taken over by the commissary department of the American Army. During the Battle of Ridgefield, British troops set it on fire as a statement to the townspeople. The church was replaced two more times until 1914 when the present building was constructed. The Colonial Revival church is absolutely stunning and built from plans by (unknown to me) architect Walter Kerr Rainsford. The rubblestone church is one of the most pleasing designs I have seen in Connecticut!
The Rye Beach Club is located right on Rye Beach, one of New Hampshire’s most upscale seaside communities, one whose history as a fashionable summer resort dates back to the 1840s. The Beach Club was established in 1925 in the decade after the First World War as the nation was experiencing a social transformation fueled by the postwar boom of the “Roaring Twenties”. As automobile ownership rates increased by the 1920s, the average motorist was no longer dependent upon schedules and the fixed routes of streetcars, railroads and steamboats. As one early historian of American recreation noted tongue-in-cheek, “The wealthy could make the fashionable tour in 1825, the well-to-do built up summer resorts of the 1890s, but every Tom, Dick and Harry toured the country in the 1930s.” As a result, many wealthy communities created private, exclusive recreation and social clubs where they would not be forced to mingle with the “average” American. Rye Beach residents formed the Rye Beach Club in 1925, which comprises of a rubblestone building with various wood-frame additions.
The Curtis School for Boys was founded in 1875 in Bethlehem, Connecticut by Frederick S. Curtis as a private school for young men aged 9-13. Curtis moved the school to Brookfield Center in 1883 and began constructing a campus. Buildings for the 30 pupils and five instructors included a dormitory, President’s residence, schoolhouse, caretaker’s cottage, and gymnasium on 50 acres. The school never expanded beyond a few dozen students, likely under Frederick Curtis’ supervision. The school closed in 1943, at the onset of America’s involvement in WWII, and it never re-opened. The campus sat in the village center for over a decade, with many of the buildings falling to the wrecking ball for safety reasons. Possibly the only building remaining is the 1907 gymnasium, constructed of rubblestone. The building was purchased by the Brookfield Country Players in 1959 and remodeled as a community theater. The theater group was founded two years prior, and it required its own theater space after a school complained about an actor appearing on stage without a shirt, the horror! The group remains a regional institution in the arts and is a great caretaker of their historic Arts and Crafts style building.
Located at 405 Water Street in Warren, RI, this two-story rubblestone structure is a lasting remnant of the industrial past of the quiet town. Originally constructed as a forge, the stone walls are about two feet thick. After the Civil War, the building was purchased by Francis Marble, who lived on nearby Washington Street. Marble converted the second floor to a meeting hall for seamen to drink and dine when home from months at sea.