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, 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.