Newton Booth Tarkington (1869–1946) was an American author best known for his novels The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and Alice Adams (1921). He is one of only four novelists to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was considered the greatest living American author in much of the 1910s and 1920s. While he was born and grew up in Indiana, “Booth” eventually fell in love with the coast of Maine, and built a home in the charming village of Kennebunkport. In Kennebunkport, he was well known as a sailor, and his schooner, the Regina, survived him. Regina was moored next to Tarkington’s boathouse this building, which was named “The Floats” which he also used as his studio. The building was constructed in 1900 as a shop to build ships. He purchased the building, preserving it for generations to come. After his death, the boathouse and studio were converted into the Kennebunkport Maritime Museum. The building appears to now be a private residence, perched above the harbor. How charming!
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.
John Bourne House // c.1800
John Bourne (1759-1837) was born in Wells, Maine as the son of Benjamin Bourne. When the American Revolution hit a peak, when he was only sixteen years of age, John enlisted in the service of the country, and marched in company of Capt. Thomas Sawyer, to Lake Champlain. After the war, he learned the trade of shipbuilding and established himself in Kennebunkport, at the height of the village’s manufacturing. John Bourne built ships for a wealthy ship-owner and became successful himself. Bourne was married three times. His first wife, Abigail Hubbard (m.1783) died at just 24 years old after giving him three children. He remarried Sally Kimball a year later, who died in her twenties at just 28, she birthed one son for him in that time. His third wife, Elizabeth, would outlive John, and they had five children together. After his marriage with Elizabeth, John likely had this home built, possibly from his own hands. The Federal style home stands out for the unique entry with blind fan and modified Palladian window framed by engaged pilasters.
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.
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!