Notes from the Archives: The Friendship of Robert P. Tristram Coffin and Samuel Appleton Ladd Jr.

by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger

I love presentation copies. I also love Maine authors. A recent donation from  Samuel Appleton Ladd III of books owned by his father, Samuel Appleton Ladd, Jr., combines two of my favorite things in the collections of the Maine Historical Society, as well as incorporating other themes such as friendship, the bond of fraternal brothers, and artwork/illustration.

Samuel Appleton Ladd and author, poet, and Bowdoin professor, Robert P. Tristram Coffin were longtime friends. They were also members of the same fraternity at Bowdoin College, Zeta Psi, although at different times. Samuel Ladd was born in 1906, and Robert P. Tristram Coffin was born in 1892, and graduated from Bowdoin in 1915.

Evidence of this friendship is in this wonderful collection of books and their inscriptions, including some with drawings, from Coffin to Ladd, and his wife Estelle (“Dolly“). “Primer for America” is inscribed: “For Sam Ladd, who spends most of his money buying my books, and may he keep up the good works! With best wishes, in Tau Kappa Phi as brother in fraternity and life.”

Apparently “Tau Kappa Phi” is the greeting of those in the Zeta Psi fraternity. This inscription includes a charming picture drawn by Coffin of a coastal scene, complete with house on the shore (with smoke billowing out of the chimney), dory on the beach, a lighthouse, and lots of seagulls (seemingly birds are Coffin’s trademarks).

Another inscription in “Maine ballads” says: “for my friend and brother in Tau Kappa Phi and fellow Brunswickian, Sam Ladd Jr. with all neighborly wishes, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.”

In “Kennebec, Cradle of Americans” Coffin writes: “Inscribed for Samuel Appleton Ladd who has a good Bowdoin name, is a Bowdoin man, a brother [?], and now my friend, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.”

In Coffin’s “Collected Poems” he writes, “For Sam Ladd who reads my books as much as I do, friend and brother in TKØ, with best wishes Robert P. Tristram Coffin.” This inscription also includes a drawing by Coffin of a house with smoke rising from the chimney, and flanked with pine trees on either side.

In “Captain Abby and Captain John: An Around-the-World-Biography” the inscription says: “For Sam and Dolly Ladd who live around the corner and are my good friends, with best wishes, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.” The drawing underneath shows a bunny and tracks in between two pine trees.

Even Dolly, Sam’s wife, has her own inscription in Coffin’s “Mainstays of Maine”, a cookbook: “For Dolly Ladd who is a New England artist and cookery and doesn’t own this book, but I am glad she has it so I can put my name on it and good wishes, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.” The drawing under this inscription shows a bird carrying off an envelope.

Also in the collection is a book “Inscribed for Harry Oakes, Fellow in Bowdoin at whose home I spent a lovely Californian evening talking about Maine, with best wishes in Tau Kappa Phi, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.” This is an intriguing tale, if indeed it is inscribed to Sir Harry Oakes, the gold mine owner, entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. Oakes was born in Sangerville, Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1896. He earned his fortune in Canada, and in the 1930s moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes, where he was murdered in 1943 in notorious circumstances.

This inscription has a date of February 19, 1948, but it looks like it could have been written at a different time. In any case, obviously Oakes was dead by then, but his daughter, Nancy, later lived in California – perhaps this is when the book was signed. There is a bust on their mantelpiece of the Zeta Phi House at Bowdoin College of Sir Harry Oakes, so this may have been the same Harry Oakes in the inscription. Underneath this inscription is a drawing of three birds flying.

Samuel Appleton Ladd, Jr. was on the Bowdoin College faculty for many years. During that time, he became the elder person at the Zeta Phi fraternity to keep order, good food, and be financially secure. Sam co-edited “An informal history of the Lamda Chapter of Zeta Psi at Bowdoin College, 1867-1967” (Brunswick Publishing Company, ca. 1967). Bowdoin later eliminated fraternities and turned them into housing places for students. All living members on the fraternities voted to re-name the houses and get rid of the Greek names. The Zeta Psi house, by popular vote, was named the Ladd House. It still stands today on College Street in Brunswick. (Information from the donor, Samuel Appleton Ladd III).

All together, these presentation copies, as well as other books which were part of the library of Samuel Appleton Ladd, give us a charming picture into long friendships and connections within the Bowdoin College family.

Chansonetta Stanley Emmons Photograph Collection

By Judith Wentzell, MHS Volunteer

Chansonetta Stanley Emmons (left) sits next to her daughter Dorothy Stanley Emmons, Kingfield, Maine 1907. Photographic print by the artist.  MMN #26179.

What good fortune I have, as a part-time volunteer in the Brown Research Library at Maine Historical Society, to prepare the photographs of Chansonetta Stanley Emmons for all to see on Maine Memory Network.  Born in Kingfield, Maine in 1858, Chansonetta was an adventurous woman of the late 19th and early 20th century with stamina, perseverance, skill, a point of view, and an artist’s eye.

Her surviving photographs, taken primarily between 1900 and 1930, range from staged scenes with friends and relatives reflecting an earlier lifestyle to photographs taken in Europe and Canada. There are scenes of Maine farmers at work, portraits of homes and villages in rural Maine, trips to coastal towns in New England and a set of well over 100 hand-colored glass lantern slides. These were taken in 1926 on a trip to South Carolina where she photographed Charleston architecture, public gardens, and tenant farmers. Finding a very few photographs of a trip she took to Colorado is a reminder that we know many of her photographs were destroyed.

Hazel True feeding the hens, New Portland, ca. 1910. Handcolored lantern slide by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102400

The collection is in a number of formats.  There are 5”x 7” glass plate negatives, prints developed on Velox paper, mounted prints, and the lantern slides. Some images were taken with a roll film camera. Regardless of format, Chansonetta was adept at standing in just the right place to take a photograph. Her images are clear and sensitive to her subjects.  She had no artificial light source, so therefore became skilled in determining exposure with only natural light. She developed and processed all her work.

Uncle Tristam at the well, Kingfield, ca. 1900 by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102516

Chansonetta (as I am on a first-name basis with her after these many months) was born to a farm family, the only daughter of seven children. Her twin brothers Freelan Oscar and Francis Edgar went on to considerable success as inventors of the Stanley Dry Plate photographic process and the Stanley Steamer automobile.  From them she was introduced to photography.

However, she had already started on her path for a career in the arts while attending Western State Normal School in Farmington. She enrolled planning to become a teacher and graduated having decided to be artist.  Chansonetta moved to Boston to further her career.  In 1887 she was married. Her daughter, Dorothy, was born in 1891. It was after the death of her husband seven years later that Chansonetta focused more on photography and in 1904 bought her Century camera.  She was fortunate to have brothers who could support her in a comfortable manner for the rest of her life as they provided her with an apartment and automobiles. She did not have to work although she earned some income from her photography.

A cooling draft, ca. 1910. Handcolored lantern slide by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102407

Chansonetta had a lifelong partner in her travels with her daughter, Dorothy, who grew into the role of assistant and chauffeur.  They traveled together to all the locations of her photographs including almost every summer back to friends and family in Kingfield.  When Chansonetta died in 1937, Dorothy kept close watch on her mother’s legacy.

Scituate at high tide, Scituate, Massachusetts, ca.1910 by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102606

I have seen and processed over 500 photographs, with perhaps that same number to go.  This may not seem like many in an age of digital cameras.  Now the average person has a small camera or a cell phone. There is no need to purchase film or have film processed and printed.  Chansonetta lugged around a heavy view camera with tripod and a glass plate for most every photograph she took.  Wearing dresses of the time, she must have had some hiking skills to walk to many of her locations!

Little red school house, Stowe, Vermont, ca. 1910 by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102455

Along with discovering beautiful and surprising images as I open each envelope, last summer I walked in the photographer’s footsteps at Wohelo Camps on the shores of Sebago Lake.  In the camp records Mrs. Chansonetta Emmons and Dorothy Emmons are listed as being campers for the 1918 season.

Not all Chansonetta’s photographs are precisely captioned. Luckily, a few photographs of a dramatic performance in a woodsy area and photographs of women lounging on the rocky shore of a lake were labelled “Wohelo.” A brief search on the Internet led me to Mark Van Winkle, the fourth-generation owner/director of this iconic and historic Maine camp for girls. On a glorious summer day in July of 2018, I was given not only a tour and a delicious lunch with campers but also a chance to view hundreds of Chansonetta’s glass plate and celluloid negatives, all taken at the camp between 1918 and 1923.  Perhaps she was a friend of the illustrious founders/owners, Dr. Luther and Charlotte Gulick or perhaps it was employment – we do not know.

Sebago Wohelo, Raymond, ca. 1918. Handcolored lantern slide by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102381

Most of what we do know now about Chansonetta comes from Marius B. Peladeau, who has been a force in Maine art and historic circles for many years. It was Peladeau who purchased the collection of Chansonetta’s photographs, cataloged them and assured that they ultimately went to the Stanley Museum.  It is this collection that now finds a home for safe keeping at the Maine Historical Society. In 1977 Peladeau published “Chansonetta: The Life and Photographs of Chansonetta Stanley Emmons, 1858 – 1937.”  I and many others first learned about her from this book as well as from exhibits held at the same time.

My personal adventure with Chansonetta is not soon to end – there are still many boxes to open, explore, and catalog.  I look forward to seeing lives and locales she captured that are now lost to us a century later.  I hope my work with her photographs will play at least a small role in bringing a widespread appreciation and enjoyment of Chansonetta Stanley Emmons and her work.

For more of her photographs, be sure to browse now and periodically on Maine Memory Network. More photographs will continually be added to the database.

The Crosby Farm on the Maine Turnpike

By Bjorn Swenson, MHS Guide

You may have noticed this old farmhouse beside the Maine Turnpike in South Portland. It stands out in a landscape dominated by shopping plazas and parking lots. A sign at the foot of the driveway reads “Maine Turnpike Crosby Farm Maintenance Area.” The site is across from Maine Mall Road and near Long Creek.

The Crosby farmhouse is one of the few vestiges of the agrarian neighborhood that preceded the Maine Mall, an area called Crockett’s Corner. The Maine Turnpike Authority purchased the property from the Crosby family just months before the opening of the turnpike in 1947. But the Crosbys were actually the fourth family to own it. The Second Empire farmhouse with its mansard roof was built by the Trickey family, who were the first to cultivate the land around it.

Current Crosby Farm Maintenance facility. Photo: Kathy Amoroso

Although the exact year of construction remains unknown — a search of historic maps, the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, obituaries, conversation with former state historian Earle Shettleworth, and resources on — helped to reveal stories of the previous owners of the property, a history that stretches back to the early 18th century. The house looks like it was built around 1860-80.

1733 deed shows that Lt. Zebulon Trickey purchased 50 acres of land “on each Side the Mast Road leading to Dunston” in (then) Falmouth from Samuel Waldo and Thomas Westbrook, and purchased an additional fifty acres adjoining this land from the same men two years later. Westbrook was a colonial Mast Agent and businessman for whom the City of Westbrook is named, and Waldo was a wealthy Boston land speculator and soldier who bought and sold lots of property in the area during this time period. Waldo County is named for him.

Trickey (c. 1705-1744) and his wife Eleanor (Libby) were from Kittery and had recently settled in Scarborough. They bought and sold other properties in Scarborough and Falmouth as well, and it appears that they did not reside on this land near Long Creek, but in another part of Falmouth which later became Deering. It was their son, also named Zebulon (born 1736) who decided to move to the Long Creek property and start improving the land, probably by the late 1760s. Zebulon, Jr. had already married Rebecca Skillings and started a family by this time. He purchased additional land to add to his farm from Eleazer Strout in 1766 and from the York family in 1789. The original deed from the Yorks is included in the Trickey Family Papers which were given to Maine Historical Society. This collection of documents is almost entirely comprised of deeds which demonstrate the family’s investment in real estate throughout Maine over time.

In addition to running the farm, Zebulon, Jr. bought property and mill rights at Great Falls in Windham, laying the groundwork for the industrial community that grew up there. The area is now the Great Falls Historic District.  His son John took over operation of the Trickey mill. Zebulon and Rebecca raised at least seven children on their farm at Long Creek, and their oldest son, yet another Zebulon, eventually inherited the property.

Zebulon Trickey III (1767-1847) married Lucy Mitchell Skillin in 1799. In addition to running his family farm, he invested in the lumber industry by partnering with Thomas Seal and Archelaus Lewis of Westbrook, as agreed to in an 1822 deed. The couple raised seven children on the Trickey farm. Of the six who survived into adulthood, only one left home: Edward married when he was 59 and settled on his own farm in Westbrook.

Trickey Family monument in Evergreen Cemetery

The other five Trickey siblings lived together, all unmarried, well into old age: Samuel, John, James, Edward, Robert, and Lucy. It was likely during this period when the siblings were running the farm, and after their parents had died, that the current farmhouse was built, or perhaps they modified an older structure. In addition to farming, James served four terms in the Maine legislature. Robert was eventually the last surviving member of his family on the farm, and his biography was included in a book of prominent men in Cumberland County a few years before his death in 1899. He was buried alongside his siblings and parents at Evergreen Cemetery  in Portland.

Portraits from the Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1896

After 166 years in the Trickey family, the farm was purchased by Wilbur F. Dresser, a successful real estate agent with offices on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port. Blogger Scott Leonard has written about the Dresser family on his genealogy blog Old Blue Genes. Dresser lived at the farm with his wife Sarah and their five children for twenty years until he sold the property to Carroll and Elizabeth Gleason. After only one year, the Gleasons sold the 120-acre property to Willie E. Crosby and his wife Lillian in October 1920.

William Elwyn Crosby was born on April 11, 1873 in Hampden, Maine, the fourth generation of his family to live there. He moved as a young man to Bridgton, where he appears on the 1900 census as a merchant, working at a music store and living in a small boarding house. He married Lillian Whitney in 1901. Lillian was born in 1871 in Gorham, and living with her parents in Bridgton at the time of her marriage. Willie Crosby was still working as a merchant on the 1910 census for Bridgton, this time for the box company there, and he and his wife were raising three young children: Mary, Calvin, and Rodney. He had switched to farming by the time he registered for the World War I draft, and the whole family moved to South Portland around 1920 when Willie and Lillian bought the old Trickey farm to run as a dairy.

The Crosbys’ daughter Mary (1903-1998) married Victor Tribuson and she eventually moved to California. Calvin “Joe” Crosby (1905-1986) pursued a career as a carpenter, raising four children, and retired with his wife Emily in Casco. Rodney (1909-1995) carried on the Crosby Dairy Farm business after their father Willie died in 1938. He and his wife Irene tended a herd of about one hundred cows by the time the Maine Turnpike Authority came knocking in the late ’40s. Planning for the turnpike began in earnest in 1941, and the proposed route cut directly through the Crosby’s farm, splitting the old farmhouse from their pastures on the other side of Payne Road (now Maine Mall Road). After contemplating whether they should try to keep part of the farm, the Crosbys signed the paperwork selling 223 Payne Road in its entirety to the Maine Turnpike Authority on May 6, 1947. Rodney and his family were allowed to stay in the farmhouse until August 1st of that year.

Crosby Farm, Payne Road, South Portland, ca. 1947

After the Turnpike Authority turned the Crosby farm into a maintenance facility for the highway, the Crosbys moved to Westbrook where Rodney worked in the finishing department at the S. D. Warren paper mill. He and Irene raised two children. Rodney, his brother, and their parents were all laid to rest in Westbrook’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

payne rd pole135_sphistoricalsociety
Payne Road and the Crosby Farm in 1967. Courtesy South Portland Historical Society

Time marches on, and the neighborhood around the Trickey / Crosby farm continued to change. The nearby Portland-Westbrook Municipal airport (now Portland International Jetport) developed into a much larger facility. Then came the Maine Mall and all the shopping plazas, starting in 1969 with the opening of Jordan Marsh department store. Troop G of the Maine State Police, the unit that patrols the turnpike between Kittery and Augusta, also used Crosby Farm as their headquarters between 1986 and 2009.

Tall case clock made for Zebulon Trickey. Photo: Kathy Amoroso.

Other than a few old homes on Westbrook Street, and two small graveyards, the house at the Crosby Farm Maintenance Facility is the most visible reminder of the people who went before us in this once close-knit neighborhood.

Antique doorknob. Photo: Kathy Amoroso
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Fireplace and old measuring wheel. Photo: Kathy Amoroso

I want to thank Kathryn DiPhilippo, Executive Director at the South Portland Historical Society, for providing obituaries for the Crosby family, and Kathy Amoroso, Director of Digital Engagement at Maine Historical Society, for posing the question of this house’s history and helping with the research.

About the Blogger: Bjorn Swenson leads tours of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House at Maine Historical Society.


Maine Historical Society Introduces New Genealogy Experience

In June, Maine Historical Society kicked off a weekly guided introduction to genealogical research: Find Your Place in History.


On Thursday afternoons from June to October 2018, small groups gather in MHS’s renowned Brown Research Library and embark on the Find Your Place in History program from 4:00 to 5:30pm. During the program, participants explore history on all levels: from the history of their own family to artifacts that help tell the story of western civilization.

“Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States, and many of our visitors to the Brown Research Library are genealogists doing research” says Nan Cumming, Director of Advancement and creator of the Find Your Place in History program. “But we have heard from a number of patrons that there is really no guided introduction to genealogy except reading a book or watching a couple of YouTube videos. We have the expertise, the information, and the collections here – this is certainly a gap in the market we can fill!”

During their afternoon session, Find Your Place in History participants dig into their own family story with the guidance of Maine Historical Society staff. In addition, they view artifacts from the collections of the Maine Historical Society and put on the white gloves and explore Maine Historical Society’s archives—off limits to regular visitors. After their work in the library, the participants gather in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House garden to enjoy refreshments.

“We’re delighted to kick off the Find Your Place in History program and to welcome those who have always had an interest in genealogy, but frankly didn’t know where to start!” said Cumming.

Find Your Place in History: A Maine Historical Society Genealogy Experience is offered Thursdays from June to October, from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. Check-in at the MHS Museum Store at 489 Congress Street.

This is a guided introduction to genealogical research—not for experienced genealogists. To ensure you have the most fascinating experience, bring the names and birthdates of a few relatives to your session.

Ticket Price: $75 each. There is a maximum of 6 people per tour. The deadline to register for each event is the Monday prior to the event. Available by advance registration online at or by phone at 207-774-1822 ext. 216

The Waterhouse Family of Kennebunk

By Tessa Surette, MHS Volunteer

full family

The Waterhouse family of Kennebunk has found a new home in the Maine Historical Society archives! This collection of archival material primarily focuses on Homer T. Waterhouse, his wife Bessie (Harmon), and their three children.

Homer T. Waterhouse (1873-1948) was born in Kennebunkport to J. Taylor and Rebecca (Tarbox) Waterhouse. After graduating from Colby College in 1895, he pursued successful legal, business and political careers. He married Bessie Harmon in 1911, and they had three children; Lois (1912-2007), Homer (1914-2003) and Christine (1916-2004).


Of all the Waterhouse family members, Lois is the most prominently featured in the collection. Lois graduated as valedictorian from Kennebunk High School in 1930. She attended Mount Holyoke College where she majored in mathematics and graduated summa cum laude in 1934. She married Asa Foster Kinney in 1938 and they had two daughters. Lois’s papers and correspondence cover her childhood in Maine, her time at Mount Holyoke, a European tour in 1934, her wedding and her life in Massachusetts with her husband and children.

Homer attended Hebron Academy and graduated as valedictorian in 1932. He attended Bowdoin College and then earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1939. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance as Lieutenant Commander. Following the war, Homer continued his successful legal and business career. He married Geraldine Keating and was stepfather to her two children.

Christine followed her sister to Mount Holyoke (class of 1938) and later graduated from Columbia University School of Medicine. Following medical school, she was the director of a clinical research center, a professor of medicine and in 1979 she returned to Maine and opened a practice in Biddeford. She married John Raines III and had two daughters.

One of our favorite parts of the collection is four photo albums that contain wonderful candid photographs of the Waterhouse family during Lois, Homer and Christine’s childhoods. There are photos of the family at the beach, digging for clams and Lois and Homer outside after, what appears to be, a significant snowstorm. These albums are a nice change of pace from the usual staged portraits of the early 20th century and allow the personalities of the Waterhouse family to shine through.

Another gem from the collection is a letter seven-year-old Lois wrote to Santa Claus in 1919. Her gift requests were very modest by today’s standards. She asked for a box of candy, a new hair ribbon and something to embroider. Lois was also concerned about the logistics of Santa’s arrival. “Are you coming by airship or reindeer sleigh? Don’t forget our chimney please.”

The Waterhouse family collection (Coll. 2980) was donated by Lois’s daughter Carolyn and contains correspondence, photographs, photo albums, newspaper clippings, postcards, deeds, scrapbooks, diplomas, invoices/receipts and genealogical information.

Be Kind to Animals All Year ‘Round in Maine

By Shannon Schooley, Project Cataloguer

Americans have a particular interest in animal welfare, which is evident in the establishment of Be Kind to Animals Week in 1914.  American Humane created Be Kind to Animals Week in response to the deaths of millions of horses during the First World War.  Its purpose was to educate Americans, especially children, about how to care for animals with kindness and respect.  This theme was an easy sell for Mainers, who have always had a special relationship with animals.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a frequent visitor to Maine, wrote about Be Kind to Animals Week in her newspaper column, My Day, in 1943.  With World War II in mind, she wrote:

Though it may seem to a good many people that a time when the world is hardly a kind world is not a time to emphasize kindness to animals, and that we should think primarily of our attitude toward human beings, I believe there is great value in continuing to train children in the proper attitude toward their pets.

Her message continues to ring true. Teaching children about caring for their pets is a way to prepare them for caring for people as they mature and enter society as adults.

In 1927, children gladly posed for Portland Press Herald photographers with their dogs, cats, and horses.  It is clear that these animals were special to the children who cared for them.

Treating animals with respect is not limited to pets and domestic animals. Since there are rural areas in Maine, it was, and is, fairly common to run into wild animals in populated places from time to time. Some of the animals Mainers encountered in the 1920s and 1930s included deer, turkeys, raccoons, and foxes.

In the photos below (ca. 1925), several fawns follow a little boy, who may be proving their meal, through a meadow.  In another instance, a man feeds a young fawn with a baby bottle while a small child watches.

Raccoons also interacted with Mainers in different ways.  Sometimes they were hunted for their pelts, but other times they were treated more as beloved pets.

More recently, in 1993, President Bill Clinton made a proclamation at the start of Be Kind to Animals Week.  He said:

We celebrate this week in order to remember the many ways that animals help us. By serving as guides, animals aid the blind. As lookouts and detectives, animals assist in our military, customs, and law enforcement efforts. As friends and companions, pets befriend our children, ease the loneliness of the elderly and the ill, and entertain our families in our daily lives. We also salute the veterinary professionals and animal protection organizations that help us provide food, shelter, and medical care for animals and pets.

Click here for more on Be Kind to Animals Week: Commemorating a Century of “Be Kind to Animals Week” 1915-2015. American Humane, 2015)

Spite House in Rockport Maine: Garden Papers and Correspondence

By Steven Deschenes, MHS Volunteer

Garden lilies: L. testaceum, L. washingtonianum, L. humboldtii, and more – they came by the dozens from across North America, and they came to a small corner of mid-coast Maine.

Their destination? The gardens of the Spite House in Rockport, Maine.

Despite some plants having come thousands of miles their travels are not nearly as impressive as that of the Spite House itself. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, the Spite House owes its existence to a family dispute from the early 19th century.

When Captain Thomas McCobb returned from a long voyage at sea, he discovered that his relatives had broken his father’s will and moved into the fine house his father had built in Phippsburg. In retaliation, or “spite,” he had an even more ornate home built strikingly close to his father’s usurped house.

The house was completed in 1806. By the early 20th century the house had seen better times and, in 1925, it was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Donald D. Dodge.

Shortly after purchasing the home, Mr. Dodge arranged for it to be moved (completely intact) from Phippsburg to Deadman’s Point in Rockport. The house was braced, lifted onto a barge, and shipped 85 miles to its present location. Once safely back on dry land, two more wings were built.


The following year, Mr. Dodge had gardens installed according to a design by the landscape architect Robert Wheelwright. Now, thanks to a recent donation to the Maine Historical Society, we know just what bloomed!

Relatives of Mr. Dodge donated his documents pertaining to the gardens of the Spite House to the Maine Historical Society. Among the papers are purchase orders, receipts, plant lists, notes on plant care and propagation, catalogs, and letters.

Looking through the correspondence with over half a dozen plant nurseries (most of which appear to no longer exist), you discover the wide variety of lilies, roses, and alpine plants ordered and planted by Mr. Dodge and his gardener, Henry B. Williams, during the 1950’s. Mr. Dodge kept carbon copies of his letters detailing their successes and failures. It’s clear that he was an avid gardener with a keen interest in learning all he could about lily propagation.


Reviewing the papers, you’re regaled with their struggles to control a common plant disease, Botrytis, that plagued particular species, especially during wet and damp periods of weather. Controlling the local woodcock population also took precedence, as it’s assumed the gamebirds – primarily an insect eating species – rooted around in the flower beds, disturbing young seedlings and causing general havoc to the flower beds.

Here’s a passage from a letter addressed to A.D. Rothman of Strawberry Hill Nurseries, dated October 15th, 1954:

I am having a wonderful time in my garden now preparing the planting arrangements for these lilies and planning where to put them. You can be assured they will have every care possible. They are planted amongst shrubs – Azaleas, Kalmia, Rhododendron, Mahonia, Bayberry – but I have learned to give them plenty of room and I have also learned to restrict the roots of the Mahonias and Bayberries by putting in sheets of zinc to give the lilies a head start. The Kalmias and Rhododendron are no problem and the same applies to most Azaleas but some of the Azaleas do have runners. However, I am having a hard time keeping up with my woodcock shooting and getting the lilies planted too!

By all appearances, the time period covered in the collection marked one of the high points in the history of the Spite House Gardens. While under the care of Mr. Williams, the gardens underwent an extensive expansion with a lily and wildflower garden planted in the woods south of the house, installations of a rock garden, an enclosed rose garden, island gardens in the lawns surrounding the property, and the construction of a greenhouse.

All in all, the collection provides a glimpse into what it took to plan, execute, and nurture flower gardens on the coast of Maine nearly 70 years ago!