Down East 2013 ©
Where in Maine?
I was delighted to see the photograph of Kennebunk’s Wedding Cake House in your November “Where in Maine?” My husband and I spent ten years living at 100 Summer Street, Kennebunk — in an old Federal house — just two doors down from this historic house. We had the pleasure of informing many tourists to “just keep driving, you’ll see it,” as many people stopped in our driveway asking for directions on how to locate this lovely confection of architecture!
We also had the pleasure of knowing Thomas Murphy, who wrote the book The Wedding Cake House, which dispelled the myth that all of the lovely wooden carvings were created by a love-sick sailor for his bride! (But, I have to admit that when the tourists asked whether or not that was true, all of the neighbors, including my husband and I, would say, “oh, yes!” as it certainly made for a good story!)
Thanks for publishing such a great photograph — it brought back many lovely memories of our time living on Summer Street.
While many people are familiar with the Wedding Cake House, I was privileged nearly twenty-five years ago or so to have stepped foot inside. My Aunt Kathy, an art teacher in Massachusetts, went to art school with one of the former owners, Anne Burnette. Anne and her mother lived there, back when I was a child (I’m now in my late thirties) attending the former Park Street School in Kennebunk. It’s hard to remember some of the things from so long ago, but I recall that there were a few pieces of furniture in the home’s possession that were apparently once owned by the original builder, George Washington Bourne.
The last memory of the house I have was one night when my siblings and I were over in the room that would be the lower left two windows on the first floor (as seen from the street). We were watching Something Wicked This Way Comes on a VCR. It was a creepy movie back then, and during a particularly scary part, an alarm clock’s shrill ring went off upstairs — loud enough that it startled us in the middle of the movie. Anne apologized, and said, “Oh, that’s just George.”
George was the ghost that held Anne and her mom accountable for the house and apparently gave them trouble when they first moved in: Anne’s car tended to just shut down after she would leave the house and travel a mile or so. This went on for several days, and a couple of trips to a mechanic found nothing wrong with it. Anne seemed to figure out that, by telling George, “I’ll be right back,” the car would allegedly start back up.
I guess George — and everyone who’s ever seen the house — would want to rest assured that the caretakers of the property would never abandon it.
When I was a kid and lived in Hollis, Maine, my dad would drive in to Kennebunk to get the New York Times on Sundays and then down to the beach in Kennebunkport (summer and winter) to walk the dog. We always made up fanciful stories about the Wedding Cake House on Summer Street in Kennebunk as we passed it. Now that I live in New York (six decades later), my wife and I spend a week in Kennebunkport every summer and when we get to the Wedding Cake House, we feel as though we are finally back in Maine. It always seems as though you can start smelling the sea air right at that point.
New York, New York
You may have redeemed yourself after your October cover featuring Paul Coulombe’s not-so-Maine “cottage.” Some would argue that Martha Stewart is no different than Coulombe, but I beg to differ. Martha bought an historic “Maine cottage,” and I’m quite confident has only improved on what was already there. She has been good for our state, as was indicated by your cover story. I met her years ago when a blueberry festival held an invitational pie competition for her television show. She wasn’t personable, but all business. Still, I respected her for what she was doing for the blueberry industry and the final cut told the story well, as only Martha could.
I was disappointed to read John Golden’s article, “Martha’s Maine.” As a former resident of Mount Desert Island, I was surprised to see Martha Stewart’s presence given such a general swath of positive attention. Mount Desert Island is loaded with people of all economic classes with varied careers and experiences. In a place that has thrived because of its ability for summer people and locals to coexist for generations, Martha Stewart is a laughable example of what MDI has to offer.
Maine’s tourist industry is hearty, and supports many of its residents, and I am the first to say that I appreciate the legions of visitors each summer. I make a point to know them beyond their wallets and, for the most part, enjoy being treated the same. To single out a particular summer resident, without regard to whom she walked over to achieve her wealth or how she has contributed to her seasonal community, is shameful. Martha Stewart trampled on our justice system to achieve her fame; why should Maine want to claim her?
The byline for the excerpt from Lost Trail in the November issue should have included the illustrator Ben Bishop. It was a proofreading error.