James McCobb House

If you thought your family had drama, wait till you hear how Thomas McCobb reacted when he learned his siblings married each other and took over the family home.

On a hilltop overlooking the Kennebec River in Phippsburg, the placid, pilastered facade of the James McCobb House belies a backstory worthy of a Colonial-era romance novel. Irish landowner and trader James built the 1774 Georgian mansion for his second wife — with whom he had twin daughters and a son, Thomas — across the street from the log cabin where he’d lived with his first wife and their twelve children. The youngest McCobb kids grew up in the home (now a bed-and-breakfast), along with the son of James’s third wife, Mark Langdon Hill, who went on to become Maine’s first congressman. In the years following James’s death in 1788, Thomas returned from a sea voyage to discover his stepbrother, Hill, married to his sister and the family home transferred to the couple. Thomas retaliated by building a larger, more ornate Federal-style residence — dubbed the Spite House — nearby. However, the brothers-in-law, and their homes, did not remain rivals for long. In 1796, the men became partners in the shipbuilding firm Hill-McCobb, and, in 1925, the Spite House was moved by barge to Rockport, where it remains today.

Portland-based writer Julie Senk holds degrees in history and historic preservation and provides property surveys and architectural analyses to homeowners and businesses. To learn more about her work, visit northernvernacular.com.

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