Captain Lord Mansion History, Part Three

Captain Lord Mansion’s rich history continues as I record the changes made during the ownership of Charles P. Clark, wealthy railroad magnate and third generation owner of the estate.

In 1898 Charles funded extensive renovations to the “Mansion”.  The Friday, April 15, 1898 edition of the Eastern Star, a local newspaper of the period, reported that “Mr. Charles P. Clark is to remove the ell of his mansion and replace it by the addition of three stories high and costing more than $5,000. The large barn is in the process of removal to another part of his lot.”  Once again the photographic record circa 1880 helps to visualize the appearance of the “Mansion” prior to Charles’ renovations.

New research indicates that Charles Clark, as did his grandfather Nathaniel Lord, chose a renowned architect to supervise construction on the “Mansion”. William Ralph Emerson was involved with the detailed architectural plans provided by his firm for the 1898 renovations.  The original 1898 renovation blueprints are preserved at the Kennebunkport Historical Society.

Mr. Clark’s renovations resulted in significant interior changes; primarily to the south or rear part of the building. The front half of the structure received limited alterations.  The “Mansion’s” present main staircase is an 1898 addition.  The inn’s “Gathering Room” was originally the kitchen.  Charles’ remodeling resulted in the room’s 18’ concave bay window, curved window seat, high Victorian wainscoting, “target” door moldings and the heavy beamed ceiling.  Additionally, today’s kitchen with its large black coal stove was also part of the remodeling.  The rear half of the third floor of the building also dates from 1898 changes.  As seen in pictures from the period, the back half of the “Mansion” was originally only 2 stories high, dating from Daniel’s last renovations in the mid 1800s.

It is fortunate that Charles decided to limit alterations within the front section of the “Mansion” because much original 1812 detail still exists in the front part of the building.  There is the sweeping, front elliptical stairway, the spiral cupola staircase and the towering hall arches, the hand-grained, painted doors and so much more to marvel and enjoy today.  Also, there is a newly-exposed, narrow “servants staircase” that is at the entrance to the present-day inn office. The staircase retains all the original architectural features from 1812.

The April 20, 1900 edition of the Eastern Star reported that “Mr. Charles P. Clark is having a large porch built at the entrance to his mansion.”  That “large porch” actually is the Greek Revival style portico (canopy with pillars) now at the front of the inn.  Once again, the photographic record tells us that it replaced an arbor that originally graced the front door of the building.  It was the last renovation, which Charles would do; he died March 21, 1901 at Nice, France.

For the Clarks, summers in Maine were a time of joyous family gatherings and celebrations.  One such event is reported in the Saturday, July 16, 1887 edition of The Wave, another local newspaper of the period.  It tells “Mr. Charles P. Clark, President of the New York and New Haven Railroad arrives at his residence today to attend the wedding of his daughter which takes place Wednesday.”  We also read that Mr. Clark arrived by his own private railway coach, while other prominent guests arrived later by chartered railway coaches. The Wednesday, July 20, 1887 edition of The Wave describes the wedding, which actually occurred on Sunday, July 10, 1887.  “Wedding bells ring joyously to a brilliant marriage.  Professor Hincks and Bessie Clark are made one in the presence of a distinguished company.  The event took place in the parlor of the old ’Lord Mansion’ which has been in the Clark family for generations.  Strange to relate this is the first marriage to be celebrated in the old home since 1834 where (sic) the bride’s grandmother (Susan Lord Clark) was wedded.  The house itself was decked out in imposing style in honor of the event.  Evergreens were intertwined around the iron-rods of the front yard fence, presenting a unique and beautiful spectacle, which was brightened by an arch of oak boughs over the door.”  It is interesting to note the use of evergreen and oak boughs for decorations; yet, there is no mention of flowers or ribbon. One is left only to contemplate the natural beauty of the greenery.

In addition to the remodeled and expanded “Lord Mansion”, Mr. Clark left another legacy to the town.  Sometime during the late 1800’s he decided he wanted an unobstructed view of the Kennebunk River.  Therefore, he had three houses removed from the land directly in front of the “Mansion”.  In her book A Kennebunkport Album, author Joyce Butler says; “It was Clark who envisioned the land from Pleasant Street to Ocean Avenue as a sloping lawn, or green, from his mansion to the old rigging loft which he had bought to be used as a boat house by his family.”  That sweeping lawn is now called “The River Green” and is owned by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, which paid $32,500 for it in 1976.  The green is preserved and maintained as an open space for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors.  The green is home to craft fairs, art shows and concerts during summer months.  It is probable to say that Mr. Clark would be pleased with the fruition of his vision.

In the next edition of the history of the Captain Lord Mansion, I’ll cover ownership during the early 1900’s. Your innkeeper, Rick Litchfield