1972 – 1978
As I continues to recall the Captain Lord Mansion History, I’ll share about how in April 1972 a young Jim Throumoulos of Biddeford, Maine acquired the Captain Lord Mansion. His plan was to convert the building to office condominiums. Ugh! However, Kennebunkport had passed its first zoning ordinance in March of that year and the new ordinance prohibited commercial development in the newly designated historic residential area. However, the ordinance allowed rooming houses and Bed & Breakfast inns. He owned the Mansion for 6 years from 1972 until 1978. During Jim’s ownership, he was responsible for much decorative restoration such as wallpapering, painting and refinishing painted floors. During their subsequent 35 years of ownership, Bev and Rick have re-renovated all of Jim’s renovations and done much more upgrading to the physical plant.
After Jim purchased the Mansion, he advertised in college newspapers for students who would trade work for summer lodging. He had no trouble attracting a crew of workers to Kennebunkport for summer work! To house his workers, Jim made the barn (carriage house) into a dormitory by constructing crude cubicles and added limited bath facilities. Nevertheless, young folks did come and worked hard at sanding floors, stripping wallpaper, painting and generally transforming the old building with a fresh look. However, Jim was under capitalized and soon was facing severe financial pressure. First, he sold the land in front of the Mansion to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. In fact, that purchase was the catalyst for the formation of the trust; it was their very first piece of land purchased for conservation. Subsequently, Jim fell in love with one of the workers who had come to work on the gardens. Shirley Green was a lovely young lady with much talent. As Shirley and Jim were planning their wedding, his financial plight worsened. Supposedly the phones had been turned off. Whether true or not, Jim went to the post office and found a letter from a local attorney inquiring if Jim would rent a couple of rooms to an elderly woman and her nurse. Apparently, the attorney had tried to call Jim directly! Jim came away from that meeting with enough money in advance and security deposits that he was able to stave off financial collapse for a time. That woman, Mrs Parsons, became their savior. She lived at the Mansion for only a short time before she was taken gravely ill; but, she was to be a rescuer a second time. When Shirley visited Mrs Parsons in the hospital, Mrs Parsons knew of the young couple’s financial struggles and told Shirley that she would have her attorney fulfill a year’s rent obligation. Again, Jim was rescued at the last moment. That was the beginning of renting rooms to senior ladies. Jim and Shirley provided three meals a day, breakfast on a tray in their rooms and lunch and dinner “family-style” in the Mansion’s grand kitchen. Additionally, no nursing care was provided; only room cleaning and laundry. Whether due to the financial struggles or other personal issues, the marriage foundered and Jim and Shirley’s relationship became strained to the point where she asked for a divorce. Things were complicated because her parents had made an investment in the property. Also, Jim had apparently mortgaged his mother’s home in Biddeford. Those financial issues complicated Jim’s life tremendously.
During summers between 1974 and 1977, the couple rented a few rooms on the third floor to transient guests. However, there were mostly shared baths and marginal “antique” furnishings. Norman Simpson, the author of “Country Inns and Back Roads” discovered the Captain Lord Mansion during one of his visits to the town. Previously, Norman had the Shawmut Inn in his book; however, Norman was looking for an alternative offering to his readers. He approached Jim and Shirley and encouraged them to rent rooms and he would list them in his book. Thus, Norman Simpson was the one who discovered the Captain Lord Mansion as a place for the traveling public. That was when bed and breakfast inns were just beginning to be discovered by the travelers.
That was the scene when Bev and Rick discovered the inn during a trip to New England while researching business opportunities. They were shown the inn on March 17, 1978. 90 days later they became owners of the Captain Lord Mansion on June 15, 1978. That is the “rest of the story”! To be continued. Your innkeeper, Rick Litchfield