Fear gripped the entire New England coastline during the War of 1812. The British had marched on Washington and loosened their anger at having lost the previous war with the colonies, the American Revolution! The angry British soldiers looted and burned. Additionally, there was a British blockade of all commerce, plus their very meaningful threats to burn any coastal towns that continued to engage in commerce. Enterprising citizens in seaports from Virginia to Massachusetts believed their cities and towns could be next to bear the wrath of English man-o-wars. It was in this atmosphere of restricted mercantile activity that Nathaniel Lord, a wealthy Kennebunkport merchant and shipbuilder, decided to build his beautiful “Mansion”. After all, what was he to do with his idle shipwrights?
Twenty-one year-old Nathaniel Lord married sixteen-year-old Phebe Walker on July 2, 1797. Phebe was the daughter of another wealthy citizen, Daniel Walker. Daniel gave the young couple a dowry of land that encompasses the area between Pleasant, Pearl and Maine Streets, where they built their first home in 1799. Still standing, it is a white clapboard Colonial home of modest proportions. That parcel of land also provided enough space where Nathaniel & Phebe would build their “Mansion” thirteen years later.
York County court papers provide documentation that distinguished Maine house-wright, Thomas Eaton was involved with the design and construction of the Captain Lord Mansion. Nathaniel Lord’s estate papers include among the administrator’s expenses, several payments to a “T. Eaton. Today, Thomas Eaton is widely recognized for the excellence of his Federal buildings which include Kennebunk landmarks such as the Taylor Barry House, the Unitarian Church and Wallingford Hall. Unfortunately, Nathaniel died of influenza at the age of 39 in 1815 and really didn’t live long enough to enjoy his “mansion”.
As I researched new information for this history, I have encountered new evidence and better documentation that the Captain Lord Mansion was actually built in 1814, not 1812. I guess we’ll have to postpone the celebration for a couple of years. However, I’ll continue my blogs this year with the history and it will become the basis of a booklet we’ll publish in 1814. This blog covers the beginning of the facinating history for the Captain Lord Mansion. I’ll continue the saga in future posts and on our Facebook account. Your innkeeper, Rick Litchfield