Who knew that Searsport, Maine is known for producing more ship captains than any similar town in the 1800s and is called the antiques capital of Maine – not us, but we do now!
Searsport is a historic seaside village in south-central Maine between the towns of Belfast and Bucksport. It’s the state’s second largest port and in the 1800s, one-tenth of all full rigged ships sailing under the U.S. flag were commanded by Searsport captains.
In the 19th century, Searsport was a busy shipbuilding center and port: 13 shipyards built over 200 ships. Families owned shipyards and would build a yard for a single ship. Many treasures brought home by Searsport captains are displayed at The Penobscot Marine Museum. The museum, downtown on Main Street, opened in 1936 and is the state’s oldest maritime museum. It highlights seafaring days in several historical and modern buildings that house exhibits, ship models, and marine art. Many of former Searsport sea captain’s homes are bed and breakfast inns furnished with period antiques.
Grenville and I will tour the museum this weekend during Searsport’s Fling into Fall celebration. The volunteer there told us admission is Free on Saturday. And, we really like that would – how about you?
Back to the town history (briefly). Formerly part of West Prospect, the town was renamed in 1845 for David Sears, a Boston philanthropist, merchant, landowner, and summer resident. Sears gave the town $1,000 for the first town hall and donated his personal library for the first public library. The town and Sears parted ways when he complained, after construction, that the town hall “looked like a powder house.” We wondered why he didn’t notice that beforehand, but couldn’t find an old photo to support that claim. The current municipal building is on the right.
As for the library, for years the town rented a room on Main Street to house its collection (must have been a very small collection). In the 1870s, 37 years after Sears' gift, town residents accepted a an offer from the heirs of the late Searsport Capt. George A. Carver, to construct a public library building. The library was built in 1909 with stones taken from the Carver farm at Moose Point shore.
As the “Antiques Capital of Maine,” Searsport has lots of antique stores on the main access route into town (Route 1) many within people’s homes – we know cause we stopped at several. There are more in the down town too. Tourism plays a big role here with places that offer handcrafted pottery, furnishings, local foods and gifts. Searsport’s Main street is home to restaurants, gift shops, galleries and antique shops.
Left Bank Books is housed in – you got it – an old bank building. It has the original bank vault now used for storage. The booksellers are friendly and helpful and offered to phone the restaurant we were planning to eat at just to make sure it was open on Monday – it was!
This weekend, Searsport will host its annual Fling into Fall celebration with a parade, craft show, church dinners, fireworks, public breakfast, hayrides, antique car show, and bonfire. Gaily dressed scarecrows already decorate the downtown area. This is a contest and judging is done during the celebration.