Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sea Captains & Antiques

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!

DSCN4041Searsport 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?

David Sears.jpg

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 city hall searsportwhen 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. 

library collage

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.

main st (2)

masonic hall (1) town ftn 1905

main street (8)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!

bookstore collageThis 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.

scarecrow collageGrenville and I plan to attend as many events as we can fit in. There's nothing like a small-town celebration on a crisp fall weekend, not to mention some good cooking at the church suppers.

pumpkins1006 (6)

Happy Autumn


Elaine said...

I hadn't even heard of Searsport before, so of course didn't know that they had produced so many ship captains. It looks like a fun place to visit with interesting architecture. I was struck by all the smiles on the scarecrow faces--not a frown to be seen.

Montanagirl said...

Great post! Love the buildings, and the pumpkins pop!

Anonymous said...

WOW!!!!! We're doing all that this Saturday????? Guess we should get to bed early Friday. Maybe we can even fit in another train ride on Sunday!!!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Elaine, Searsport was a charming little town and we spent a couple of afternoons walking and driving around the downtown and surrounding area. We are not really "into" antiques, but there were quite a few interesting places to stop.

Mona, agreed that pumpkins are such fun to photograph and these colors really showed off better on a cloudy day!

Monts said...

Hi Both ,thanks for stopping by my Blog and the nice comment.
You have a lovely Blog with great historical content which makes for fine reading.
Also love those Autumn colours in previous post. I will visit again.

The Early Birder said...

Hi Beatrice. Lovely post explaining some of the history of Searsport. Love the buildings and the friendly looking Scarecrows. Nice work with the collages.
Quite a few Bank buildings over here were sold and converted into resturants ... the vaults are probably now used to store the wine!

Have fun at the weekend festivities. FAB.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Welcome Monts to our blog. We are glad you dropped in for a visit and hope to see you again. So glad you enjoyed the history of the towns. It also teaches me a lot. Enjoyed your blog as well.

Hi Frank, yes the buildings were great subjects as were the scarecrows - all very friendly smiles. We have seen some bank buildings converted for other uses and there's a lovely one currently for sale in Belfast. Thanks for the visit and comments.

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