Once bustling with maritime interests, South Berwick slowly declined as the age of sail passed. Four generations of the Jewett family witnessed it all from their fine Georgian house (built circa 1774) at the town's crossroads. Captains, shipbuilders, merchants, and doctors, the Jewett's left quite a mark on South Berwick. But it is Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) who emerged the celebrity of the family. Sarah Orne Jewett's popular books, short stories and poems captured the beauty of Maine and the unique character of her people. Sarah's stories have touched readers around the world and, to this day, devotees and history buffs alike make the pilgrimage to her house to experience the place where Sarah lived and the surroundings that inspired her writing.
The Sarah Orne Jewett House is open for tours Friday-Sunday from June 1 through mid-October and by special arrangement. Admission is free to Historic New England members, $5 for non-members. Discounts are available for seniors and pre-arranged groups
The mansion is named for its first owner, Jonathan Hamilton, a local man who made his fortune in the West Indies trade. Hamilton built the mansion in 1786 on a bluff overlooking the Salmon Falls River and carried on a very successful business here building ships, carrying on foreign trade, and running a shop. By 1898 the mansion was falling into disrepair after passing through a number of owners over the years. At the urging of friend Sarah Orne Jewett, Emily Tyson of Boston and her stepdaughter, Elise, purchased an old mansion as a summer home. The ladies were captivated by the mansion's beauty and how little the structure had been changed over the years, as visitors are still today. The ladies dedicated themselves to restoring the house's wonderful old elements and decorated the interior in fine Colonial Revival fashion with antique furnishings, folk art, and wonderful painted murals. The two women also established beautiful formal gardens, which today are returning to the glory of earlier days.
The Hamilton House is open for tours Wednesday-Sunday from June 1 thru mid-October and by special arrangement. Admission is free to Historic New England members, $8 for non-members. Discounts are available for seniors and pre-arranged groups.
The Old Berwick Historical Society's Counting House Museum, located beside Quamphegan Falls on the corner of Main and Liberty Streets is open 1 to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, June through October.
The Old Berwick Historical Society cares for a collection of over 10,000 documents, photographs and historical treasures on local history, as well as over 30,000 artifacts from the Humphrey Chadbourne archeological site. These collections are housed at the Counting House Museum, a former cotton factory building at Main and Liberty Streets.