Out of Our Past

Boothbay Harbor in Summer 1889

Posted:  Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 8:00am

The region's first development boom of the 1880s, facilitated by frequent, reliable steamers, specifically targeted people from away. The summer resident and tourist businesses had been growing well for about 10 years. Even by 1875, the number of non-native non-residents had climbed far above a handful, and the Boothbay assessors divided the residents and non-residents in separate sections of the valuation books. Non-residents were no longer a curiosity, but an entire subsection.

Waterfront was doubling in value in the mid to late 1880s, and people were selling out. The summer boom brought the creation of many colonies and hotels. The following article covers Boothbay Harbor's cultivation of summer people, and consists of excerpts from a July 4, 1889 Pemaquid Messenger, a short-lived nearby newspaper that covered some Boothbay news. Steamboats, hotels, and real estate were the bywords. One note: Mouse and Squirrel actually belong to Southport.

–Barbara Rumsey

Boothbay Harbor, its industries and summer resorts

Off Boothbay Harbor, Mouse Island has a hotel [Samoset] and two cottages, and that perfect island gem, the Isle of Springs, contains 113 acres and has five pure water springs. On this island are Lewiston, Auburn, Augusta and Philadelphia parties. On June 10, the island's new Nekrangan Hotel was opened to the public. This large, new hotel stands on high ground and has a capacity of 75 guests. Farther down the bay is Squirrel Island which has a summer population of about 800, being thickly covered with summer cottages. Squirrel Island is the large breakwater island of Boothbay Harbor, and the steamboat run from Squirrel to the Harbor wharf is an excellent chance to judge the great capacity of the harbor and its picturesque surroundings.

Boothbay Harbor [newly set off from Boothbay] is located on high land and has handsome streets lined with shade trees, many handsome residences, and about 30 shops of all kinds. J. Ed. Knight has been the proprietor of the Boothbay House [built in the 1790s] for nine years and has built up a large patronage. His house is in fine condition and can receive 75 guests. It is under the excellent management of Hiram McDougall.

Fish businesses

On the east side of the harbor are the extensive fish establishments and wharves owned by S. Nickerson & Sons. They import from 10,000 to 14,000 hogsheads of salt yearly and own twelve vessels, most in the fish business. They handle from 20,000-30,000 quintals of bank fish yearly and handle all the sea-packed alewives taken at Damariscotta, Warren, and Waldoboro. This year that business will amount to 70,000 barrels. At their wharf they have a sail loft, a seine loft, and employ a large force of men.

Nearby are the large fish packing establishments owned and run by Luther Maddocks. He packs mackerel, lobsters, and clams. These works, shut down during the time of summer travel, run eight months of the year.

Resort developers

The Boothbay Land Co. is now building a hotel [the Menawarmet on Atlantic Avenue] on the east side which will be open to receive guests July 20. It will have 75 rooms and will be under the management of a popular hotel man from Boston. The Boothbay Land Co. owns 1,600 acres on which are six dwelling houses. These lands have 12 miles of shorefront and are located on the Sheepscot, in Boothbay Harbor, on Linekin Bay, and the Damariscotta River. Their 300 acres on Spruce Point afford some of the best building sites to be found on the Maine coast. Crest Avenue and other beautiful streets have been laid out. This company has a brilliant future before them. George B. Kenniston and Alonzo Nickerson [the only Harbor men] are among the managing directors.

The Boston & Boothbay Land Co. owns about 140 acres of land comprising the end of Spruce Point, a valuable summer resort property. It has been carefully surveyed with broad streets and avenues laid out. A steamboat wharf has been built, some of the streets and avenues have been graded, and a clubhouse [the Spruce Point House, later the Holland House, later Spruce Point Inn] has been built. With these two land companies in active operation, Boothbay Harbor is bound to grow rapidly as a summer resort.

Boothbay Harbor is broad and deep and will float any of our largest ocean steamers. It is said that nearly 800 sailing crafts have been in the harbor at one time. A railroad has been surveyed from Boothbay Harbor to Wiscasset [never built]. The tax valuation of the town of Boothbay Harbor is $683,317 and the assessed tax is $14 on the thousand.


At the head of Linekin Bay about two miles east of Boothbay Harbor village, Thomas Boyd has a village of summer cottages [Bayville] which he leases during the season. He also has there a boarding house which will accommodate 30 guests. Angus McDonald runs the boarding house and has a seal pen into which the tide flows. The seals are taken in a net and shipped to New York [for use in amusement parks]. The view from the cottage village is very charming.