Westport Island’s architectural heritage shines on tour
The Westport Island History Committee and the town of Westport Island welcome the public to a rare tour of historic homes on Sunday, Sept. 16. The tour runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., begins at the Old Town Hall, and features Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival homes with original period details, in addition to family cemeteries, mills, wharves, and barns.
Admission is $20 per person at the Old Town Hall the day of the tour (cash or check only). Visitors will learn about the history and architecture of each house from volunteer docents. A light lunch is included and will be available at the Town Hall for the duration of the event.
Eleven-mile long Westport Island lies just south of Wiscasset, surrounded by the Sheepscot, Sasanoa, and Back rivers. Known as Jeremysquam from around 1605, the island served as a trading place for local settlers and Native Americans in colonial times. Few traces remain of its earliest inhabitants aside from some arrowheads, tools, and shell middens. The island’s first land divisions were made in the 1750s, and early maps dating to 1772 and 1776 clearly show clusters of farm buildings and property boundaries. Many of the founding families are still represented on the island by their descendants, by the presence of 71 documented family cemeteries, and through persistent oral traditions and land records identifying homesteads, commercial occupations, and ways of life. Occupations on the island included logging, farming, fishing, and shipping, as well as the merchant marine; local industries were lumber and grist milling, stone and ice cutting, among others. These were the sources of prosperity that enabled the building of most of Westport’s 18th and 19th century houses.
The houses on this year’s tour are all associated with the families of settlers who first made Westport their home in the 18th century. These farmhouses – since everyone farmed the land – are built along stylistic rules, proportions, and materials similar to those found all over New England. They are no-nonsense, practical structures made to endure the elements. The properties also have familiar features such as stone walls, barns and other outbuildings, mills, wharves and waterfront structures such as chandleries, which were stores for supplies and foodstuffs. Guests will see rural vernacular architecture that has evolved with the changing styles, from 18th century (Colonial) Georgian, to Federal and Greek Revival styles of the early and mid-19th century.
The tour takes place rain or shine. All proceeds will help to preserve Westport Island’s history. Please meet at the Old Town Hall, at 1217 Main Road (Route 144), about seven miles south of the bridge. For more, please call the town office at 882-8477 ext. 3.