For generations, the heart of South Berwick Village has been Central Square at Main and Portland Streets, a place often just called “the Corner,” where three ancient roads converged from north, south, and east. A survey and map of 1805, when the “highway” was straightened and widened, show a commercial center, with some shops and farms dating much earlier. At first, simple wagons must have carried products ranging from pine trees to West Indies goods to and from the river. Stagecoaches followed, carrying passengers and mail. Railroads arrived in the mid-1800s and trolleys at the end of the century, with automobiles next, of course.
Though much has changed, residents of those times, including author Sarah Orne Jewett, who wrote about them, would still recognize many Main and Portland Street buildings today.
This area includes the South Berwick Historic District and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A National Historic Landmark owned by Historic New England, the home of Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909), author of The Country of the Pointed Firs, Deephaven, and other novels and stories about Maine, is open June 1 – October 15 from Friday-Sunday, and November 1 - May 31 on first and third Saturdays, from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tours are on the hour. Last tour at 4:00 p.m.
If the house is closed, visit the grounds, or the visitor center next door at Jewett-Eastman House, where Jewett lived with her family from 1854-1887.
Author Sarah Orne Jewett lived for more than half her life in the Jewett-Eastman House. She wrote over 140 stories, novels and poems during her 33 years here before she moved to the Jewett House, her birthplace next door, in 1887. Her father, Dr. Theodore H. Jewett, built the smaller home for his family in 1854. He was a country doctor who practiced medicine here and inspired some of her literary works. After the last Jewett family member died in 1931, the house became a community center, and South Berwick Public Library occupied the house from 1971 to 2012. It is now a visitor center owned by Historic New England and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is in South Berwick Historic District.
A fine surviving example of early 19th century commercial architecture in southern Maine, the Odd Fellows Block was built in 1845 to house the fraternal organization’s meeting hall on the top floor. Sarah Orne Jewett’s father was the local chapter’s founding member. During South Berwick Village’s commercial heyday of the mid-1800s, the building contained a range of business ventures – ranging from stores of Benjamin Nason and the Jewett family to the law office of Congressman John Noble Goodwin, from a fish market to a purveyor of marble tombstones. The building now contains Isidore On the Rocks Tavern and is part of the South Berwick Historic District. This house also is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places.
This house is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. In July, 1870, a devastating fire swept Main Street, South Berwick, and destroyed a row of wooden stores where the brick business block now stands. The town then built a new firehouse for better protection, as shown on an 1872 map (excerpt at right). This building was the fire station for about 50 years.
Part of South Berwick Historic District, this building is also part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. The date of this building has not been determined, but there is evidence it could be among the oldest buildings in the village and belonged to merchant and town postmaster Micajah Currier, who died in 1818. Currier left the store to his widowed sister, Hannah Brown, and Sarah and Mary Jewett’s generation seem to have referred to it years later as the Brown Store. Thomas Jewett seems to have been in business with Currier briefly before building the Jewett store next door.
Part of South Berwick Historic District, this building is also part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1815, Sarah Orne Jewett’s great uncle, Thomas Jewett, bought this property, and built the Jewett trade store that carried West Indies goods and general merchandise for almost five decades. The Jewett family sold products carried on their sailing ships from all over the world, and carried up the river by gundalow. Thomas Jewett’s business partner and brother was Theodore F. Jewett, Sarah Orne Jewett’s grandfather, who lived in the Jewett House until his death in 1860. Today's 10 Portland Street shop contains many remains of the original Jewett store.
Part of South Berwick Historic District, this building is also part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. Born in 1794, John Frost was the eldest son of Sarah Frost, a widow who had owned the next door Frost Tavern since 1816. John owned a shop and post office at this location in the early to mid 1800s. Perhaps when teenage Sarah Orne Jewett first began posting her stories to magazines to be published, this was the post office from which she mailed her manuscripts. Today the building contains Lenk Orthodontics.
Part of South Berwick Historic District, this building is also part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. The Parks family came to South Berwick from Massachusetts about 1800. From at least the 1830s through the 1850s, the Parks Store was run by brothers Samuel and Thomas Boylston Parks and their brother in law Job Harris. Upstairs were the law offices of William Allen Hayes and Charles Northend Cogswell in the 1840s, followed by that of Abner Oakes. The building barely missed being destroyed by the fire of 1870. It then contained a grocery and dry goods business, Stackpole & Co. By the late 1800s it was the post office, and also contained a bakery. It contained Flynn’s News from the 1930s to 2004. Today it contains Asia Café and Portico Realty.
“The well known large and commodious store in [the] village, called the Parks store…” -- From a handbill of 1856
Part of South Berwick Historic District, this business block is also part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. With their awnings and granite hitching posts, the shops of the new business block opened to great fanfare in 1871, on the site where a dozen businesses and homes were destroyed in a fire the summer before. In newspaper ads, the connected row of new stores advertised products “such as to make the mouth water and the eyes glitter” -- tin stoves and leather boots, cornmeal and fine jewelry, ladies’ hats and croup syrup. Over the years, the Central Square stores at the Corner have offered South Berwick shoppers products from baby bottles to coffins. With the coming of Hollywood pictures in the 20th century, there was even a movie theater. For more than 130 years the block at The Corner has been an icon of South Berwick village, and is now a cornerstone of the South Berwick Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the South Berwick Village fire of 1870, one of the casualties was a community assembly hall, upstairs in a brick building destroyed in the blaze. “It is with something of a sigh of regret for the past,” wrote local resident Rebecca Young years later, “that we recall the panoramas, the slight of hand matinees, the exhibition of Tom Thumb and Dolly Dutton and their kind, and also the noisy band concerts, and the church levees and fairs of those early days. It was in, or under or near the ante room of this well remembered hall that the fire of the eventful night began, the hall having been used in some capacity during the evening.”
This building is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. The original owner and date of construction of this strangely situated house are not presently known. According to a map of the mid-1860s, this dwelling had been occupied by James Scott (c. 1802-1860), and the little alleyway bears this name. Ten years later, when a Mr. Gerrish lived here, the fire of July 1870 destroyed a dozen structures located in the present area of the Business Block, and this house was saved only by the use of blankets wet from hogsheads next door.
This building is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. The St. John Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Masons organized in 1827 and probably built this Masonic hall, then with a different roofline than it has today. A few years later the hall also held worship services for the new Free Will Baptist Church, while parishioners built their meeting house across the street. During the 1850s, Berwick Academy met here for two years following a fire. This building barely escaped the great South Berwick fire of 1870. William Huntress, who had a cabinetmaking shop here many years, was among many businesspeople and tradespeople using this address—including, in the early 1870s, the post office. In the late 1880s, the building was remodeled and a third story added. Today it houses the offices of the surveying and engineering firm Civil Consultants.