The Cushings and the Cushing Mansion
The Cushing Mansion
Madame Olive Wallingford Cushing (c.1758-1853) was a legendary figure in author Sarah Orne Jewett’s day. Her house, known as the Cushing Mansion, on Main Street, South Berwick, was almost as famous as the Jewett House, and adorned Maine postcards.
In 1795, the house had been built by Madame Cushing’s mother, the widow of one of the area’s sea captains. Elizabeth Wallingford had decided to build a mansion so her daughter and family living in Boston, the Cushings, would come to South Berwick to live. When Elizabeth's husband, Thomas Wallingford, was alive, they had lived in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, on the Salmon Falls River opposite the Hamilton House. Their daughter, Olive, had married John Cushing of Massachusetts. When the new mansion was built on Main Street, South Berwick – then the stagecoach route to Boston -- the Cushings returned, and Madame Wallingford stayed with them until she died in 1810.
The Cushings had lived in Boston during the Revolution and the siege of Boston, and had known General Lafayette. John Cushing had been a colonel in the 2nd Plymouth County regiment, and served throughout the Revolutionary War. He died in 1822. In 1825 when Lafayette toured the United States 50 years after the war, he paid a visit to Madame Olive Cushing that was celebrated for years after in South Berwick.
Throughout the 1800s the mansion was occupied by the Hobbs family, descendants of the Cushings.
It was torn down in late 1924 to make way for South Berwick Central School, and "portions were shipped to a museum in the Midwest, and the remainder demolished," according to a 1967 essay by Burton W. F. Trafton, Jr. Before the 1920s, over 300 South Berwick elementary pupils studied at 14 tiny rural schoolhouses scattered all around town. Most were the traditional one-room schools with a single teacher for all grade levels, and no plumbing or central heating. Faced with state-imposed standards, a special town meeting in May 1924 voted to consolidate all pupils in a modern "Central School" on Main Street in the village.
(Summary by Wendy Pirsig from archives of the Counting House Museum. Updated December 2020.)