Henry C. Willard (1842-1920), dry goods retailer

Willard House c. 1890

c. 1890 – Willard House – 104 Portland Street

This house is part of the South Berwick Village District on the National Register of Historic Places. Henry C. Willard (1842-1920) ran the Willard Dry Goods store for many years in the Business Block at the turn of the 20th century.

The Dennetts.  Winborn R. Dennett, born in 1824, purchased this land from Benjamin Nason in 1867, but he and his wife, the former Martha J. Dennett born in 1830, seem to have been living elsewhere. The family’s life was marred with tragedy. In 1857 three children died: Winborn, less than two; Blanche E., age five; and Clara A., age three. Son Perley H. died in 1865 at age two. Another son named Winborn died at less than two years old in 1873.

The map at left, made in 1872 about the time of the last child’s death, indicates the Dennetts had not built a house on their Portland Street property. Winborn Sr. died in 1902 and Martha in 1912.Willard Dry Goods in the Business Block, downtown South Berwick



The Willards. 

The next owner was Henry Willard, a downtown South Berwick merchant who probably built the house about 1890. The South Berwick Register and census of 1904 shows Henry C. Willard living on Portland Street with his wife, Lettice.

H. C. Willard’s was a dry goods/fancy goods store in the Business Block, and it is listed in the Maine Register business directories of 1894 through the 1910s.

Henry C. Willard, born in 1842, established his business in 1878, according to the History of York County. A memoir by Mary Jewett, sister of author Sarah Orne Jewett, says Willard’s first store location was the Parks Store building at 233 Main. The move to the Business Block likely followed the death of the owner of McIntire Hardware in the late 1880s.

Henry C. Willard died September 12, 1920 at the age of 78 and Lettice on her 91st birthday on September 5, 1931.

(This summary by Wendy Pirsig from archives in the Counting House Museum. Updated December 2020.)