Local History of Historical Hotels

Hotels with rich history tend to be a thing of the past with so many hotel chains out there in the world today.  However, there are still a few locally family owned & operated ones floating around in our world these days.  The Historical Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, classifieds quality hotels that have maintained their historical integrity, architecture & ambiance. I found out that the member hotels in the program must be located in a building space that is at least fifty years old & listed in, or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized as having a historic significance. The member hotels can range from eight to 1,639 rooms that have a diverse setting ranging from those part of a larger corportate hotel chain while a family has owned others for many generations.  The Colony Hotel located on 140 Ocean Avenue, Kennebunkport, Maine is a hotel with such charm.  It is also the first green hotel in Maine too.
The Colony Hotel At Sunset
The Colony Hotel, is an independent family-owned & operated hotel since 1948 that offers its guest a true Maine experience with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean from its property.  It has been named one of the ten best coastal eco-resorts worldwide. It’s very charming an idyllic hotel retreat noted for grand ocean views & elegant surroundings. Kennebunkport is one of the oldest fishing villages in Maine despite being famous for the Bush Compound with a rich history for the area. In particular there’s specifically a rich history to the hotel that has shaped it into being the hotel that is today.
Legend has it that back in 1870, four men from Arlington, Massachusetts boarded a train to Kennebunkport. (Yes, a train station was in town in those days.) The mission of the men was to scout out property to purchase for the building of a summer resort. The men had dinner in Saco where they meant a man from Kennebunk who overheard their discussion & suggested that they followed him to Kennebunkport to show them the acres of high ground along the Atlantic Ocean. The Sea Shore Company was formed after seeing the property & purchased 700 acres covering five miles of shore from Cape Porpoise to Lord’s Point in Kennebunk Beach, Kennebunk, Maine. Funny thing was that the owners bought the land thinking that it was valued to be worthless, as it offered no safe havens for fishing boats & had little value for pastureland or farming.  It was within the area back in 1872, on a rocky outcropping at the mouth of the Kennebunk River where the Colony now sits was once known as the Ocean Bluff was the first hotel on Cape Arundel. 
Heated Salt Water Pool
The Ocean Bluff was a four-story wooden structure that could accommodate up to two hundred guests. Unfortunately on January 30, 1898 when the hotel closed for the season at 6P.M. a fire swept threw the property with a loss of $75,000 destroyed it.  The main part of the hotel that was built in 1872 & part of the newly renovated construction where the fire was discovered were destroyed. The Sea Shore Company was not successful with their rebuilding efforts. In 1904 a long section of the building that was still standing was moved from the Ocean Bluff across King’s Highway to become the Oceanic Hotel. Years later in 1913, a new investor R.W. Norton commissioned a new hotel, the Breakwater Court on the remains of the Ocean Bluff. The Breakwater Court was situated on the highest point of land in Kennebunkport overlooking the ocean, the river, beaches & a scenic rocky coast. The property accommodated up to one hundred fifty guests, with kitchen & laundry buildings, staff housing & a large carriage house. The north wing was added in 1917 increasing the capacity to two hundred guests. Also, in that same year, Mr. Norton purchase the Jones Farm in North Kennebunkport who used the farm in connection with the Breakwater Court, producing all vegetables, pork, poultry & dairy products to be served at the hotel. The hotel ran successfully for many years, room & meal rates were closed to $10 a day, depending on the views & bathing facilities. Patrons of the hotel could enjoy local cuisine with first class accommodations.  A carriage ride back in those days cost only $12; the stables & carriages were kept where the Colony Carriage House stands today.  There were some other features such as a barbershop, dance room, ice cream parlor & soda shop located on the property & not to forget ballroom dancing was a very popular pastime for a Saturday evening.  The hotel continued to run until 1948 where R.W. Norton’s son Reul Norton sold the hotel to George Boughton, who was the owner of the Colony Hotel in Delray Beach, Florida who bought the Breakwater Court & renamed it the Colony Hotel.  The Florence House was included in the sale too.  The north-south marrying of the hotels with partial year seasons was a common trend to historical hotels.
View of the Hotel from the Putting Green
The Colony Hotel opened for business during the summer of 1948.  The following year the beach across the street was purchased for $3,800.  In 1950 an eighteen-hole putting green overlooking the ocean was created. In 1954 purchase of the Glen Haven (previously the Oceanic) Hotel expanded the Colony across the street.  The Glen Haven renovation included the removal of the top three of six floors & renaming it to the Motor Inn, which eventually became the East House. Two additional buildings included in the purchase: Cove Dorm & Chef’s Cottage.  The Galland House was purchased in 1956 & was named for long time Colony Guests, Frank & Gladys Galland.  Italian stonemasons built an Olympic sized heated salt water swimming pool in 1957, which to this day is the only heated salt water pool in New England.  The Lembree house adjacent to the property was purchased in 1966, which was renamed the Boughton House in 1975.
View of the Putting Green Overlooking the Ocean
Sad to say that the Breakwater Court has started to feel run down & unkempt, but the Boughton family made grate improvements to the property.  The horsehair mattresses & many of the old furnishings were replaced in the first few years of the ownership back in the early 1950s.  Some of the old fixtures, like tubs on legs, were brought down to the lobby & sold for twenty dollars each.  Today the items would have been collector’s items.  Over the years may improvements have been made to update the hotel that still retains its original charm & ambiance. Many of the original headboards, bureaus & hooked rugs are still part of the décor. The Blue Flames were a group of the hotel employees that would entertain guests at the pool with synchronized swimming displays. The family participated when working in the Colony Hotel. George Boughton died on December 26, 1986, but the hotel is still kept in the family today with his daughter Jestena as the General Manager for both hotels.
For decades the two Colony’s motto was “Warm Winters & Cold Summers.”  The Colony staff migration between the resorts up until 1998 when the Delray & Kennebunkport hotels expanded its season from three months to six moths each, but it really wasn’t until 2000 where the Delray hotel stayed opened year round after air conditioning was installed in the guest rooms for the warmer climate.  The Kennebunkport hotel still is only open as a seasonal hotel with housing & a cafeteria for its employees.  Another fun fact is that the movie Empire Falls, the Richard Russo’s novel, which became a two-part mini series for HBO that aired in 2005 was filmed in part of the Colony Hotel. 
Today the hotel host a variety of events from weddings, conferences, live music, to the Kennebunkport Festival & not to forget the famous dog lovers weekend where dogs get to swim in the pool on the last day of the season.  Yes, the hotel is dog friendly & you can bring one these days that can even stay in your room with you. There is an excellent menu for both its Marine Room & Porch Dinning rooms. A remarkable fact is the Cupola of the Colony Hotel is a local historical landmark because ships navigated their way back into the Kennebunk River used it. I would definitely recommend exploring the charming hotel for any occasional from a minbreak to a relaxing holiday to function or to go out to eat in the Kennebunks.  It’s a great place to come, check out & to stay a while to really get the feel of the land & to embrace the history that the hotel has to offer Kennebunkport. 

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