Currently Harpswell only has a few
hotels. The hotel and boarding houses did well in
business in the past.
The first Harpswell hotel was a
boarding house on the east side of Cundy's Point.
The second was opened on Bailey Island. The Mansion
House on Pott's Point and the Union Hotel in Cundy's
Harbor were the first hotels specially designed as a
hotel. The Union Hotel advertised “Nothing but the
best,” like fresh fish, fruit, and vegetables as
well as “milk straight from the cow Both the Seaside
Hotel and the Mansion House burned. (Seaside in
1866, Mansion in 1869.)
After the first fire, the young boys
went up and down the road singing their new folk
“One Sunday night when all was still
A fire broke out on John Smith's Hill,
The people all came running round,
To see the Seaside burning down.”
In Harpswell there were things for
all ages to do. The sandy beaches and ledges were
liked especially by shell collectors and sunbathers.
They also liked cool long walks in the woods.
Fishing and sailing were enjoyments too. Tennis,
croquet, baseball, and bowling were available as
well as picnicking and clambakes.
Some people could spend all day on
the verandas just talking and playing cards.
After the Civil War, there was a
time when people in Maine had a great way of living
life. Railroads were better, industries grew, and
cities grew. Adults wanted a cool place for their
children to do more things. People wanted more fresh
nourishing food and more opportunities for their
children. Maine seemed a place for summer vacations,
with its cool, refreshing breezes, its pine forests,
and its nourishing food.
Harpswell people knew people from
the city wanted to come to the coast. They knew they
could make money. They needed new ways to make money
because of the shipbuilding jobs they lost. More and
more hotels were built. Steamboats left New York and
Boston to come to Portland. Then families took small
steamers to Harpswell several times a day.
Taking care of a hotel was very
different back them from how you take care of a
hotel now. You had to carry water for everything;
drinking, making food, washing dishes, washing
clothes, and washing before meals.
Food had to be kept cool by using
cold spring water or ice cut from the winter before.
Frozen sweets had to be prepared right at the hotel.
Many innkeepers had their own gardens for fruits and
vegetables to serve, dairy cows, a bunch of chickens
for eggs, and they brought in their own lobsters,
clams, crabs, and other things from the sea.
Chimneys and lamps had to be cleaned
daily. Chamber pots had to be cleaned each morning.
People put rhubarb leaves in the outhouses so they
wouldn't smell so much.
Three hearty meals were served
everyday plus afternoon tea and refreshments. The
breakfast menu was fried eggs, fried potatoes, hot
biscuits with butter and honey, fresh doughnuts,
apple pie, choice of coffee, tea, or milk.
After a lot of remodeling, Susie
Ransom opened an inn and gift shop in the house of
Curtis and Estes shipyard on Lookout Point. Lookout
Point had been active in the middle of the 1800's.
The old Lookout Point House is now the Harpswell Inn
and is a Bed and Breakfast.
Some of the old hotels had very few
guests, but some could hold 125 people. Some of the
hotels names were Merritt House, Ocean View Hotel,
Merriconeag House, Harpswell House, Hotel Germania,
Lookout Point House, The Old Fort House, Mansion
House II, and others. Some of the hotels had large
dining rooms. When a steam boat was refueling, the
Merritt House would sometimes feed 300 people. The
hotel and boarding business in the summer continued
to grow at the turn of the century. With the coming
of World War 1 (1914‑18) the business began to
decline. Two of the most important reasons of the
decline were that more and more families owned cars
and highways were being improved so people could