|Maine House||District 90|
|Maine Senate||District 13|
|Area sq. mi.||(total) 14..6|
|Area sq. mi.||(land) 12.4|
Total=land+water; Land=land only
Clipper Ship Built Here
- Queen of the East–1852
- Black Warrior–1853
- Flying Scud–1853
- Ocean Herald–1853
- Wild Rover–1853
[dam-ahr-ihs-KOTTA] a town in Lincoln County, incorporated on March 15, 1848 from portions of Nobleboro and Bristol. The Indian name for the area was Madamescontee meaning “an abundance of alewives.” Alewives, small, salty fish, spawn in Damariscotta Lake, which extends northwest of the town through Nobleboro, Newcastle, and Jefferson.
The actual name Damariscotta is of uncertain origin, being either an alternate pronunciation of the Indian name, or related to an Englishman Humphrey Damerell, or his name in conjunction with that of a local sagamore John Cotta. Thus are the challenges of discovering the native name, if any, for many Maine places.
Long inhabited by Indians, who created massive shell heaps over thousands of years, the area was deeded to John Brown by Samoset in 1625. The very earliest shellfish harvesting, thousands of years ago, left a monumental shell heap on the banks of the Damariscotta River.
Early settlers, among them John Brown, Jr., arrived in 1640 from Pemaquid. The settlement was attacked by Indians in 1745. Permanent settlement began at least by 1754 with the construction of the Tilden Hall House, with other houses to follow.
In addition to fishing, farming had been a staple of the local economy until the later decades of the 20th century.
The Great Salt Bay, which borders the northwest corner of the town, is the state’s first marine shellfish protected area and one of Maine’s many nature preserves. Formerly polluted by industrial activity, it has been closed to shellfish harvesting for many years.
The town became noted for its clipper shipbuilding and brick-making.
Now a residential community with summer tourist attractions, it is located just off U.S. Route 1, on Route 1B, it is at the head of the Damariscotta River. The Skidompha Library is right on the Main Street downtown.
Near the library the Frances Perkins Center notes the history of this New Deal Secretary of Labor.
Damariscotta photographer “Jake” Day took photos for Walt Disney’s animated motion picture Bambi, and sent two Maine fawns to the Hollywood studios as models for the animators.
Biscoe, Mark Wyman. “No pluckier set of men anywhere” : the story of ships and men in Damariscotta and Newcastle, Maine. Newcastle, Me. M.W. Biscoe. 1994. (Newcastle, Me. Lincoln County Publishing Company)
Centennial Celebration at Damariscotta and Newcastle, July 4, 1876: together with the historical address delivered by Gen. James A. Hall. Waldoboro, Me. Miller & Atwood, printers. 1876.
Cushman, David Quimby. The History of Ancient Sheepscot and Newcastle [Me.] including early Pemaquid, Damariscotta, and other contiguous places, from the earliest discovery to the present time, together with the genealogy of more than four hundred families. Bath, E. Upton & Son, printers. 1882.
Damariscotta, Maine: Pictorial Record of the Centennial, July 11, 12, 13, 1948. 1948. [Maine State Library]
Lincoln, Edward Joshua. The Blackstones and their Indian’s Paradise (Old Damariscotta). Damariscotta, Me. News Print Shop. c1952.
*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me. Text and photo from National Register of Historic Places: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/text/xxxxxxxx.PDF, http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/nrhp/photos/xxxxxxxx.PDF
Chapman-Hall House: 70000077.PDF
Coffin, Stephen, House: 86003519.PDF
Cottrill, Matthew, House: 74000177.PDF
Huston House: 85000241.PDF
Main Street Historic District: 79000154.PDF
Oyster Shells and Sailing Ships: A Brief History of Damariscotta. Newcastle/Damariscotta, Me. Lincoln County Publishing Company. 1998. [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections; Maine State Library]
Past & Present in the Twin Villages Damariscotta & Newcastle. Damariscotta, Me. Published by Lincoln County News. c2000.
Sturges, Florence. High Points in the History of the Newcastle-Damariscotta Area. Damariscotta, Me. Newcastle-Damariscotta Woman’s Club. 1976.
National Register of Historic Places – Listings
[Main and Vine Streets] The 1794 Chapman-Hall House was built by Nathaniel Chapman. He was a half-brother of Anthony Chapman, Damariscotta’s first settler.
Nathaniel, a house builder by trade, was persuaded to come to Damariscotta to build homes for the handful of settlers who had only crude dwellings. He built this house for himself. Nathaniel once owned nearly all of what is now Damariscotta Main Street and is rightfully referred to as the “father of Main Street, Damariscotta.” The house, the oldest building in town, is now the Chapman-Hall Study House and Museum.*
Coffin, Stephen, House
[Main Street] This house is among the finest, earliest Federal style houses in Damariscotta dating from about 1803. Jacob Sleeper was probably its builder and original owner but it was soon sold to merchant Stephen Coffin. Its smaller section may be an example of rarely a surviving building type—a Federal period store attached to the merchant’s house.
In 1922 the Skidompha Library Association and the Women’s Club of Damariscotta purchased the house and remodeled it as a library (photo above) to serve Damariscotta, Newcastle and Nobleboro. The renovations opened up space on both floors, but were designed to retain or duplicate original architectural features. Surrounded by late 19th century brick commercial blocks, the Coffin house and store are an important transition in the history of the state’s “Main streets.”* The “store” is now the Frances Perkins Center.
Cottrill, Matthew, House
[Main Street (U.S. 1)] The Matthew Cottrill House is both architecturally and historically significant to Maine history. It is an excellent piece of Federal style architecture built on to an existing structure. It is one of the best surviving examples of this type in Maine. Nicholas Codd married Margaret Coffin in 1800 at Boston.
A native of New Ross, County Wexford, Ireland, Coffin came to Boston in 1780 or 1781 with his fellow countryman, James Kavanaugh. They both were in Newcastle by 1791, having selected the area as a promising place for retail business.The arrival of these two men in Maine was the beginning of the earliest Irish Catholic settlement in Maine.*
Damariscotta Baptist Church
[King’s Square] This architectural centerpiece stands out among the mid-19th century brick commercial buildings that reflect Damariscotta’s proud history as a seaport and shipbuilding town. The imposing white Greek Revival church with its unusually spaced columns is also a symbol of political independence for the community. The Church was organized in 1819 as “The Second Baptist Church in Nobleboro,” one of the large early political divisions in Lincoln County of which the village of Damariscotta was a part.
The vestry was built and dedicated in 1837 and construction of the church begun in 1843. In 1847, the year of its completion, the parish was officially named the Damariscotta Baptist Church. The community was incorporated as a separate town effective in 1848.
The church building became the site of the official organization of the town on March 22nd of that year. The Damariscotta Church building in its exact proportions and unusual column arrangement is virtually identical to the First Congregational Church in neighboring Wiscasset, probably designed by the same architect.*
Damariscotta Oyster Shell Heaps
Damariscotta Shell Midden Historic District
While they are found all over the world – from Denmark to Japan, Florida to British Columbia – the Damariscotta Oyster Shell Heaps are among the largest and have been of interest to scholars since the 19th century. Now protected by the Maine Department of Conservation, which provides educational material at the site, it was once the focus of a local industry. The address, once restricted, is well known thanks to the sign proclaiming its location. Follow the link in the heading for photos and text.
[Bristol Road Damariscotta] The 1853 Huston House is a very fine and monumental example of a version of the Greek Revival style rare in Maine. It has a single gable with an impressive colonnaded porch running the length of the building. In 1852, seven years after Damariscotta’s great fire, James Gilmore Huston (1808-1865) inherited his father’s vast estate on the Damariscotta River. The next year he built a house befitting his wealth and position in the community. He owned a hardware and shipping business with offices and wharves in downtown Damariscotta. On his property he operated a sawmill on Mill Brook, cut ice on the millpond, ran a brickyard on the shore of the river and had a large orchard behind his house. He served as trustee of Lincoln Academy and died a rich man.*
Main Street Historic District
[Main Street] A fire in 1845 destroyed all buildings in the district except the Cottrill, Austin and Fly Houses. The main street was rebuilt quickly with local materials. By 1875 all buildings currently in the district had been constructed, with the exception of several modern structures and three late 19th century buildings.
The buildings in the district have been little altered with their original character intact. This post-fire commercial development was largely based on economic prosperity from shipbuilding. Architecturally, Main Street retains its mid-century stylistic ambiance. Later structures have been compatibly designed for the most part and retain the prevailing scale.