|Maine House||Dists 43,44|
|Maine Senate||District 25|
|Area sq. mi.||(total) 37.4|
|Area sq. mi.||(land) 29.6|
Total=land+water; Land=land only
[FAHL-muth] is a town in Cumberland County, incorporated on November 12, 1718 as an area now known as “ancient Falmouth.” Earlier, in 1658, a town named Falmouth existed for thirty years before being destroyed in an Indian raid in 1689.
Resettlement began in 1714 and by 1718 a town was again established. Over the next 130 years the original area was distributed to the new towns of Cape Elizabeth, Portland, and Westbrook. By 1853 the town had contracted to its current borders.
Falmouth is a rapidly growing suburban community, having added over 35 percent to its population between 1990 and 2000.
Falmouth Foreside, literally “on the other side of the tracks” from the inland portions of the town, is a wealthy coastal village on Casco Bay and home to the Portland Yacht Club.
Inland away from Casco Bay, lies West Falmouth in the northwest corner of the town. The Maine Turnpike passes through the area, home to a large shopping mall and other commercial development.
The town hosts several nature preserves.
Mill Creek Preserve features trails, salt marshes and uplands along Mill Creek. Northwest of Route 88, it is managed by the Nature Conservancy and the town of Falmouth.
McCann Preserve, off Falmouth Road, is managed by the Falmouth Land Trust.
Gilsland Farm, the headquarters of the Maine Audubon Society, includes 2-1/2 miles of trails through this 60 acre sanctuary of fields, woods, and marsh bordering the Presumpscot River.
Mackworth Island Public Reserved Land is an island of approximately 100 acres, connected to the mainland by a causeway at the mouth of the Presumpscot River. While human influence has greatly altered the natural environment, there is much to be enjoyed and preserved. The 1 ¼ mile trail that encircles the island takes about an hour to complete at a leisurely pace, with stunning views of Casco Bay and Portland. In 1946, Governor Percival Baxter donated the Island to the State to be used for public purposes and as a sanctuary for wild beasts and birds.
Form of Government: Council-Manager
Once part of Portland, much of Falmouth’s early history is that of Portland.
The Falmouth Historical Society. Falmouth. Charleston, S.C. Arcadia. 2009.
Falmouth (Me.) Falmouth, Maine 250th Anniversary, 1718-1968. 1968.
*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me. Text and black & white photos from National Register of Historic Places:
Baxter Summer Home: https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/5761f0c7-a084-4d23-a252-7f6156bb29a2?branding=NRHP
Falmouth High School (former): “Falmouth High School (former), Falmouth, Cumberland County, 1931-1965.” http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=mhpc_recent_listings&id=670562&v=article
Falmouth House: https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/AssetDetail?assetID=db1dd2ff-73ed-46a2-97d2-53368c2cda1b
Hall’s Tavern: https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/f4d4d052-b51c-4c87-b8a8-324d8edd2af8?branding=NRHP
Norton House Historic District: https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/e3517398-0de1-4bd7-a5b8-998687174bc7/?branding=NRHP
Payson House at Thornhurst: https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/2fe6dc5e-fdbf-48be-96c8-ae06a0b13ba4?branding=NRHP
Purington, Elisha, House: https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/a9954f87-00a6-46fd-8ee9-4f13882fad0a?branding=NRHP
Skelton, Thomas, House: https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/4b9308ff-d92f-4d84-96f3-09f843625838?branding=NRHP
Wallace, Charlotte. E Pluribus Unum: A Story of Falmouth, Maine. Falmouth, Me. Falmouth Historical Society. Falmouth Bicentennial Commission. 1976.
National Register of Historic Places – Listings
Baxter Summer Home
[Mackworth Island] The Percival P. Baxter Summer Home is important as the residence of a governor of Maine and one of the most important conservationists the state has produced. The building is also architecturally significant as a distinguished work of Portland architect Frederick Thompson. Governor Baxter’s father, James Phinney Baxter, purchased Mackworth Island in 1885. The elder Baxter built the house as a summer home in 1918. A mayor of Portland, historian and president of the Maine Historical Society, he was an important public figure himself. He left the property to his son, Percival. [Roger G. Reed photo]
Percival served as governor for two terms in 1921-25. He is principally known for securing Baxter State Park and Mackworth Island for the people of Maine. He used this summer house until 1943, when he donated the property to the State of Maine. The School for the Deaf, founded in Portland in 1857, moved to the island in 1953. Over the next four years school buildings were erected, in part using funds donated by the former governor. Renamed the Baxter School for the Deaf, the institution was built in the center of the island on land immediately adjacent to the house. The remainder of the island remains undeveloped and open to the public.
Architect Frederick Thompson designed a house which depended largely on the materials used – dark red Tapestry brick walls, green terra cotta roof tiles and fieldstone foundation – for exterior ornamentation. Only the classical porticos over the two entrances display a more traditional architectural treatment.*
Falmouth High School
The 1931 former Falmouth High School (expanded in 1936) was the first high school in Falmouth. The Colonial Revival style school was designed by Maine architect John P. Thomas.
The design represents the transition in the Maine educational system from a curriculum based on Classical studies to one emphasizing Manual Arts and practical subjects. Influenced by a national movement in educational philosophy in the 1910-1920s, the form and use of the school reflects the effects of a town grappling with rapid growth in student enrollment and adjustments to the quality and structure of public education.*
The school has closed, but in 2017 renovations were underway to house several community services.
[349 New Gray Road, North Falmouth♦] The importance of travel housing in early 19th century Maine can hardly be overstated. The area immediately north of Portland and away from the coast was still sparsely settled. Travelers to the interior, usually on horseback, were often hard put to find suitable lodging, meals and accommodations for horses. Those places that did exist were often marginal in terms of sustenance, frequently overcrowded and ill-kept. It was by no means uncommon find three or four tired wayfarers forced to sleep in one bed.
Those public houses that did provide good service became quickly known with reputations spread over a surprisingly wide area. Such was Falmouth House (for a time known as the Washburn Tavern). At first it was on the Old County Road, which led inland from Portland to Gray, New Gloucester, and eventually Lewiston and Auburn.
Built in the early 1820s by Samuel Hicks, Falmouth House was moved at the end of the decade to the new Gray Road that replaced the Old County Road in 1826. Hicks sold the inn in 1836 to Otis Washburn, and it remained in the Washburn family for the remainder of the century. It continued as a popular and well-run inn along the arduous stage route from Portland to Lewiston. As automobiles and buses emerged, the shorter Falmouth to Portland trip bypassed the Falmouth House, now a private, well maintained residence.*
♦ Official address listing (340 Gray Road) is in error.
[West of Falmouth at 377 Gray Road] Built by Nicholas Hall during the first decade of the 19th century, this graceful and simple Federal house served as a tavern for nearly 90 years. Its warm and friendly taproom, in what was originally a front parlor, remained virtually unchanged at least until the late 20th century, from its years of public hospitality. The Halls produced a typically large family and by the turn of the century required a homestead of considerable size. The house was built on the “Old Road” which remains visible as a bridle path some 500 feet behind the present site of the structure. In 1823 Hall sold the house to his son Ozni who soon opened his house to the public. Eventually purchased by his brother-in-law, Major Edward Alien, the house continued in use as an inn or tavern until the 1890s, when it reverted to its original status as a private residence.
In 1826 and 1827 the present road, originally called the “Joel Robinson Road” was laid out and the house was moved to its present location. It seems likely that its conversion to a hostelry took place at this time. As a well preserved and little altered rural Federal structure and as a well known public house for a long span of years, Hall’s Tavern is an important local landmark.*
Norton House Historic District
For Portland insurance executive Ralph S. Norton, his new home in Falmouth Foreside in 1912 was a symbol of his success, as well as an evolution away from his rural background. Built on the site of his family’s small farm at the edge of Casco Bay, Norton could not have found a better site upon which to erect a house that befitted his economic and social advances. In the first decade of the 20th century coastal property in the Portland suburbs of Falmouth Foreside and Cape Elizabeth had become the locations of choice for new architect designed homes of the area’s professional elite.
Following the lead of his neighbors, Ralph Norton secured the firm John Calvin Stevens and John Howard Stevens to design an eclectic Prairie style house on a high ridge overlooking Casco Bay. The estate also included an unusually shaped, Prairie Style stable for Norton’s carriages and horses, and surrounding the house were carefully crafted picturesque walks, terraces, ponds, gardens and small structures, which may have been prepared in conjunction with noted Portland landscape architect Carl Rust Parker.
Born in 1866 in Falmouth, Norton was a life long resident of the community, and a member of one of its oldest families. By the time he was 14 his father had died. By 1892 Norton was listed in the local directory as a fruit dealer, a profession that his brother Frank Norton continued later in the decade. In 1895 Ralph was in the insurance business, working in Portland. The property on which Norton built his house had been in the family for at least forty years.
Starting at the turn of the century one of Norton’s neighbor’s, Eben Ramsdell, started to break up his ocean side property and sell small lots for summer cottages. The Underwood Casino, park and theater just to the north increasingly helped to characterize Falmouth Foreside as a summer resort. In turn the presence of this attraction encouraged the construction of several larger, architect designed cottages to the north and south of the Norton property.*
Payson House at Thornhurst
The Payson House at Thornhurst is the only commission in Maine built by the influential architect Serge Chermayeff. Constructed in 1952 on a large seaside site, the building incorporated modern concepts of architecture, modern materials, and a minimum of ornamentation. The structure Chermayeff designed for the Payson family replaced an earlier, Victorian-era summer home that had been on the site. Thornhurst, as the previous structure was known, was located at the end of Thornhurst point in the Foreside Section of Falmouth.
The property consists of a north east facing peninsula that lies off a larger southeastward projection into Casco Bay. Views down the point encompass the broad eastern curve of the bay, boats moored at the nearby yacht club, and to the east, the broad expanse of Casco Bay and its islands. The Payson family sought to replace the oversized Victorian structure with a smaller, year round, nuclear family sized dwelling that reflected the scale and visual magnificence of the site. The connection to the architect was made through Michael Payson, a son who attended school with Chermayeff s son, Ivan. In 2001 Chermayeff’s career was the subject of a retrospective exhibit at Cambridge University in England. In conjunction with this exhibit the historian Alan Powers published an extensive catalog of the architect’s work and philosophy. Each room has its own outdoor exit through a double door, the outer door being a louver shutter screened inside, the inner one being a solid weather stripped storm door to be kept tight with the help of two coach type dead locks during the winter.
The Payson House is one of a very few examples of International or Bauhausian architecture in Maine. Best known is Fortune Rocks, 1939, in Seal Harbor designed by George Howe, and the Anchorage, 1941 home of Nelson Rockefeller designed by Wallace Harrison, also in Seal Harbor.
Purington, Elisha, House
[71 Mast Road] This house is one of the most remarkably preserved examples of mid-18th century architecture in Maine in a rural context. With its ancillary extensions and the early barn on the property, it exists as a virtually unspoiled farmstead of the period.
Builder and first owner, Elisha Purington, originally of New Hampshire, is generally considered to be one of the finest clock makers in colonial New England. Beyond this, he also achieved a reputation as a gunsmith and served the community of Falmouth as a blacksmith. Purington was a staunch Quaker and the records of the Falmouth Meeting not only attest to his marriage in 1762 to Sarah Huston but also to the fact that a violent hurricane on July 31st, 1767, removed the roof from his newly built house.*
Skelton, Thomas, House
[124 U.S. 1.] The Thomas Skelton House was to be torn down to enlarge a parking lot. Greater Portland Landmarks found a buyer who moved the house to Falmouth. Thus, one of the oldest remaining houses in Portland, a valuable example of local construction and woodworking of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, was saved. Detailed records were made and photographs taken before the house was moved and at each stage of the restoration work. The resulting document is available at the Greater Portland Landmarks, Inc., office.
Unfortunately the House could not be preserved on its original site, but the present setting is appropriate. The house is surrounded by other old homes in a country like section of Falmouth, similar in atmosphere to how Portland was when the house was built. The house looks as if it had always been there. Restoration work done on the House has been carefully executed. The original appearance of the facade has been retained. The lean-to addition is a sympathetic way of incorporating extra space, permitting modernization without drastically altering the original house. There is a precedent for houses of this age in the Portland area to be built in this salt-box shape.*