Maine: An Encyclopedia


Location Map for Kittery

Location Map for Kittery

Year Population
1970 11,028
1980 9,314
1990 9,372
2000 9,543
2010 9,490
Kittery Population Chart 1790-2010

Population Trend 1790-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 44:30:48
W. Latitude 69:26:08
Maine House District 1
Maine Senate District 35
Congress District 1
Area sq. mi. (total) 39.5
Area sq. mi. (land) 38.9
Population/sq.mi. (land) 52.5
County: York

Total=land+water; Land=land only

Clipper Ships Built Here

  • Typhoon-1851
  • Red Rover–1852
  • Young Australia–1852
  • Water Witch–1853
  • Dashing Wave–1853
  • Midnight–1854
  • Express-1854
  • Noonday–1855
Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

Congressional Medal
of Honor Winner
Civil War
Richard E. Seward

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery (2001)

Naval Shipyard (2001)

Kittery-Portsmouth Bridge from Eliot (2001)

Kittery-Portsmouth Bridge from Eliot (2001)

[KIT-er-ee] is a town in York County, incorporated from Piscataquis Plantation on November 20, 1652 as the first town in the District of Maine. It was joined by York two days later.

Apledore was incorporated as a town in 1661; its name was changed to Isles of Shoals in 1665 and then annexed to Kittery in 1696.

Kittery is the southern most town in Maine.  The Isles of Shoals, within the towns boundary but out to sea, are the southern most points of land at just a little less than 43 degrees north latitude.

Rice Public Library (2001)

Rice Public Library (2001)

The town serves as the gateway to Maine from points south with its old and more modern bridges spanning the Piscataqua River.  Badger Island, near the river, was the birthplace of seven clipper ships.

A contrast to an earlier time, Whaleback Island Light is visible from Kittery.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery (2001)

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery (2001)

The federal government established the first American Naval Shipyard at Kittery in 1800.

According to Kittery’s Comprehensive Plan,

On June 12, 1800, the United States Government purchased Fernald’s Island (aka Dennett’s Island) from William Dennett, Jr. and established one of our Nation’s first publicly owned Shipyards.

From the War of 1812 through the World Wars and until 1969, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was engaged in ship construction, overhaul, and repair. Naval vessels ranging from wooden and iron-clad warships to nuclear powered submarines have been constructed for nearly two centuries.

The growth of the facility over the decades became a driving force in the community and necessitated the purchase of the adjacent islands (Pumpkin, Seavey’s, Jamaica, and Clark’s).

The Town of Kittery was developing simultaneously adjacent to the entrance to the Shipyard resulting in the Foreside area of Wallingford Square and the surrounding residential areas. Since the 1970’s, the Shipyard’s primary mission has been to overhaul and repair nuclear powered submarines. p. 216.

[more on the shipyard below]

Boundary disputes have, for many years, surfaced over the “true” location of the shipyard and whether it is in Maine or New Hampshire. Consistently courts have held that it is legally in Maine.

The town’s long history is partially illustrated by the substantial list of historic sites noted below. One of them, Fort McClary, was built in 1808-09, improved during 1844-46, and further strengthened during the Civil War.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (2013)

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (2013) @

Traip Academy (2013)

Traip Academy (2013) @

Form of Government: Council-Manager

More Videos!


Additional resources

Burd, Mildred Sawyer. Stories of My Childhood. Kittery, Me. Kittery Historical Society. 1995.

Chadbourne, Ava Harriet. Humphrey Chadbourne of Newichawannock. Lewiston, Me. Lewiston Journal. [19–?]

Favour, Charles L. Civil War Memoirs. Kittery, Me. Kittery Historical Society. 2000.

Godsoe, William. “Vernacular” style map [poster]. Augusta, Me. Color map of a portion of Kittery; 46 x 39 cm.

Hildreth, Horace A. The Pine Tree State Salutes Kittery. Kittery, Me. Piscataqua Press. 1948. “The first copies of this edition were printed for the town of Kittery, Maine, U.S.A. as a part of the proceedings of the Tercentenary (1647-1947) of that earliest Maine community, celebrated on July 24-27,1947.”

Kittery 300th Anniversary Publication Committee. Old Kittery, 1647-1947. Kittery, Me. Piscataqua Press. c1947.

Kittery Booklet Committee. Kittery Ancient and Modern. Kittery, Me. The Museum. 1986. Facsimile of 1931 edition, prepared by the Kittery Historical and Naval Museum.

Kittery Comprehensive Plan Update Committee.  Kittery, Me. 1000. 1999 Update of the Kittery Comprehensive Plan. (accessed November 16, 2013)

Kittery Kaleidoscope. Kittery, Me. Kittery Bicentennial Committee. 1976.

Knowles Associates. Property Known as the William Pepperrell House, Kittery Point, Maine. Northeast Harbor, Me. The Knowles Associates. 1974. Appraisal report and valuation analysis.

Maine. Department of Transportation and New Hampshire of Transportation. Maine-New Hampshire Connections Study, Summary Report on Historic Resources, 2010.  Augusta, Me. 2010.  p.14.

Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.   Text and photos from National Register of Historic Places: and

Dennett Garrison: 78000334.PDF
First Congregational Church and Parsonage: 78000333.PDF
Fort McClary: 69000025.PDF
Howells, William Dean, House: 79000270.PDF
Jones, John Paul, Memorial Park: 97001639.PDF
Lady Pepperrell House: 66000094.PDF
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard: 77000141.PDF
Rice Public Library: 79000190.PDF
Whaleback Light Station: 87002278.PDF

Methodist Society (Kittery, Me.) Financial Records, 1842-1843. The financial records of a Methodist society in Maine. The records include expenses for building a parish house in 1842 and 1843 and a list of members and how much each contributed toward those expenses. [Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine, Orono.]

Miscellaneous papers relating to Kittery, Maine: 1723-1832. [Maine State Library.]

Remick, Oliver Philbrick. A Record of the Services of the Commissioned Officers and Enlisted men of Kittery and Eliot, Maine, who served their country on land and sea in the American Revolution, from 1775 to 1783. Boston. A. Mudge & Son. 1901.

Stackpole, Everett Schermerhorn. Old Kittery and Her Families. Rockport, Me. Picton Press. 2001. Facsimile of the 1903 edition.

Taylor, Paul E. Collection 1650-1976. Collection of materials relating to Kittery, Me. and Portsmouth, N.H. Includes correspondence, diaries, account books, copybooks, manuscripts, railroad and steamship time tables, legal documents catalogs and family and personal documents. [Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine, Orono.]

Thompson, Kenneth E. Deceive to Win: the Maine-New Hampshire Border Controversy. Portland, Me. The Thompson Group. 2003.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Badger, Samuel, Monument

[Address Restricted Kittery Foreside]

Bray House

[Pepperrell Road Kittery Point]

Dennett Garrison

Dennett Garrison house at 100 Dennett Road in Kittery (2013)

Dennett Garrison House (2013) @

[100 Dennett Road] The Dennett Garrison, one of the oldest houses in Kittery and in Maine, stands on land originally granted in 1661 to Christian Remick and laid out in 1665. Remick deeded this parcel to his son Isaac, who sold the same to John Dennett in 1698. Estimates as to the exact date that Dennett built his house vary somewhat, but in an order of 1720 his residence was designated as a garrison or place of refuge and was to be made defensible against Indian raids. Tradition holds that the house dates from about 1710.

With its sharply pitched roof and massive chimney, the structure is clearly in the 17th century tradition and this is carried out by interior features such as the Jacobean, style oak rail and spindles on the staircase, and the*walls of hewn hemlock, doetailed and treenailed together. Interestingly the upper story is constructed of oak.

Considered to be “Kittery’s most completely preserved garrison house”, this building has remained continuously in the Dennett family, whose members have played important roles in the history of the community.*

Located on Dennett Road, it has been in the Dennett family since built, and retains many original features. The Dennett’s provided local leadership and officers to the Navy and merchant shipping. (1999 Comprehensive Plan Update, p. 218.)

First Congregational Church and Parsonage

First Congregational Church (2001)

The Church (2001)

[Pepperrell Road, Kittery Point] The members of the First Congregational Church of Kittery, organized in 1653, voted in 1729 to erect a House next to the church, built two years earlier, for use by the ministry. In the same year a fire destroyed the church; the parish built the present one in 1730. A parish burial ground was fenced by a parish vote in 1733.

Interred here are some of Kittery’s first families. Gen. William Whipple, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was christened in the Church. In the original parsonage Dr. Benjamin Stevens was said to have entertained President Washington who, while on a fishing trip out of Portsmouth Harbor, stopped for supplies at the warehouse across the street.

Cemetery near First Congregational Church (2013)

Cemetery near First Congregational Church (2013)

Rev. John Newmarch and Dr. Sevens served the parish well for almost 100 years but in the late 1790s and early 1800s, the Church suffered setbacks due to ineffective leadership. However, the church still provided good service to the community.

In 1840, the church was renovated and rededicated. In 1874 it was moved, turned toward the south and repaired. A new parsonage was built between the old one and the church in 1910. During World War II, the old parsonage was used as a community building, housing the overflow of school pupils caused by the influx of families to work at the Kittery Naval Shipyard. Later it was renamed the Benjamin Stevens Community House. The old parsonage has been in continuous use as a Christian Education building and as a meeting place for civic organizations.

The First Congregational Church, the fourth on this site, is the oldest church in Kittery and one of the oldest in the state of Maine.*

First  Congregational Church and Parsonage. (Boundary Increase)

[north and south side of Whipple (Pepperrell) Road, 2.3 miles east of junction with US 1 Kittery Point]

Fort McClary

Fort McClary Blockhouse (2001)

Fort McClary Blockhouse (2001)

[off Maine Route 103 near Fort McClary State Park Kittery Point] Fort McClary has long been associated with the defense of Portsmouth Harbor. Originally called Fort William, the name was changed after the American Revolution in honor of Major Andrew McClary, highest ranking officer killed at the battle of Bunker Hill. The site on which Fort McClary stands was fortified as early as 1715 to protect the merchants of Massachusetts (then including the District of Maine) from “unreasonable duties” imposed by the colony of New Hampshire. An active post, its defenses apparently kept the British from attacking Kittery and Portsmouth.

All signs of the original fortification disappeared when the U.S. Government acquired the site in 1803. The first Fort McClary was completed in 1809 and was later strengthened, probably as the result of strained relations with Great Britain over the northeastern boundary. The six sided blockhouse, built in 1845, is unusual with its granite first story, topped with an overhanging wooden second story.

A distinguished son of Maine, Hannibal Hamlin, in July, 1864, enlisted here as a private in Company A, State Guard, Maine Volunteer Militia, after having been Vice President under Abraham Lincoln.

The original Fort William was named for William Pepperrell. He became commander of the Fort, Maine’s most distinguished citizen and New England’s wealthiest man. His son, Sir William, served on the Massachusetts Governor’s Council 32 years, 16 as president. During “King George’s War,” he led the successful Louisburg Expedition in 1745 against the French fortress in Nova Scotia. Pepperrell contributing 45,000 pounds of his own money.*

Gerrish Warehouse

[Pepperrell Cove off Maine Route 103]

Howells, William Dean, House

[Pepperrell Road Kittery Point] Built c.1870 by Joseph D. Brannum, a wealthy businessman from Springfield, Massachusetts, this beautifully sited residence overlooking the mouth of the Piscataqua River derives primary significance as the summer home of William Dean Howells during the last two decades of his illustrious literary career.

William Dean Howells House at Kittery Point (2013)

Howells House (2013) @

William Dean Howells House at Kittery Point (2013)

Howells House (2013) @

Howell's Eagle at Kittery Point (2013)

Howell’s Eagle (2013) @

The son of a printer, Howells was born in Ohio and worked during his formative years in his father’s shop. Although he received at most only about 18 months of formal education, he was a voracious reader and began creative writing before he was twenty. One or two of his early poems were published in the Atlantic. A campaign biography of Lincoln led to an appointment at age 24 as consul in Venice where he spend five years absorbing European literature and launching a serious writing career.

Revolting from the artificialities of Victorian fiction, Howells attracted increasing attention as a leader in the movement toward realism, which included Stephen Crane and Frank Norris. In 1866 he became assistant editor of the Atlantic. Becoming chief editor in 1872, Howells emerged as the lion of the literary scene. His output was prolific and versatile, including novels, plays, essays, poems, reviews and travel pieces.  As editor of Atlantic, his influence was large and he encouraged and helped such budding authors as Mark Twain and Henry James whom he later numbered among his closest friends. His realistic style had an enormous effect in his time and afterward on American writing. He is perhaps best remembered for such novels as The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) and A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890) as well as “Criticism and Fiction” (1891) an essay expressing the credo of realism. In 1881 he moved to New York where he wrote novels for Century Magazine and became literary advisor to Harper and Brothers.*

Isles of Shoals

[6.5 miles Southeast of Kittery]

Jones, John Paul, Memorial Park

[Bounded by Newmarch Street and Hunter Avenue Kittery Foreside]

Jones, John Paul, Memorial Park in Kittery (2013)

Memorial Park (2013) @

John Paul Jones Park was created by the State of Maine between the streets that carry traffic to and from the bridge on U.S. Route 1. Governor Baxter’s speech at the dedication in November 1924 emphasized the bridge’s role as the principal gateway into Maine, where the soldier’s memorial would be seen by all who enter the state (Baxter 1924). The 13 foot granite monument features a large bronze bas relief, by Boston sculptor Miss Bashka Paeff, entitled “The Sacrifices of War.” At 2,800 pounds, it was the largest bronze tablet in the United States at the time.

The inscription reads: “State of Maine, To Her Sailors and Soldiers. Lord God of Hosts Be With Us Yet, Lest We Forget, Lest We Forget.” The central image is a mother shielding a child, with fallen soldiers on both sides, and smaller images of soldiers marching below. On the reverse is the Maine State seal. The park is a grassy open space with many trees and shrubs.*

Lady Pepperrell House, National Historic Landmark

[Maine Route 103 Kittery Point]

Lady Pepperrell House (2001)

Lady Pepperrell House (2001)

Lady Pepperrell House (2013)

Lady Pepperrell House (2013) @

In the year following the death of Sir William Pepperrell in 1759, Lady (Mary Hirst) Pepperrell built the High-Georgian style house in which she would live for her remaining thirty years. A monument to the man, his fortune, and his title, it is a reflection of her enduring love of England. She imported the workmen from England to erect the house.

Mary insisted upon being recognized as “Lady” Pepperrell, even after the success of the American Revolution made the title null and void.*

Pepperrell, William, House

[Maine Route 103, Kittery Point]

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Entrance to the Shipyard (2013)

Entrance to the Shipyard (2013)

[Seavey Island] At the mouth of the Piscataqua River, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has been in existence for over 200 years and was the first navy yard established by the Navy Department in 1800. It continued a tradition of shipbuilding and maritime activity that began only a few years after the first Europeans arrived.

The earliest visitor, Martin Pring in 1603, describe it as “a noble sheet of water, and of great depth, with beautiful islands and heavy forests along its banks.” In 1614, Captain John Smith was equally impressed. As early as 1650 the British Government selected this port to build ships for the Royal Navy. The immediate availability of mast timber was a prime consideration in addition to the obvious geographical advantages.

Only small vessels were built until 1690 when the 54 gun frigate “Falkland” was launched followed, in 1696, by the 32 gun “Bedford.” In 1749 the 60 gun “America” slid down the ways, the largest Royal Navy ship ever built in the New World. By the time of the Revolution,the Portsmouth-Kittery region had a concentration of skilled workers for building and repairing ships. In December 1774, the capture of the British military post at Castle William and Mary by revolutionaries was significant. Some captured material was later used at the Battles of Lexington, Concord,and Bunker Hill.

More important was the acquisition of the shipbuilding sites by the revolutionary cause together with the already sympathetic and highly skilled labor force. This was the birth of American and, later, United States naval shipbuilding. In December 1775 the Continental Congress authorized the construction of 13 frigates. One, the 32 gun “Raleigh”, was to be built at Portsmouth under the direction of John Langdon, leader of the operation against Castle William and Mary. He offered his island in the river (now Badger’s Island) for the cause. Launched in May of 1776 the “Raleigh” served creditably until captured by the British in 1778.

In spite of its relatively small size, the second ship built at Portsmouth, the 18 gun sloop “Ranger” was one of the more famous under the command of John Paul Jones. A long series of sailing, then steam, then more modern vessels have been produced at the Navy Yard.

With the launching of the “L-8” in 1917, the Yard became the first government facility to build a submarine. Since then it has been the only yard devoted exclusively to submarine construction and repair. In 1958, with the launching of the “Swordfish”, it became the first government yard to build a nuclear powered submarine. Construction at the yard ended in 1969 with the shifting emphasis to a continuing program of attack and fleet ballistic missile submarine overhauls. Between 1917 and 1969 134 submarines slid off the ways at Portsmouth.

The Shipyard Historic District contains a remarkable extensive collection of 19th century industrial structures of unusually fine design. There is also a distinguished row of officers quarters executed in brick in the Greek Revival tradition. The most striking building is Quarters A, residence of the senior naval officer. Built probably in 1724, it was moved to its present location shortly after the island was acquired by the Navy Department in 1800.* [See additional photos above.]

Rice Public Library

Rice Public Library in Kittery (2013)

Rice Public Library in Kittery (2013)

[8 Wentworth Street] In her will dated May 18, 1867, Arabella Rice left $20,000 to the Town of Kittery for the construction of a free public library. Although she died in 1872, it was not until 1875 that a board of trustees was formed to manage the funds and again not until 1889, at a cost of $18,500, that the building was finally erected.

Whatever the delays, the final product was an architectural gem, a well conceived, ornamental and impressive structure in the Romanesque Revival style with Queen Anne influences. It was designed by Boston architect Shepherd S. Woodcock whose only other known Maine commission was the Unitarian Church in Ellsworth, now gone.

While other Romanesque libraries exist in Maine, all are one story with the exception of that at Skowhegan, also two stories, but a much less distinguished structure. Of its type and style, the Rice Public Library is by far the most outstanding library building in Maine.*

More on the library’s history from “Rice’s History Highlights.” (slightly edited and condensed; accessed August 16, 2015)

Back in the day, Rice Public Library had one reading room for ladies and a separate room for gentlemen. The second floor served as a meeting place for Civil War veterans from the local Grand Army of the Republic chapter. It also housed a substantial collection of stuffed birds.

The Library was founded by Arabella Rice, youngest of four daughters born to Captain Robert Rice and wife Charlotte, and the only one to outlive her parents. Although a lifelong resident of Portsmouth, when Arabella died in 1872 her will included bequests totaling $30,000 to honor “the wish of my beloved father to give a sum of money for educational purposes to the inhabitants of his native town of Kittery.”

Prior to this construction, the library was in a single room in what is now Wallingford Square.  Arabella’s initials “AR” can still be seen as one approaches the building from Wentworth Street, elegantly carved within a panel to the left of the archway high over the main entrance. They are also inscribed along the Italian marble fireplace on the first floor inside the library. The year “1888” is etched into the front of the building, above the grand second-floor balcony.

Taylor Annex of Rice Public Library (2013)

Taylor Annex of Rice Public Library (2013)

Over time, the Rice building became too cramped for its growing collections. The old Southern York County District Courthouse, located diagonally just across the street, was purchased in 1988 and renovated into the Taylor Building annex. The judge’s bench was converted into an administration desk, and the judicial chambers became the staff room.  The Taylor Building, named for local physician and former library trustee Paul Taylor, opened in October 1990.

In 1991, longtime patron Sarah Almyra Roberts left the library approximately $100,000 in her will, which funded a major overhaul of the Rice building. The renovation included the removal of a false overhead which had been installed for some reason to hide the library’s exquisite vaulted ceiling.

Traip, Robert and Louisa, House

[2 Wentworth Street Kittery Foreside] Built about 1839, the Robert and Louisa Traip House is an architecturally important Greek Revival style dwelling distinguished by its three-sided engaged porch supported by a double colonnade (a row of columns supporting a roof or other structure) of Doric columns. It is one of a very small group of houses in Maine that deviate from the more common Greek Revival forms by employing a colonnade on side or rear walls.

The Traip House, c. 1839, in Kittery (2013)

Traip House, c. 1839 (2013) @

Robert W. Traip (1800-64) acquired the land from his father in 1838. Apparently he built the house shortly thereafter. He was a member of an old Kittery family whose surname was traditionally spelled Tripe. In the 1860 Census he is listed with his wife Louisa (age 36), and two other persons whose occupations were given as “Domestic” and “Servant”, respectively. Traip’s own occupation was listed simply as “Gentleman.” Although his real estate holdings were valued at a relatively modest $2,000, his personal estate was well in excess of $20,000. Traip’s recorded personal estate was the most valuable in Kittery at that time.

In his will, Traip designated that after providing for his brother and two sisters, the balance of his estate was to be used for an endowment to establish an academy in Kittery. This bequest became available in 1897, when a substantial brick building subsequently constructed. The house itself descended to his widow and then to her son and granddaughter. It appears to have left the family in 1920.

Greek Revival style houses in Maine exhibit a seemingly endless variety of forms and details. Buildings like the Traip house that have two-tier porches or colonnades along the front and side are perhaps the most under represented of this group. The only other known example is the William O’Brien House in Portland, a building in which the colonnade extends along one bay of each side wall.*

Wentworth, Mark F. and Eliza J., House

[9 Wentworth Street Kittery Foreside]

Whaleback Light Station

Whaleback Island and its Light (2001)

Whaleback Island and its Light (2001)

[Portsmouth Harbor Kittery Point] Rising out of a shallow rock outcropping fifty-nine feet above mean high water near historic Wood Island, the Whaleback Light Station consists of a conical granite tower abutting a rectangular brick fog signal building. Completed in 1872, this granite structure houses the former keeper’s quarters and storage facilities. It features a vertical row of three windows and a door on its north face. A molded granite deck caps the tower shaft and supports an iron walkway with railing. The octagonal lantern is covered by a domed roof with a spherical ventilator.

Established in 1829 and completely rebuilt in 1872, the Light Station is on a shallow rock ledge at the outer entrance to Portsmouth Harbor. Whaleback Light was the second of two lights built to guide vessels along the Piscataqua River. Its location at the outer entrance of the harbor served as a beacon between the Isles of Shoals light off New Hampshire and the inner harbor light established in 1789.

During the 19th century Whaleback was classified as a secondary seacoast light for its proximity to major shipping lanes and the great volume of traffic into and out of the harbors at Portsmouth and Kittery.  It was automated in 1963. The light’s distinctive character represents one important form of light station design and construction of the 1870s.*

This entry was posted in Government, Cities & Towns and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
This entry was last modified: September 20, 2017 06:11 PM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *