History of The Kennebunk Inn

The original building of what is now The Kennebunk Inn was built as a private residence by Phineas Cole in 1799, less than thirty years after the founding of the Republic.  Mr. Cole later sold the building to Benjamin Smith, whose family lived there until 1875. In 1876 Dr.Orrin Ross bought the home.  When his son, Dr. Frank Ross, married in 1880 he gave the property to him. Dr. Frank Ross specialized in obstetrics and was proud of the fact that he never lost a mother.  Dr. Frank Ross delivered over 1,000 babies during his long career.

Dr. Frank Ross died in 1926 and the property was then sold to Mr. and Mrs. George Baitler. In 1928, George Baitler converted the private home to a hotel known as “The Tavern,” adding a 21/2 story wing to produce a total of 50 guest rooms. In the late 1930s the name of the hotel was changed to The Kennebunk Inn.

Another distinctive feature of The Inn’s is its “haunted heritage.” Rumor has it that Silas Perkins, one of The Inn’s clerks who passed away in the mid-twentieth century, continues to inhabit his place of former employment—his presence being made visible occasionally by flying or falling wine glasses and other objects.

The Inn’s ownership has included several families over the years. In January, 2003 Drs. David and Sue Horner and their daughter and son-in-law, Shanna Horner O’Hea and Brian O’Hea, acquired The Inn. Long-time summer residents of Harpswell, Maine, the Horners’ careers have focused on higher education. In 1979 David became the youngest college president in America when he was appointed to the presidency of Barrington College (RI) at age 29. From 1987-2004 he served as president of North Park University (Chicago.) Sue has taught and published in the areas of women’s studies and religion and has lectured across the United States as well as in Europe and Australia. In 2008 David and Sue accepted new assignments as president and scholar-in-residence, respectively, at The American College of Greece in Athens, Greece – Europe’s oldest and largest American-style college or university.

Brian and Shanna are responsible for the day-to- day operations of The Inn as the Innkeeper ~ Chefs. A native of Long Island, New York (and a lifelong fan of the Yankees), Brian grew up in a three generation New York City police family. Shanna (raised in a die-hard Red Sox family) joined her father and mother on the campus of North Park University as an undergraduate where she studied art and marketing. Today, The Inn’s reputation is being built around its rich historical heritage, the civic and educational backgrounds of its ownership and Shanna’s and Brian’s culinary creativity and passion (see Innkeeper ~ Chefs for their culinary backgrounds.)

In its more than two hundred year history, The Inn has survived and supported both private and public purposes through forty-three United States presidents (one of whom, President George Bush, resides just a few miles away), numerous wars, and both good and bad economic times. The Kennebunk Inn is proud to have a part in both the history and future of what James Taylor aptly refers to as “the great state of Maine”.

The Dr. Ross House (Kennebunk Inn), c. 1885. Today, the Kennebunk lnn’s dining room and bar arc located on this side. The inn was built in 1799 as a private home by Phineas Cole. Cole soon sold the building to Benjamin Smith, whose family lived there until 1875. In 1876 Dr. Orrin Ross bought the home and when his son, Dr. Frank Ross, married in 1880 he gave the property to him. Dr. Frank Ross specialized in obstetrics and was proud of the fact that he never lost a mother, altogether he delivered 1,000 babies during his long career. Dr. Ross died in 1926 and the property was then sold to Mr. and Mrs. George Baitler, who opened the Kennebunk Tavern in 1928.

* Some of the historical information is taken from the research of Richard T. Eisenhour, Curator, Brick Store Museum