Brick Store Museum: Silas Perkins and The Kennebunk Inn

The Brick Store Museum - Kennebunk Maine

The following piece is courtesy of The Brick Store Museum in downtown Kennebunk, Maine. The museum is a local and national treasure, well worth a stop on your visit to Kennebunk. You can visit The Brick Store Museum’s website here at http://brickstoremuseum.org/

From The Brick Store Museum Collections
Object of the Week
Kennebunk Inn and Silas Perkins

There are many stories of ghosts and witches that swirl around towns in New England. With some of the oldest buildings in the country so lovingly preserved there comes with them an abundant history. Halloween is fast approaching so it is time to revisit a favorite local ghost story, this one at the Kennebunk Inn. The story of the Kennebunk Inn begins in 1799 when Phineas Cole built it as a private residence, less than thirty years after the founding of the Republic. That building forms the earliest surviving section of the inn. 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. He 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 2 1/2 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.

Dr. Frank Ross House before it became the Kennebunk Inn, c.1900

Dr. Frank Ross House before it became the Kennebunk Inn, c.1900

All that history aside, another distinctive feature of The Inn is its haunted heritage. Rumor has it that Silas Perkins, who passed away in the mid-twentieth century, continues to inhabit his place of former employment.

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Silas Perkins was a native of Kennebunkport and a well-known poet. He was born in 1880 on the Kennebunk built ship Mt. Washington when his father, Captain Fordyce Perkins, was master. He was born during a six year voyage that took the Mt. Washington around the world more than once. The only record of his birth was an entry in the ship’s log which in later years was lost. He inherited his father’s coal business in Kennebunkport which is how he made his living.

Silas Perkins was also known as a poet and a good one. His poems were published in local papers and the Boston Globe. He was best known for the poem “The Common Road” that was broadcast from a national radio hookup from the funeral train of President Franklin Roosevelt. Silas spent his twilight years working as the night watchman at the Kennebunk Inn. One day in June 1952, Perkins, then 72, left the inn to buy a newspaper across the street. Before he reached the other side, he collapsed from a heart attack. He was quickly helped back to his beloved inn, where he ultimately died from the ordeal in Room 17.

Silas Perkins, date unknown.

Silas Perkins, date unknown.

And that is now said to be the most haunted room in Kennebunk Inn with visitors reporting unnaturally cold brushes of air, rattling doorknobs and opening doors. A housekeeper was cleaning the room when she had unplugged the television. A moment later, the television turned on by itself. Guests have also reported seeing a man in a double-breasted suit standing in one of the second story windows described as “obviously not from this era.” The former owners of the Inn, Arthur and Angela LeBlanc describe him as, “a good-natured ghost who seemed to only pull pranks on the employees he didn’t like.”

Kennebunk Health Parade on Main Street passing in front of The Tavern, what would become the Kennebunk Inn, c.1930

Kennebunk Health Parade on Main Street passing in front of The Tavern, what would become the Kennebunk Inn, c.1930

A local medium has visited the Inn several times, and has suggested that there are three spirits inhabiting the structure: Perkins; another former employee named Cyrus; and a little girl named Emily. But it is Silas Perkins who has remained on the job at Kennebunk Inn, even in the afterlife, keeping an eye on the guests.

A line from his poem “The Common Road” says it all:

“I want to laugh with the common man
Wherever he chance to be,
I want to aid him when I can
Whenever there’s need of me.”

Kennebunk Inn, Main Street, c.1950s

Kennebunk Inn, Main Street, c.1950s

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Brick Store Museum | 117 Main Street, Kennebunk, ME | (207)985-4802 | info@brickstoremuseum.org

About The Kennebunk Inn

The Chefs/Owners of The Kennebunk Inn and its restaurant, Academe Maine Brasserie & Tavern met when they were students at The Culinary Institute of America. They have appeared on "Best Thing I Ever Ate," "Chopped," "Rewrapped," and "Beat Bobby Flay" on the Food Network and on the Travel Channel's "Food Paradise." They have also appeared in Oprah Winfrey's "O" The Magazine. The O'Heas have been guest chefs at Walt Disney World's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Houston's "Sugar Land Food & Wine Affair, Boca Raton's "Boca Bacchanal" Food & Wine Festival, and on Holland America Cruise Line.