CHERRYFIELD, Maine — Some of the most stunning examples of 19th century architecture stand sentinel on the streets of Cherryfield, a community that straddles the Narraguagus River.
Within a specially preserved 75-acre historic district, more than 80 homes and buildings have been identified as having historic or architectural significance. Visitors will get a peek inside these homes this weekend, as the local historical society hosts its annual house tour.
The homes’ styles include Second Empire, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival, dating as early as 1794. Some contain curving porches, mansard roofs, intricate wood trim details, original fireplaces and wide pine floors. The historic area includes churches, former stores and taverns, a working blacksmith shop, an apothecary and a railway station.
The town was founded around the timber industry, and most of these historic homes were built by lumber barons from families such as Campbell, Nash, Burnham, Nickels, Burbank and Willey.
Eight of the historic Cherryfield homes and buildings will be part of a tour from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 11, according to Kathy Upton of the Cherryfield-Narraguagus Historical Society.
“Many of the homes were built by the Campbell family,” she said Wednesday. “There are three in a row on Main Street and one across the street, all built by Campbells. General Alexander Campbell was a lumber baron, and as a smart Scotsman, he later diversified into shipping.”
Upton said the ships used to come all the way up the Narraguagus River from the Milbridge Harbor as far as the Route 1 bridge, which used to be a covered bridge.
Local lore has it that every time a Campbell built a house, it was bigger and more ornate than his relatives’. The impressive structures eventually blocked the view of the river by the family’s matriarch.
The first Campbell home was built in 1794. Others followed in 1840, 1852, 1860, 1861, 1875, 1879, 1883 and 1893.
Over the years, Upton said, some of the original homes were lost to fire, including one on the site of Upton’s current home. At one point, she said, “a pants factory burned downtown, and the ashes blew all over town and caught some of the homes on fire.”
Upton said the reason Cherryfield has been able to keep many of its historic structures is that their ownership has remained within the same families.
The Gen. Alexander House, which stands atop the highest hill in town on Route 1, has never left family hands, Upton said.
“Part of the general’s house is still intact, including his bedroom,” she said. “It is pretty amazing, really.”
Upton said she hopes the event also will help the fundraising to restore a cannon from 1650. The cannon originally sat on the banks of the Narraguagus River and injured a local man when it was fired to celebrate the end of the Civil War, she said.
Irate townspeople threw the cannon into the river where it was recovered in 1905.
It was once the counterweight to the clock at a local church and now is undergoing restoration. Upton estimated the restoration will cost about $6,000.
Tickets for the tour may be purchased at the Cherryfield-Narraguagus Historical Society on River Road. Included in the $20 tour are concerts at the Cherryfield Congregational Church on an 1888 pump organ, live demonstrations at the blacksmith shop and refreshments.
For more information, call 546-2076.