York, Maine is a Seaside Resort Rich in History

The one room schoolhouse in York, Maine, among the oldest in the country, looks far different than the modern schools furnished with state-of-the-art laboratories and audio visual equipment where students will soon be headed. Yet at least one thing is the same. Like contemporary schools, the small, brown clapboard building stands as a testament to parental concern and involvement in their children's education.

The United States was still a colony of Great Britain in 1745, when York parents petitioned selectmen for a village school. Although the selectmen were in favor of a school, they didn't allocate funds. According to town records, the citizens had to build the school themselves "at their own cost and charges." Years later, the town voted two pounds, three shillings and four pence-about $13-to finish the building. Selectmen were clear, however, that they intended the money for only "bare requirements of actual protection from the elements." That rudimentary school was used for more than a century, before being sold in 1850 for $30.

Thanks to the efforts of a prescient 19th century preservationist, Elizabeth Perkins, the schoolhouse is again an educational institution. After researching several one room schoolhouses, she chose one in Sudbury, Massachusetts, as the model and hired colonial revival architect Philip Dana Orcutt to restore the structure. Now, every year thousands of children visit the schoolhouse and learn about colonial schools.

Miss Perkins saved more than the schoolhouse. She ignited the town's enthusiasm for historic preservation. Now travelers to York may visit eight historic museum buildings, including a colonial hostelry, Jefferds' Tavern, the dungeons and cells of the oldest jail in the United States, the Old Gaol and John Hancock Wharf & Warehouse, owned by the signer of the Declaration of Independence. At the George Marshal Store Gallery, a 19th century general store that is now a contemporary art gallery, ask to go upstairs, where you'll see the old wood winch used to unload cargo from river boats and the rods used to support the unusual structure. Visitors who tour Miss Perkins' own home and restored gardens discover the elegance and grace of the colonial revival style.

Miss Perkins was among the first to recognize the importance of saving historic buildings. But she was by no means the last, and her respect for old buildings, whether grand homes or vernacular architecture, is a lasting legacy reflected in renovations that continue to the present time.

York Harbor Inn, which began welcoming guests more than one hundred years ago, is an example of a thoroughly updated residence that pays homage to its past. Period wallpaper patterns and paint colors set a gracious mood at the 300 year old, oceanfront colonial. Lulled by ocean waves, guests slumber peacefully in four poster and brass beds, perhaps dreaming of the village's seafaring past and intrepid sea captains who built many of the nearby mansions.

The Harbor Crest Inn dates from 1730, but several renovations later, it best illustrates the colonial revival style popular in the late 1800s. The grand residence is set like a jewel behind sweeping lawns and period gardens, hugged by the original ornamental wrought iron fence. Recently redone, no two rooms at Harbor Crest are furnished alike. The inn adopts a true period ambiance and even bathrooms manage to retain their individuality with fixtures and distinctive decorations. Strolling through the rooms feels like walking through the pages of a home furnishings magazine with ideas galore.

There is much to see in York, Maine, and a sightseeing tour aboard the York Trolley is a relaxing way to get acquainted with the historic seaside resort. The tour guide entertains travelers with such varied tales as cannibalism on a nearby island and a lighthouse keeper's child who rode a bucket on a cable operated by pulleys each morning to reach a school bus on the mainland.

Article provided by Homesteader

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