a bicycle parked in front of a house
Our History

Legacy in Kennebunkport

A Look Into Our Rich History

The golden age of maritime trade and seagoing adventure comes alive at the Kennebunkport Inn. Located just a mile upstream from where the Kennebunk River empties into the Atlantic, our inn’s distinctive history dates back more than two centuries.

The Backstory

1888-1926 | Gracious Living

By 1899, Harriet Thompson’s son—wealthy coffee and tea merchant Burleigh S. Thompson—decided to tear down the 100-year-old Perkins house to build “a fine and modern mansion” on the same foundation on Dock Square. Contemporary accounts call his grand new home “one of the most desirable estates in Kennebunkport … the house [having] been built without regard to expense.” Indeed, this lovely Federal-style house is graced by four open fireplaces, a parlor, a library, a butler’s pantry, and a servants’ dining room. Included with the four-acre property are 400 feet of frontage on the Kennebunk River and a private-float boat landing, plus a barn and a large stable, the latter “having accommodations for male servants,” as well as land and buildings on Temple Street.

1801-1888 | Tall Ships Ahoy

At the dawn of a new century, Ephraim Perkins—of the prominent Perkins family of merchants and sea captains—deeds 15 acres fronting the Kennebunk River to his son, Ephraim Perkins Jr. He makes a home for his family here, amid the thriving commercial enterprises of this bustling waterfront, a hub of Maine’s proud shipbuilding industry. Seven generations of the Perkins family would call this place home, until descendants Abbie Perkins and her son Harry sell the property to Harriet Thompson, passing the inn out of the Perkins line.

1926-2001 | A Legacy of Hospitality

Thompson wills his property to his daughter, the wife of Captain Daniel Dudley, who sells the Thompson house to Jacob Lloyd Hackenberg and his brother Murray of Pennsylvania. Heeding the call of the new era of travel and tourism, the owners renovate the main building, add a cocktail lounge and dining room, open the house as an inn (rooms go for $3 a night), and construct an annex. In a bold and controversial move during the mid-1950s, they built shops on the property along Spring Street, as well as a laundromat and apartment on Temple Street. Despite the clamor of their neighbors, the Hackenbergs also opened a take-out sandwich shop.

In 1961, the Hackenbergs sell the inn—now with 10 guest rooms in the main building, 26 in the annex, three dining rooms, a kitchen, a lounge, and offices—to town tax collector Thelma Burrows and her husband, Joseph, who remove the offending take-out booth and open the inn for year-round business. Ted and Marie Shields took over the inn in 1976, renovating the annex as the newly christened Riverhouse. Three years later, the property passed to Frederick and Martha Griffin. Among the changes they introduce is a new year-round dining room, “not really formal but nice, country, relaxing without being folksy.”

2001-Present | New Century, New Traditions

Debra Lennon, a 20-year veteran of the hospitality industry, and her husband Thomas Nill, a construction manager and master carpenter, purchased the inn, redecorating the guest rooms and public areas. Gleaming new wood flooring in the pub, stenciling in the Riverhouse, a new sundeck and outdoor fireplace, plus stunning sunset views over the river basin, add to the property’s charm and comfort.

The inn became part of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection in 2009. Retaining the inn’s gracious character while infusing it with contemporary flair, renovations and décor are guided by Kennebunkport’s colorful history as a shipbuilding and fishing village, as well as the 1899 home’s original Federal-style architecture. Combining the timeless appeal of traditional New England hospitality and the elegance of a modern world-class establishment, the inn’s beautifully appointed guest and public rooms offer classic luxury, historic style, and a heritage of warm and welcoming ambiance.