2015-09-04 / Front Page

Arundel plans a party

Town will celebrate its centennial
By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Jake Hawkins, president of the Arundel Historical Society, stands at the doorway of the Burnham House, built in 1795, which doubled as both a farmhouse and, from 1833 to 1870, the town’s post office. Last year the home was moved from its historic location on Alfred Road to the society’s North Chapel Commons property on Limerick Road, where members hope to restore it as a museum about the history of the town, which this year celebrates its 100th birthday. (Duke Harrington photo) Jake Hawkins, president of the Arundel Historical Society, stands at the doorway of the Burnham House, built in 1795, which doubled as both a farmhouse and, from 1833 to 1870, the town’s post office. Last year the home was moved from its historic location on Alfred Road to the society’s North Chapel Commons property on Limerick Road, where members hope to restore it as a museum about the history of the town, which this year celebrates its 100th birthday. (Duke Harrington photo) ARUNDEL — “You know,” said Jake Hawkins, president of the Arundel Historical Society, as he shrugged and kicked at a tuft of grass Monday, at the group’s North Chapel Common property, “I’m not sure how many people in this town even know.”

What residents might not know, and what the Historical Society hopes to celebrate in two weeks, is the 100th anniversary of Arundel’s incorporation as an independent town.


Route 111, also known as Alfred Road, is seen near the North Chapel Common property of the Arundel Historical Society, as it looked around 1915, when the town gained its independence from Kennebunkport. (Courtesy photo) Route 111, also known as Alfred Road, is seen near the North Chapel Common property of the Arundel Historical Society, as it looked around 1915, when the town gained its independence from Kennebunkport. (Courtesy photo) “Probably nine people out of 10 who live in Arundel don’t have any clue about that,” said society board member Donna der Kinderen. “Hopefully, after the 19th, it’ll be a bigger deal than it is now.”

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19 the Arundel Historical Society will host its third annual Arundel Heritage Day in the society’s North Chapel Common property, located at the corner of Route 111 and Limerick Road.

A free, family-friendly event, Heritage Day was created by the society as a way to stitch back neighborly feelings following the discord that accompanied Arundel’s entry into RSU 21.


The headstones of Samuel and Elizabeth Lunt, located in a small family plot off Route 111 in Arundel, in the foreground of their farmhouse, left, built in 1798, seen in the distance next to another historic home, the Burnham House. On Sept. 19, the field between the two locations, now known as North Chapel Common, will play host to the third annual Arundel Heritage Day, which this year coincides with the town’s 100th birthday. (Duke Harrington photo) The headstones of Samuel and Elizabeth Lunt, located in a small family plot off Route 111 in Arundel, in the foreground of their farmhouse, left, built in 1798, seen in the distance next to another historic home, the Burnham House. On Sept. 19, the field between the two locations, now known as North Chapel Common, will play host to the third annual Arundel Heritage Day, which this year coincides with the town’s 100th birthday. (Duke Harrington photo) “There was a need to reconcile the two camps,” der Kinderen said. “The issue was decided. Whether you were on the winning side or the losing side at that point didn’t matter. It was done. So, it was like, now let’s come together as a community and do something positive.”

“That’s the great thing about this town,” der Kinderen said. “The RSU issue was one of the most contentious I’ve ever seen, but folks in this town are very good about separating the issues from the people.”


A March 1941 issue of the Biddeford Journal, now the Journal Tribune, documents a “typical New England town meeting” in Arundel, or North Kennebunkport as it was known at the time. (Courtesy photo) A March 1941 issue of the Biddeford Journal, now the Journal Tribune, documents a “typical New England town meeting” in Arundel, or North Kennebunkport as it was known at the time. (Courtesy photo) As in past years, the event will celebrate Arundel’s rural history and traditions with hayrides, blacksmithing and spinning demonstrations and writing with a quill pen, in addition to the crafts, old engine exhibitions and farm animals on display. Youngsters will be given tokens for participating in various demonstrations that can be redeemed for toys and prizes.

The popular Reminisce Tent of historical pictures and writings will return, while this year will feature the debut of a book on Arundel history prepared by the historical society. However, far from a dry account of events and dates, the book features family histories, as well as personal accounts authored by nine different residents of what it was like living in Arundel over the past century.

“There is no author of this book, really,” der Kinderen said. “In many ways, the entire town wrote this book.”

Of course, settlement in the area goes back far more than 100 years, as does the name Arundel which, ironically enough, has only been the official name of the town for the past 58 years.

The region was originally settled by the English in 1653, at which time the entire area between the Batson and Mousam rivers was known as Cape Porpoise.

In 1681 the borders were shifted somewhat, to extend 8 miles inland between the Kennebunk and Little rivers. However, the presence of a burgeoning economy, including five mills and a brickyard, did not prevent the area from being abandoned during the so-called “Indian Wars.”

When hostilities ended and settlers returned in 1719, the town was reestablished as Arundel. That name was changed to Kennebunkport by the first legislature in 1821, the year after Maine gained its independence from Massachusetts.

But in 1915, what is now known as Arundel was allowed to split off from Kennebunkport, taking the somewhat cumbersome name of North Kennebunkport. The split took place in large part because the farmers of what is now called Arundel had grown tired of paying taxes to support the infrastructure of downtown Kennebunkport.

“This is when we became an independent town, and charted our own course,” Hawkins said.

However, that course did not include a fully independent identity for another 42 years. In 1930, the year after Kennebunk writer Kenneth Roberts published his historical novelArundel,” there was an attempt at town meeting to adopt the time-lost municipal name. That effort failed, however, and it was not until 1957 — the year Roberts was given a posthumous Pulitzer Prize — that West Kennebunk residents finally agreed on the name change, which easily passed through the state Legislature.

The next few decades passed with little fanfare, in keeping with the low-key nature of the town. Unlike Kennebunkport, which established its historical society just a few years before Arundel became Arundel, a local version was not created until 2008.

There had been talk of drafting a history of the town’s volunteer fire department and, at a selectmen’s meeting in late 2006, der Kinderen suggested the town go all-in and establish a historical society to document and preserve all of the town’s history. By the end of the meeting, she was drafted to lead that effort.

Since then, the Arundel Historical Society has been one of the busiest around. After acquiring 3 acres at the corner of Route 111 and Limerick Road, it purchased two 18th century farmhouses slated for demolition. One, now called the Lunt House, was home to one of the town’s first families, while the other, called the Burnham House, also housed a post office through much of the 19th century.

Both homes were moved to new foundations at the society’s property, now known as North Chapel Common, at a cost of nearly $70,000 — a considerable sum for a historical society, given that many across Maine struggle just to keep their doors open. But the society has not stopped there. A capital campaign is in full swing, designed to restore both farmhouses and turn one (Lunt) into society offices, and the other (Burnham) into a museum. Meanwhile, the society also has high hopes of rebuilding the old North Chapel church that once stood near the property. Once complete, it will be offered up as a meetinghouse for groups of all sizes. All told, the three buildings are expected to cost $500,000 or more to complete. That’s money the society raises from donations of money, supplies and effort, and baked goods.

“Anywhere we go, we bring food. It’s something we’ve become known for,” der Kinderen said, with a laugh. “In fact, there are people who’ve told us they only go to vote because they know we’re going to be there with a table.”

“The North Chapel is a big project, but that’s worth it,” Hawkins said. “It’s something we want to do for the townspeople, because, other than the Mildred L. Day school, there is no place in town where people can get together.”

Also helping to support the cause will be proceeds from the historical society’s new book. It’s something the group had talked about since the society was founded, but the timing just worked out with the centennial celebration.

“The actual number of years is not magic,” der Kinderen said. “But the opportunity it presents to focus people on a particular moment is what it’s important. This was the time to put out a book.”

Interestingly, given their acute interest in local history, neither der Kinderen nor Hawkins is a native of the area, or even of Maine. der Kinderen and her husband moved to Arundel in the 1970s — “We came to Maine on our honeymoon, fell in love with the place, and never left,” she says — while Hawkins arrived from Pennsylvania in 1988, having similarly grown attached to Maine while in state for college.

Both say settling on land in Arundel was a happy accident, based on available lots at the time, and both have seen Arundel become less of a farm town and more of a bedroom community during the intervening years. However, Arundel has remained a pocket of rural Maine surrounded by larger metro areas and, more telling, it has not become overrun by values from away imported with its newer residents.

Just as occurred with them, almost everyone who moves to Arundel soon acclimates to an attitude and way of life that has changed very little since the days of its founding farmers.

“In that way, Arundel is contagious,” der Kinderen said.

Now, all she and Hawkins hope for is no rain and a good turnout for Heritage Day, so that rural spirit can continue to take root.

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