Elizabeth Perkins House
The Elizabeth Perkins house stands as one of the most complete and finest surviving examples of colonial revival architecture and interior design in the Piscataqua Region of Maine that is open to the public on a regular basis. Its gabled outline, elegant grounds, and prominent site along the York River at the end of the 18th century Sewall's Bridge combine to make it one of York's most prominent and endearing historic landmarks.
The collections and furnishings housed here are a prime example of the Colonial Revival, a movement that was popular in New England at the turn of the 20th century. It was in large part a reaction to the industrialization, urbanization, and mass immigration happening in America at the time. The colonial revival was an attempt to escape the overwhelming changes the nation was facing by studying, preserving, and "recreating" colonial life. The movement rarely authentically reproduced historical truths, but instead created an idealized version of that past. It was during this period that once functional objects began to be used as decorative artifacts. Miss Elizabeth Perkins created comfortable interiors here that evoke the past through the antiques and decorative objects that crowd them, but also disguised the creature comforts that were demanded by late Victorian households. The result is a series of interiors that serve almost as stage sets for the lives and activities that took place in them.
In 1686 a one room house with an end chimney was built here by a Timothy Yeales; it was called the "Piggin House." The name is derived from the small wooden box with an upright stave to serve as a handle that was known as a piggin. The present dining room in the rear ell is believed to incorporate parts of that original house. A later owner added the large two story center chimney four room Georgian style house that overlooks the York River about 1730. The property changed hands a number of times over the years until 1898 when Mary Sowles Perkins and her daughter Elizabeth purchased the then dilapidated property for $1300. From 1900 to 1935 Elizabeth and her mother added many additions and altered the house to suit their living and entertaining needs. One interesting addition was the placement of a Cigar Store Indian, belived to have been carved by Samuel A. Robb, overlooking the York River.
Elizabeth and Mary were driving forces of the colonial revival movement in York. Arriving from New York to summer here, over the years they were involved in movements to save the Old Gaol, Jefferd's Tavern, and the Old School House. On the river, they transformed their own house into a version of a "colonial home" that combined contemporary trends and their own personal taste. Elizabeth loved to go antique hunting, and the furnishing of this house allowed her to indulge in that passion. Combined with inherited furnishings and family portraits are large amounts of decorative accessories, glass, and ceramics accumulated in these buying forays, many with local histories. The eclectic interiors mix rare Aubusson, oriental, and hooked rugs with fine American and European antique furniture, paintings and tapestries augmented by more homely accoutrements added for comfort. Visitors find rooms filled with rare and wonderful things that are nonetheless comfortable and inviting. A fine Simon Willard tall clock on the stair landing ticks away the hours just as it did when Miss Perkins was in residence and bespeaks the timeless aura of the interiors.
Mary died in 1929 and by the late 1930s Elizabeth had decided to dedicate the house as a memorial to her mother. All further work from then on focused on the creation of a more "colonial" interior. Elizabeth Perkins died in 1952, bequeathing the house for use as a museum. Today the house is preserved as it was at the time of her death and is open to the public mid June through September.