Summer cottages: Dillingham Point

By Barbara F. Dyer | Jul 24, 2014
Courtesy of: Camden Public Library Historic photos of a few of the 19th-century summer cottages on Camden's Dillingham Point.

Yes, I know I “put down my pen” after 30 years, but by request from many readers and my addictions to saving Camden history, the pen jumped right back in my hand.

So I thought of the era when summer “cottages” were built in Camden and Rockport. I wrote about some of the ones on Ogier Hill (upper Chestnut Street) and upper Bay View Street. That was followed by Lake City and now my thoughts go to Dillingham Point.

This attractive group of cottages began as a private park of 10 acres, with Camden harbor on three sides. The new owners added much to the social life of Camden. Some bought and built for themselves, and became permanently identified with Camden. It is recorded that “Arequipa” was the first summer cottage built in Camden, by Edwin F. Dillingham of Bangor. He and his family had spent 25 consecutive summers here, according to J.R. Prescott’s book, "Glimpses of Camden," printed in 1904.

“The Pointed Firs” was also his property and his son's, who rented it to Thomas Doliber, president of the Mellin’s Food Company.

“The Birches” was the property of E. L. Dillingham of New York City and was rented early on to F. W. Griffin of Orange, N.J.

“The Gray Lodge” was owned by Dr. F. H. Dillingham of New York City. That was an attractive cottage with seven "chambers" and a very choice shore location. He rented it for a spell to George Quincy of Boston.

“Fernica” was a smaller cottage with only five “chambers.”

All were arranged very neatly, with rooms on the first floor and bedrooms on the second.  All had wide porches, fireplaces and were fully furnished. A private wharf and bath house gave all the owners and renters boating and bathing privileges.

In his “History of Camden,” Reuel Robinson states:

“The first 'summer cottage' was built by Caleb Holyoke of Brewer, on a lot of land on Ogier’s Point, purchased by him in 1871. A. M. Judson, whose wife was a descendant of Lewis Ogier, purchased his original lot and built 'Stoneyhurst.'  At about the same time, Edwin F. Dillingham purchased his original lot on Ogier’s (now Dillingham’s) Point and erected 'Arequipa.' "

Later, Manley Hardy of Brewer built a small cottage on an adjoining lot on the Point, and in 1882 William H. Gardiner, of Philadelphia, purchased a lot of the western side of the harbor and erected the cottage 'Edgewater'.  Manley Hardy was a friend of the Native Americans. His daughter, Fanny Hardy Erickstrom, later became the noted authority on the Native Americans."

Melvin Heights was another section of early summer cottages. The Melvin Farm was purchased in 1888 by William A. French of Boston, who made it a summer home known as “Hillcrest."  So by 1890, Camden had a boom in real estate. Several farms were sold to the wealthy for summer cottages, and large summer estates were being built. There was the Abbott Farm in Melvin Heights, bought by James Wright, of Philadelphia, and the Watson place in the same neighborhood by Wright’s daughter, Mrs. Timothy Welsh.  After Wright’s death, his place was purchased by William W. Justice, of Philadelphia, who called it “Blueberry Farm.”

I read somewhere that Mechanic Street was paid for by one summer resident from the Melvin Heights area, because he wanted a nice road and Camden could not afford it.

Ignatius Sherman was born in Camden Oct. 11, 1798, and died in 1870. He owned what was known as the Isaac Morse Farm, extending from the end of Sherman’s Point to near the top of Megunticook Mountain. In 1901, Sherman’s Point was sold by the heirs of Ignatius Sherman to George B. Wilson, of Philadelphia. Wilson cleared it of underbrush and superfluous growth and had built a macadamized road leading from the Belfast Road. He also divided it into fine cottage lots, several of which he sold, but when Robinson was writing "History of Camden," which ended in 1907, no summer cottages had been erected there.

I really do not know what happened, but in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s the town of Camden owned it and it was used for families to have picnics there. It really was a wonderful place and used by all  When I was a teenager, a group of us used to row from the Public Landing and catch flounders on the way. We took an iron skillet, raw potatoes, Milky Way candy bars and, of course Moxie to drink. We fried the raw potatoes, flounders that the boys cleaned, and had picnics we shall never forget.

Mouse Island was a little to the east of Sherman’s Point and if the tide were low, we would leave the rowboat on Sherman’s Point and walk over the rocks to picnic on Mouse Island.  Sometimes we were not paying attention to the tide, and got wet getting back to the boat. At that time, I didn’t pay much attention to politics, but we heard that a local contractor would lend money to the town for payroll, etc.,(until taxes came in once a year), and without interest, as long as Sherman’s Point was kept for the residents to use. When the contractor died, the Point was sold and I believe that Howard Holton built the first house there on the Point.

There are many attractive homes on the Point today, but not summer cottages of old.  I was invited to a nice lunch one day at Sherman’s Point, and I looked out the large glass windows. Lo and behold, there was Mouse Island that I hadn’t seen for 70 years. It seemed as if I had suddenly found an old friend.

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