KENNEBUNKPORT — Jeb Bush has a week to go before he officially announces his plans to run for president. Saxony Imports can’t wait that long and already is selling “Bush 2016” hats, magnets and mints.

The Bushes are good for business and another President Bush wouldn’t hurt one bit, said store manager Hayley Johnson.

“It brings interest to the town we don’t get without it,” she said. “We get a lot of people asking how to get to their home. ‘Where’s Walker’s Point?’ They want to know where the Bushes eat.”

Jeb Bush is building his own house on Walker’s Point, creating a permanent link to the family estate and to Maine, where his parents make their summer home and have endeared themselves to many in town for their down-to-earth ways.

If America had royalty, the Bushes would be it in Kennebunkport and Jeb would be a prince.

“I think it’s just cool to have a family with that kind of legacy,” said Jenna Scinicarello, who was in town with her brother to visit the Bush homestead, part of their effort to visit the homes of every president.


George H.W. Bush, referred to for clarity’s sake by many in town as senior, and his wife, Barbara, are often seen about town, whether it’s attending the Memorial Day parade or Barbara Bush walking her dog on the beach.

It’s unclear whether Jeb Bush will meld into the community in the same way – whether or not he becomes No. 45.

Several residents have spotted his younger brother Neil, who apparently drives a pickup and was seen jogging past the turnout for tourists taking in the Walker’s Point compound, but several visitors interviewed Monday said they hadn’t seen Jeb yet. And any enthusiasm for another Bush presidency was muted, overshadowed perhaps by Barbara Bush’s 90th birthday party.

“There’s a kind of timelessness with first ladies,” Johnson said. “She’s more of a draw than her children.”


The Bush children were in town to toast their mother at an evening gala under tents set up down the street from Walker’s Point at St. Ann’s Church. They were joined by a host of friends, famous and otherwise, that included Amy Grant, Reba McEntire and Michael W. Smith, who support Barbara Bush’s literacy campaign.


Among those in town for the celebration was Jeff Rice, of Nashville, Tennessee, who was taking in the view of Walker’s Point with his wife, Kim, on Monday. Rice is on the board of directors of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, which has worked closely with the former first lady on literacy projects.

“They’re a wonderful family. They’ve done a lot for our country,” Rice said.

The former first lady created the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy more than 25 years ago while her husband was in the Oval Office. The foundation has raised $42 million since it became a public charity in 2012.

John Conheeney, of Saddle River, New Jersey, was another guest who took a stroll down Ocean Avenue. He’d been to the compound before and has played a round of golf with both Bush presidents. He was paired with the elder Bush while the younger was in another cart with someone else. Conheeney’s wife, author Mary Higgins Clark, also has been a longtime supporter of Barbara Bush’s literacy efforts.

“It excites us,” he said of Jeb Bush’s expected run for the White House. “If he gets the nomination, he’ll get her vote,” he said of his wife, adding with a smile: “and I usually do what she tells me.”



The second oldest of the Bush brothers, Jeb is building his “cottage” on 1.3 acres he is purchasing from a relative, George Herbert Walker III. The land, without a house, is valued by the Kennebunkport tax assessor at $1.4 million.

Plans call for a $600,000 two-story house, shingled to blend in with the compound’s existing buildings, including the main house built at the end of the point in 1920.

The house is ample, with 3,000 square feet of living space and five bathrooms, but not nearly as large as some on the town’s affluent coastline. It was designed by Wells architect Kristi Kenney of KW Architects and is being built by Terry Philbrick. He built a similar, smaller two-story house on the point in 2013 for Marvin Bush, the youngest son of former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.

Whether the former Florida governor ultimately becomes a snowbird – wintering down south and summering in Maine – Millie Ore hopes his presence doesn’t alter the picturesque character of Kennebunkport.

The Bush residency is part of the allure of this quaint town, she said. “It can also destroy the charm” if the town gets too big, too commercial, she worried. “I hope it doesn’t.”

Zach Harmon, a Kittery police officer who lives in town, has had pleasant interactions with members of the Bush clan and he believes having another President Bush living in town would be “awesome.”

“I don’t think it would make things crazy around the port,” he said, referring to the occasional disruption when the leader of the Free World comes to town. He likes the excitement of having helicopters fly overhead and thinks it’s a treat to get held up for a couple of minutes in traffic while the presidential motorcade passes.

“They’re such nice people,” he said of George and Barbara. “I don’t mind being inconvenienced.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.