Dresden’s Bowman House. Courtesy of Historic New England

Come celebrate the river, the land and history at Kennebec Days at Historic New England’s newly opened 1762 Bowman House Aug. 21-22. 

The Colonial Maine Living History Association will be on hand to demonstrate aspects of colonial life along the river.  Talk to the crew of a replica 18th century jolly boat complete with cannon. Watch as craftspeople demonstrate blacksmithing, rigging, rope making candle making, basket weaving and more. See how a French trader conducted international trade here. Join in singing sea shanties led by a sailor and watch 18th century militia drill in the field. 

Inside, hear the story of life in Jonathan Bowman’s mansion on the Maine frontier. See interiors meticulously preserved by artist, designer, entrepreneur and historic preservationist Bill Waters.  

The story of Bowman House is inextricably linked to that of its neighbor, the 1761 Pownalborough Courthouse. Both were built by architect Gershom Flagg for the Kennebec Proprietors, a group of Boston investors in what they believed would become a regional commercial and legal center.  

The Pownalborough Courthouse will also be open during the event. At the courthouse, character re-enactors will portray Rev. Jacob and Sally Bailey, William McGill, father of a soldier in White’s 11th Massachusetts Regiment, the soldier’s wife, and visiting physician Dr. Cony.  Pownalborough Courthouse is located about a mile down Rte. 128 from Bowman Lane. FMI on the Courthouse, visit lincolncountyhistory.org. 

Jonathan Bowman was sent to Pownalborough by his Uncle Thomas Hancock, the wealthiest merchant in pre-Revolutionary War Boston and a Kennebec proprietor. In addition to holding a number of prominent legal positions, Bowman was an active participant in the booming lumber and shipping business going on right outside his doorstep, with ships travelling between the Kennebec, Boston and points South, Europe and the West Indies in the tumultuous years of the American Revolution and new republic.  

Bowman created a home for his family whose stylish interiors would have fit into the finest Boston mansions of the time, an oasis of comfort and beauty amidst the rough realities of life on the Maine frontier. The work of at least three Black servants and one young indentured servant enabled the Bowman family’s lifestyle and allowed Bowman to manage his house, lands, legal work and shipping interests  

After Bowman’s death, the house was purchased by James Carney, a successful blacksmith servicing farmers and the busy Pownalborough waterfront and builder of a 181-ton ship on the site. In the 1870s Bowman House became offices for the Lincoln Ice Company who owned it until 1911, succeeded by decades of ownership by historic preservationists trying to preserve the property in its degraded but amazingly untouched condition. In 1965, Bowman House was purchased by artist, entrepreneur and historic preservationist William Waters and his partner Cyrus Pinkham. Bill spent 51 years restoring the elegant interiors and filling the house with Bowman pieces and beautiful 18th century objects and furniture. His devoted stewardship allows visitors a glimpse into the sparkling and elegant world of the 18th century as seen through the eyes of a designer, collector and ardent historic preservationist. 

Bowman House grounds, located at 22 Bowman Lane in Dresden, are open daily dawn to dusk. All visitors must follow all COVID posted rules. For more information visit HistoricNewEngland.org.

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