Kennebunk Historical Society, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, hosted a gala Dec. 1 at White Columns, the Greek Revival mansion at the top of Dock Square.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Board President Sarah Auer. “It takes a village, for sure, to keep this place open. It is almost like a time capsule of what it was like to live back then, with much of the original artwork, furniture and décor.”

The house was built in 1853 and was home to three generations of the Perkins-Nott family over 130 years. The last of the line, Elizabeth Nott, happened to be a librarian for Kennebunk Historical Society.

“She gave this away – lock, stock and barrel,” said docent Isobel Young of Wells. “Her only stipulation was that the house be open to the public.”

“Isn’t a beautiful old house?” said Irene Cluff, who decorated the hallway for the gala. “The first time I stepped inside, I fell in love.”

Seventy-five guests enjoyed a Prosecco toast, hors d’oeuvres and confections; took advantage of a discount in the gift shop; and hummed along with Christmas tunes played by pianist Katherine Mayfield.


Dave Peck, a first-time visitor from Biddeford, said, “I’ve driven by so many times in my lifetime. Seeing it lit up like this for the holidays, I’m in awe.”

“Fancy food, cool house – what’s not to love?” said Mindee Goodrum of Kennebunk. Her roommate Lauren Deegan works for Kennebunk Savings Bank, lead sponsor of the society’s anniversary year.

The gala raised about $8,000 to support society operations, which include the maintenance of several properties, a vast collection of books, archival letters and records, antiques, art and artifacts. White Columns, which is named for the property’s defining feature, also houses a one-room permanent exhibit to former presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush.

Board member Al Black curated the Bush gallery to honor the World War II generation, which included not only his parents but the elder Bush, who was shot down over the Pacific in 1944. Of course, he survived and became the 41st president of the United States – and a summer resident of Kennebunkport.

“By visiting White Columns, built by an early ship builder,” Black said, “tourists learn about the ship building history and sea faring legacy of the town and will, we hope, have a lasting memory of how Kennebunkport is about more than just lobster rolls, the beach, shopping and whale watching.”

Tours resume in late May.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at

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