Kennebunkport Historical Society hosted a 1920s themed gala July 29 at White Columns, describing the dress code succinctly as “Gatsby.” Party-goers knew exactly what to do: order on Amazon.

“I got a real kick out of shopping,” said Wendy Gallant of Kennebunk. “I bought three dresses online and returned two.”

The silver dress Gallant selected had the distinctive features of 1920s women’s eveningwear – ornate beadwork, embroidery and fringe, with a matching feathered headband. And she was far from alone in looking like she’d stepped out of the Prohibition era.

“I’m so incredibly impressed with the costumes,” said board member Albert Black of Ogunquit.

When Kennebunkport Historical Society planned its 70th anniversary celebration, they knew they’d need two parties – one during Prelude to Christmas, which was held in December, and one that would be more convenient for summer residents.

“We want to remind our summer residents of their place in Kennebunkport history,” said Executive Director Kristin Lewis Haight.


The society was founded in 1952, making it now 71 years old, but that was no more of a deterrent to a good time than Prohibition law was back in the swinging 1920s.

“There were a lot of a lot of exciting things happening in Kennebunkport,” said staff historian Sharon Cummins. “Illegal consumption of alcohol became almost fashionable in artistic circles. York County tourist newspapers frequently made thinly veiled references to lavish wet parties thrown by the wealthy cottagers at Cape Arundel and Kennebunk Beach.”

To recreate some of the ambiance from that time, the Bess Jacques band performed live jazz on the porch of White Columns, the 1953 Greek Revival home managed by Kennebunkport Historical Society. On the lawn, Maine Classic Car Museum of Arundel parked a Rickenbacker from 1925 – the year “The Great Gatsby” was published. Vintage gowns were displayed in the parlor. The Kitchen Chicks and Musette served period-inspired hors d’oeuvres and “refreshments,” including classic gin and tonics. Gentlemen in boater hats held umbrellas for ladies in heavily beaded gowns, dodging raindrops across the yard to the event tent to bid on silent auction items.

Event sponsors included Kennebunk Savings, Spang Builders, Hazelwood Handyman, Wallingford Farm, dozens of other business sponsors, Michael and Janet Burd, Sarah and Tom vander Schaaff, and the Weyl family. The gala was a fundraiser for the historical society, which stewards nine buildings and their contents and offers educational programs, publications, research and seasonal tours.

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

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