Hilborn’s Home Kitchen opened at 388 Cottage Road (known then as 125 Pillsbury St.) in 1928. Its proprietor, Fred Hilborn, became very well-liked in the community during his roughly eight years of operation in South Portland. Let’s take a look at this baker and his bakery on Meeting House Hill.

Hilborn’s Home Kitchen at 388 Cottage Road (the storefront on the right) in 1934. George Hilborn operated his bakery from this building from roughly 1928 to 1934. South Portland Historical Society photo

George F. “Fred” Hilborn was born in Portland in 1871, the son of Roscoe and Mary Hilborn. Roscoe was an engineer for the Grand Trunk Railroad, but Fred knew that he wanted to be a baker from a young age.

He started his own bakery in the 1880s, renting space at 97 Atlantic St. in Portland. Calling his bakery “Hilborn’s Home Kitchen,” he operated from that site for many years. He had two large brick ovens in the space, each 10½ feet square.

In 1909, Fred attended the Boston Bread Exposition and won a medal there for his bread making, an achievement he was very proud of. In 1911, after having leased the space at 97 Atlantic St. for over 20 years, the building was offered for sale and Fred purchased it.

Fred married Mary Howard in 1913; they were already longtime friends as Mary had been working as a clerk in his bakery for about 20 years. Their son, George F. Hilborn, Jr., was born in 1914.

Fred sold the building at 97 Atlantic St. in January, 1922, and moved Hilborn’s Home Kitchen to 233 Forest Ave. Toward the end of 1922, he closed the bakery and left with Mary on a long vacation. When they returned in February, 1923, they reopened the business at a new location – 741 Congress St. – a small building attached to the left side of the 735-739 Congress St. block (the building where Harmon’s Floral Company is now located).


The storefront at 388 Cottage Road is now home to David’s 388. South Portland Historical Society photo

In August, 1923, Fred and Mary Hilborn made the papers when the woman who had been crowned Miss Portland, Winona Drew, went on a “shopping” trip in Portland to outfit herself for the Miss America pageant to take place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in September.

Crowds in Portland followed her as she stopped at several stores to pick out wardrobe pieces. She stopped at Cropley & Anderson’s store where she selected a pair of traveling shoes (which the store gifted to her). She then stopped at J.E. Palmer Company where she tried on her evening gown that had been purchased for her by the Evening Express and Sunday Telegram. Next was a visit to Palmer Shoe Co. next door, where she picked out evening slippers and rhinestone buckles, a gift from the store.

Finally, she headed to Hilborn’s Home Kitchen at 741 Congress St. According to a story in the Portland Evening Express, “Here the proprietor, George F. Hilborn, and his wife, Mary E. Hilborn, had qualified as royal pastry cooks by baking for Miss Portland quite the most marvelous cake in which it had ever been her privilege to set her even white teeth. It was one of those confections which is literally too pretty to eat. Iced in pink and white with pink roses and delicate foliage around the edge. It gleamed crystalline and tempting. ‘Congratulations, Miss Portland,’ it read, and ‘Atlantic City 1923.’”

Starting in 1924, Fred and Mary were operating the bakery from 739 Congress St. and they lived in an apartment upstairs.

After the South Portland High School football team’s undefeated season in 1930, George Hilborn presented them with a congratulatory cake. Pictured here at top left is the football team captain, Ralph Gowell; at top right is Fred Hilborn; at bottom is an image of the team’s coach, Harry Mapes. South Portland Historical Society image

In 1928, Fred and Mary moved the bakery to Meeting House Hill in South Portland. They opened at 125 Pillsbury St. (now known as 388 Cottage Road); that storefront had just previously been home to an A & P grocery store.

They immediately became active in the community. With their son George Jr. now attending school here, they always showed an interest in the South Portland schools. They supported the high school by advertising in the yearbook each year and, in 1930, they made a special custom cake for the boys’ high school football team after a 6-0 win over Portland capped off an undefeated season.


According to a story in the Portland Evening Express, the Hilborns “presented Capt. ‘Bandy’ Gowell of the victorious gridders a big and wonderfully decorated cake. Around the side of the cake are small panels on which are the scores of the games played by the team this season. Each player, who took part in the Portland battle is represented by a small football-player figure, plainly labeled.”

Fred and Mary Hilborn closed the bakery in 1934 and “retired,” however they moved to the home at 376 Cottage Road and were still listed as bakers for another year before finally retiring after a roughly 50-year career in the business. Fred died in 1939 and Mary in 1961. They are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland.

‘People’s History of the South Portland Waterfront’ walking tour offered

In 1924, Hilborn’s Home Kitchen was operating from 741 Congress St. In this photo, the bakery can be seen just behind the person on the sidewalk. South Portland Historical Society photo

On Saturday, Oct. 7, at 1 p.m., Seth Goldstein from the South Portland Historical Society, will offer his People’s History of the South Portland Waterfront walking tour. The tour will leave from the Southern Maine Community College campus and will focus on regional Indigenous history, African enslavement, and Seth’s research on the West Indies trade. The rain date is Oct. 14. The tour is $10 for current members of the historical society; $25 for non-members. Registration is required. To register for the tour, please call 767-7299 or email sphistory04106@gmail.com.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at sphistory04106@gmail.com.

Hilborn advertisement from the 1931 South Portland High School yearbook. South Portland Historical Society image

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