With their awnings and granite hitching posts, the shops of the new business block opened to great fanfare in 1871, on the site where a dozen businesses and homes were destroyed in a fire the summer before. In newspaper ads, the connected row of new stores advertised products “such as to make the mouth water and the eyes glitter” -- tin stoves and leather boots, cornmeal and fine jewelry, ladies’ hats and croup syrup. Over the years, the Central Square stores at the Corner have offered South Berwick shoppers products from baby bottles to coffins. With the coming of Hollywood pictures in the 20th century, there was even a movie theater. For more than 130 years the block at The Corner has been an icon of South Berwick village, and is now a cornerstone of the South Berwick Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Located at the junction of Main and Portland Streets, two ancient roads from the Salmon Falls River landings in the south to Berwick in the north and Portland in the east, the site has attracted commerce since the 1700s.
The fire of July 1870 had destroyed South Berwick’s main assembly space, so the new building also featured two upstairs halls. Residents formed a Newichawanick Hall Association to create a large upstairs community center in the middle of the block; it sported all kinds of entertainment and became known in recent times as the Wadleigh Gardens Ballroom. It contains Mercy Street Studio photography today.
The Masons’ fraternal order also built a new, 75 square foot upstairs Masonic hall at the south end of the block (shown towards the left of the photo below); this upper story was demolished in the mid-1900s.
From The York County Atlas of 1872:
18-N.W. Kendall Stationer
17- Chas. E. Whitehead Tailor
16- Geo. W. Brookings Photo & Sewing Machine
15- C. J. Tyler Jewelry Store
14- Chas. Maloy, Boots and Shoes
13- Chas. E. Hobbs, Grocer
12- Rebecca Smith Millinery Store
11- S. W. Ricker Fancy Goods
10- C. C. Merrill Shoe Store
9- Union Store
8-J. P. Davis Stoves & Tinware
7-E. R. McIntire Hardware Store
6-8 Masonic Hall Block 6-N. Hanson, Druggist
(This page was revised in January 2010.)