Sarah Orne JewettNovelist, poet and short-story writer Sarah Orne Jewett was one of the luminaries of turn-of-the-century American literature. Her exact, kindly descriptions of the people and places she encountered near home gave Jewett’s writing a freshness that quickly became popular. She brought the world up the elm-lined streets, through the old-fashioned gardens and into the quiet kitchens of this small river town.

Young Sarah Orne JewettSarah was born in 1849 into a town full of family. Her Jewett grandfather and great uncle had made their fortunes trading and building ships on the Salmon Falls River. They owned two of the grandest houses in town,and their children settled nearby. Sarah’s own father was a doctor (and her mother the daughter of a doctor) who often took Sarah on his visits to patients and their families in the neighboring countryside.

As a woman Sarah split her life, living part time with her sister in South Berwick – riding, gardening,and boating on the river – and part time with her intimate friend Annie Fields, traveling abroad or mingling in the artistic life of Boston. She died in South Berwick in 1909.

--From the Sarah Orne Jewett Walking Tour brochure by the Jewett Eastman Memorial Committee, trustees of Jewett Eastman House.

A visitor to contemporary South Berwick can follow in Sarah's footsteps and see much of the built and natural environment that shaped her life and influenced her writing.  The following is a tour of Sarah Orne Jewett's South Berwick. (This article was updated in May 2012.)

Sarah Orne Jewett House, South Berwick, Maine

Built in 1774. Jewett was born here on September 3, 1849, the second of three daughters of Caroline and Dr. Theodore H. Jewett. This stately Georgian house was then owned by her shipbuilding grandfather, Captain Theodore F. Jewett. (Read an 1825 letter Capt. Jewett sent home from a voyage.) A few years after Sarah’s birth, her family moved into their new house next door. In 1887, Sarah and her older sister Mary settled back here. By then, Sarah was often in Boston or abroad, but this is the house she called home. The sisters added dormer windows to the attic and repainted the dark exterior white. The colorful interior is much as the Jewetts left it, with the author’s desk still set at the top of the stairs, overlooking the center of town. Sarah died here in 1909. The house is a National Historic Landmark, owned by Historic New England, and is open for guided tours on weekends from June 1 to October 15.  Read more....

--From the Sarah Orne Jewett Walking Tour brochure by the Jewett Eastman Memorial Committee, trustees of Jewett Eastman House.

Sarah Orne Jewett Garden, South Berwick, MaineSarah’s writing is full of gardens, including those surrounding her two family houses.  Near the museum entrance to the Jewett House a collection of flowers and herbs from Sarah’s most famous novel, The Country of the Pointed Firs, now grows. Further behind the house along Main Street runs the broad aisle garden, planted with perennials and annuals from Sarah’s era. The white rose bush at the northwest corner of the Jewett House and the lilacs along the Portland Street fence are probably the very plants Sarah tended. When the red well house just behind the library was recently restored, a signature by 14-year-old Sarah was discovered. The gardens are open to the public year round. 

--From the Sarah Orne Jewett Walking Tour brochure by the Jewett Eastman Memorial Committee, trustees of Jewett Eastman House.

Jewett-Eastman House, South Berwick, MaineBuilt in 1854. Sarah lived in this Greek Revival house from the age of 5 to 38 and wrote over 140 works, including Deephaven and A Country Doctor, from here.  Many traces of the Jewetts, such as the Delft tiles surrounding the fireplace in what was the family’s living room and the initials Sarah carved into a window pane in the kitchen, remain. The house is owned by Historic New England.The South Berwick Public Library occupied the house from 1971 to 2012.  Read more...


--From the Sarah Orne Jewett Walking Tour brochure by the Jewett Eastman Memorial Committee, former trustee of Jewett Eastman House.

Miss Raynes' schoolBuilt c. 1810. Olive Raynes (1833-1923), who lived and conducted school in this house, was Sarah’s teacher – possibly here, or in a building right across from Sarah’s home, where the Mobil Station now stands. Miss Raynes moved her school into this, her parents’ house, about the time Sarah left for Berwick Academy in 1861.  Read more...

--From the Sarah Orne Jewett Walking Tour brochure by the Jewett Eastman Memorial Committee, trustees of Jewett Eastman House.

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