1:00 pm · 1791 House, Berwick Academy
Archivist Rachel Saliba will lead a walk around the beautiful hilltop where the history of Maine’s oldest school intertwines with that of interesting South Berwick residents of the 1700s and 1800s.
Maine’s oldest school and the stories its buildings contain will be the focus of a walking tour of the Berwick Academy campus to be held on Saturday, September 19. This free, hour-long event will be led by academy archivist Rachel Saliba. The tour begins at 1:00 pm in front of the administration building, Burleigh Davidson House, which is reached through the academy’s visitors’ entrance. There is no rain date.
Founded in 1791, Berwick Academy has a campus now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes five historic buildings, some of which originated as private homes. The academy served as South Berwick’s public high school from about 1886 to 1960. Its famous graduates include authors Sarah Orne Jewett and Gladys Hasty Carroll.
The tour will include the original wood-frame school building, known today as the 1791 House, where classes were first held for tuition-paying boys and girls.
The school’s landmark structure with a gold dome, Fogg Memorial, was built from local granite in 1894 as a bequest from the family of William Hayes Fogg (1817-1884), a North Berwick man who founded a New York based shipping firm trading with the Orient during the clipper era. The building is adorned with over 100 stained glass windows, many by the Boston artist Sarah Wyman Whitman. Fogg Memorial contained South Berwick Library from 1894 to 1960.
Three historic buildings on today’s campus began as private homes before being absorbed by the school. Oakes House was built in 1859 by Judge Abner Oakes (1820-1899), a longtime South Berwick attorney and state representative, whose daughter became a painter.
The Burleigh-Davidson House, now the school’s administration building, was designed in 1893 by the Boston architectural firm Kendall and Stevens for the family of a sea captain, John Holmes Burleigh (1822-1879), who was also the town’s U. S. Congressman and proprietor of the Great Works woolen mill. His daughter, Elizabeth Burleigh Davidson, later became the only woman bank president in New England.
The home of the present academy headmaster, Greg Schneider, and his family, is known as Hayes House, built about 1810. Judge William Allen Hayes (1783-1851) was a York County probate judge and state representative. One of his sons, Gen. Joseph Hayes, served the Union as a general officer in the Civil War.
Participants in the Berwick Academy tour are also invited to visit local history exhibits at the Counting House Museum operated by the Old Berwick Historical Society. The museum is open from 1 to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays through October. Admission is free.