Two Maine Sites Added to National Historic Landmarks Program

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Photo Courtesy Frances Perkins Center

Photo Courtesy Frances Perkins Center

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,185)

Two important Maine sites have been added to the National Historic Landmarks according to a press release from US Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D). The two are Eagle Island, near Harpswell, the longtime summer residence of Arctic explorer and Bowdon College graduate Robert E. Peary and the homestead of Frances Perkins, the country’s first female presidential cabinet member, in Newcastle.  Perkins served as Secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The homestead, a red brick building,  is located on a 57-acre farm on the River Road between Boothbay Harbor and Newcastle.  The Perkins Center is located in downtown Damariscotta.  Perkins’ grandson has been the driving force in this effort.

“I’m very excited that these Maine sites have achieved the national distinction they deserve.  Both helped shape the lives of two of the most influential individuals of their times,” said Pingree.  “The bluffs and ledges of Eagle Island provided refuge for Admiral Robert Peary when he wasn’t exploring the Arctic.  Frances Perkins’ home and the community around it, helped form the values that she would draw on while crafting visionary federal programs as Secretary of Labor (from 1933 -45), during the Depression. Mainers have always valued the significance of these places and now the rest of the country can as well.” Perkins was responsible for initiating groundbreaking New Deal programs that remain essential to all Americans today – Social Security, the 40-hour work week, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation and the minimum wage according to a press release issued by the Frances Perkins Center.

Earle G. Shettlelworth, Jr., Director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, stated, “Occupied for over 260 years by members of the Perkins family, this saltwater farm is significant for its architecture, its archaeological sites and its agricultural landscape.  But more importantly, it was the property that Frances Perkins, first female member of a President’s cabinet, considered her life-long home.”

The site includes the well-preserved 1837 Brick House built of bricks manufactured on site in the family owned brickyard. Perkins biographer Kirstin Downey noted, “The Brick House was not just a refuge.  It played a key role in shaping Frances Perkins’s substantive policies.  Her undying belief in America’s greatness and goodness were rooted in her concept of what makes America unique – and these views were formed at and by that home in Maine.”

For more information, contact Michael Chaney, Executive Director, Frances Perkins Center, 207 – 563-3374, or mchaney@francesperkinscenter.org

The roughly 2,500 National Historic Landmarks represent a small subset of the National Register of  Historic Places, which has 90,000 listings.  Becoming one is a lengthy process (two to five years) that involves a nomination and reviews by a national board and the National Parks Service.  Ultimately, sites must be selected by the Secretary of the Interior for their historical significance to the nation as a whole.

Pingree is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, which oversees funding for the National Parks Services.