Dresden’s historic Bowman House will be open to the public for the first time

Dresden’s Bowman House. Courtesy of Historic New England

New England’s historic 1762 Bowman House in Dresden opens its doors to the public for the first time on July 1. Guided tours will take place every Thursday every hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Circuit size is limited. Tickets must be purchased in advance at HistoricNewEngland.org/BowmanHouse. Admission is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, and $15 for students and children. Tours are free for Historic New England members. Bowman House is located at 22 Bowman Lane. Visitors with a ticket must meet the guides at the white tent in front of the house.

Visitors can enjoy the property along the Kennebec River. The grounds of Bowman House are open daily from dawn to dusk. All visitors must follow the posted rules.

Bowman House is a rare survivor of 18th century elegance on the Kennebec River. Built in 1762 for barrister Jonathan Bowman, the Georgian-style mansion was built by Gershom Flagg, the same architect who built Pownalborough Courthouse in 1761 nearby. The history of the two buildings is inextricably linked. Both were funded by the Kennebec Proprietors, a group of Boston investors, to serve what they thought would become a regional business and legal center.

Jonathan Bowman was sent to Pownalborough by his uncle Thomas Hancock, Boston’s wealthiest merchant before the Revolutionary War and a member of the Kennebec proprietors. Bowman was appointed to a number of legal positions, becoming a judge in 1772. He supplemented his legal working income with a significant stake in the booming timber and shipping business that took place right outside his door, with ships traveling between Kennebec, Boston and the southern points. , Europe and the West Indies.

Bowman created a home whose elegant interiors might have fit into the finest Boston mansions of the time, and later, a suitable home for his wife Mary and their four children.

After Bowman’s death, the house was bought by James Carney, a local man who became a successful blacksmith serving farmers and Pownalborough’s bustling seafront. He also built a 181 ton ship at the site. James and his wife Joanna raised twelve children in the home and were leaders in charitable efforts in their community. In the 1870s, near the end of Maine’s ice cream boom, Bowman House became the offices of the Lincoln Ice Company, which owned it until 1911.

After decades of ownership by historic curators trying to preserve the property in its run-down but surprisingly intact state, Bowman House was purchased by artist, entrepreneur and historic curator William Waters and his partner Cyrus Pinkham in 1965. After donating the home to Historic New England in 1971, Bill spent 51 years restoring the elegant interiors and filling the house with Bowman pieces and beautiful 18th century objects and furnishings. Its dedicated stewardship now allows visitors to glimpse the sparkling and elegant world of the 18th century seen through the eyes of a designer, collector and ardent defender of history.

For more information on Bowman House, visit HistoricNewEngland.org. Private tours are available subject to staff availability and should be arranged at least two weeks in advance by calling (207) 882-7169.

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