This familiar and iconic, three story building with a mansard-style roof was built by Captain Melatiah Kimball Chase in 1880 on Union Street. The street, once known as the “road to Orland”, was once lined with beautiful elm trees and saw its fair share of foot traffic from all kinds of peddlers of wares such as Max Abram’s clothing apparel or even the occasional origin-grinder according to Mary Ellen Chase’s biographical novel, “The White Gate”. Melatiah, Mary Ellen’s Chase’s grandfather, ran the business as “The Chase Store”, where he sold wares that he brought back from ports around the world – ranging from China to Ireland to Great Britain to Cuba. Melatiah traveled via many a ship, but his most noted was The Ocean Ranger, a ship built at the peak of shipbuilding in Blue Hill, being among 33 other vessels having been built during the “coasting” boom. The Chase Store was described as, “the most elegant establishment in town.” for many years and after Melatiah’s death, his son, Edward, used the second floor as a law office and post office in the early 1900’s. For a short while, it seemed the “The Chase ” store would be abandoned. This fate was prevented when another grocer in town was in desperate need of a new location.
Seen in our previous post as the owner of the “Joseph Mann House”, Frank Pearl Merrill had begun his own grocer business in 1883 and had been renting a space in town from H.B. Darling, the building known as the Dunn Block for a time. Unexpectedly, Darling sold his property to George M. Pillsbury and thus Frank Merill was left scrambling to find a new location. By 1888, the building previously known as “The Chase Store” was rented to Frank Merrill, with the stipulation that Edward Chase be able to keep the upstairs for his office. By 1905 the business was sold to Max Merrill and Merrill P. Hinckley to become a general store with the newly minted motto, “Almost Everything”.
By 1951, “Merrill and Hinckley”, was one of the last remaining large general stories in the state. Merrill P. Hinckley married Caroline and the couple had many children together, several of which would inherit the storefront upon their father’s death. By the 1940’s it was operated by Maxwell R. Hinckley, his brother, and his sons. Gale M. Hinckley, Maxwell’s youngest brother, was also a photographer in town and took many iconic shots of the area that were later turned into postcards of the area. Maxwell kept the store afloat through the Second World War, when the town had been hurt by the lack of tourism, and even going a step beyond to helping support other location businesses including The Blue Hill Inn. The Merrill & Hinckley store has seen flourishing carriages and buggy businesses wane and die as automobiles rose to popular rise as well as surviving the impact of three wars on the local economy.
By 1965, it was purchased from Jerold Hinckley, the final Hinckley descendent to owe the store, by Robert Bannister. In 2015, 100-year old store ledgers were unearthed on the third floor besides a chimney. In an insight to the local economy of the time, in January of 1896 one M. Herrick purchased five cents worth of potatoes and six cents worth of parsnips. As of August 2018, Robert Bannister’s son, John Bannister owns and operates the store.
If you have any stories or pictures that you want to share about this building or its inhabitants don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section. Over the next couple of Sundays we’re going to revisit some familiar favorites, next time it will be George Stevens Academy and George Stevens’ House.