George Steven’s House and the Academy

Starting with “Squire Stevens Homestead”, this two story Federal-style home was built by George Stevens (1775 – 1852), son of Benjamin Stevens (1732-1793) and Hannah Varnum (1736-1805) in 1814. The Stevens were a family that were known to be blacksmiths and housewrights and were amongst the original settlers of the Township no. 5. George Stevens was born in Andover, Massachusetts and came to Blue Hill in 1775 as a baby. He became a shop owner and engaged as textile merchant by having a cotton mill along a dam at the Mill Stream run by Samuel Gibson. The mill ginned cotton, spun threads and wound the wrap together, but sent it out for weaving. George Stevens made his fortune during the War of 1812 as the demand for cotton became a steady one dollar per pound.

George Stevens used his abundant wealth to give support to a variety of local organizations such as the Baptist Church and the Academy and up and coming individuals. He gave a career start to Thomas Lord, the now-famous local architect who designed churches in Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Sedgwick and Ellsworth. He also invested in many of the large ships being built in R.G.W. Dodge’s shipyard on Parker Point.

George married twice in his time in the house, first to Dorcas Osgood (1778-1847) and secondly to Mary Haskell (1802-1880) although he didn’t father any children from either union. During his second marriage, he attempted to adopt two boys, but tragically both of these boys died at an early age. Childless, George seemed to re engage his energies towards educating the youth of the area.

Stevens was part of the Blue Hill Academy Boat of Trustees and was the only non-Congregational church member on the board, instead being a member of the Baptist Church. The earliest Academy came into being as a result of an Act of Incorporation passed by the Central Court of Massachusetts in 1803 and was a square wooden building. The brick building that replaced it is the American Legion Hall today and served as such for sixty-five years. George Stevens and local minister, Jonathan Fisher, often clashed on their ideas of proper schooling – mainly centered around their difference in faith and wanting to allow all denominations to attend the Academy.

In 1832, Stevens offered on his death and that of his wife, he would give a thousand dollars and a piece of land to the Academy. The only provision was that, “The institution shall be put on a liberal scale that all denominations shall have equal rights and privileges.” The Academy board said, “no” – however Stevens wrote in his will of 1851 that the land surrounding his house be used to establish an academy as well as the mills, money and wild lands to be used as capital for that venture. In accordance with his wishes, Squire Stevens’ academy was incorporated in 1891 and constructed between 1891 – 1897, the original color being a golden-yellow color that was common in New England Federal-style houses. Thereafter the “Old Academy” cooperated with Steven’s Academy and the two merged fully in 1943. Since then, George Stevens’ Academy has acquired the land and house once belonging to its founder and namesake.

The Academy House, previously George Stevens’ homestead, has seen its fair share of changes externally and internally. In the 1920’s, it was popular fashion to have porches and overhangs and thus the front door was removed to make room for that awning-type structure. Esther Wood’s father kept the original doorway and fan window in his barn for safe keeping. When the trend died out in the 1930’s, the original door was reinstalled on the house’s facade with the window fan joining in 1952 thanks to Annie Clough, the Chase Family and Roland M. Howard. The 1950’s saw the biggest transformations on the campus writ large, including the Industrial Arts facilities, landscaping done by the Blue Hill Garden Club and larger-scale renovations for more classrooms and cafeteria space. George Stevens Academy continues to grow and improve its campus to this day, helping to serve the seven “sending” towns of the area along with The Blue Hill Harbor School – both continuing Squire Steven’s desire for educational opportunities for all regardless of background.

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, continuing with Thomas Lord’s House on Union Street.

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