Historic Freeport Inn was the former home of
Rear Admiral Donald MacMillan.
This 1888 Victorian-era New England house was once the boyhood home of Arctic explorer Donald B. MacMillan. MacMillan was second-in-command to Adm. Robert Peary and many artifacts of the journeys to the North Pole are on display at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College, their alma mater. In later years, MacMillan married and with his wife, Miriam Look, traveled extensively in the Arctic with both writing numerous books about their expeditions. We are presently searching for copies of the MacMillans’ books to have on display.
We believe this building was one of the original ‘Mallet Homes’ built by EB Mallet to house his workers. Mr Mallet had a phenomenal stroke of luck when his uncle bequeathed him $700,000 after which he moved to Freeport to open his shoe factory. While building his factory, his workers came upon a prosperous vein of granite which Mallet decided to quarry, expanding his enterprises and employing over 100 men in the quarry. There are several remaining Mallet Homes in Freeport. The majority of them were once on Depot St. The basic house plan is telltale from the street, with a wraparound porch (our porch no longer wraps around as it now houses the Casco Bay bathroom!) and a bow window (in the Chart Room). Some porches wrap to the left, some to the right. See if you can find examples around town.
You can hike through the old Mallett Granite Quarry which is located behind the Mast Landing School.
Now home to the White Cedar Inn, many of the Inn’s seven rooms were named with reference to MacMillan, his relatives and his famed boat, the Bowdoin. We believe that the room, now named ‘Capt Dan’, was the young MacMillan’s room. The ‘Chart Room’ was where the family received guests and the ‘Casco Bay Room’ was formerly the family’s dining room (still visible in the floor of this room is the old connection for the servant’s signal bell).
Winthrop Fogg was the original owner of this building, although this is not the original house that was on the property. The original house was moved to take advantage of a larger plot of land up the street. Fogg was the town’s pharmacist and it is not unusual to find medicinal bottles with his name on them at local flea markets and antique shops.
Letitia MacMillan Fogg, Winthrop’s wife and MacMillan’s sister, came to Freeport in the late 1800’s, possibly sent out to work by a widowed mother. When their mother could no longer care for all the children, Donald was sent to live with his sister and her husband. He was quite well known around town from an early age.
Local Baby Boomer-aged residents often met up with MacMillan in the streets when they were teens and he would give impromptu lectures about the Arctic.
For a more in depth study of MacMillan and his schooner, the Bowdoin, take a short drive to Bowdoin College and visit the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. MacMillan himself walked from here to the college to attend classes. He took the straight route, following the railroad tracks. You can board the train instead of walking! Take the short ride from here to Brunswick and walk the half mile to the college campus. If you’re headed up the coast, the schooner Bowdoin now calls Castine and the Maine Maritime Academy home.
For more information about the town of Freeport, check the placards displayed throughout town that mark important buildings in Freeport’s history. Or, stop in the Historical Society for one of the many exhibits.
A short bibliography for more information on the MacMillans:
A Boy’s-Eye View of the Arctic by Kennett Longley Rawson
Dark Companion by Bradley Robinson
Etah and Beyond by Donald MacMillan
Four Years in the White North by Donald MacMillan
How Peary Reached the Pole by Donald MacMillan
Kah’ – Da by Donald MacMillan
Etuk, the Eskimo Hunter by Miriam MacMillan
Green Seas and White Ice: Far North with Captain Mac by Miriam MacMillan
I Married an Explorer by Miriam MacMillan
Captain Mac: The Life of Donald Baxter MacMillan, Arctic Explorer by Mary Morton Cowan
Ice Country: One Boy’s Adventure in the Arctic with Commander Donald MacMillan by Mary Morton Cowan