Jonathan Hamilton House

South Berwick, ME
United States
Jonathan Hamilton House

Located on a bluff overlooking the headwaters of the tidal Salmon Falls River, this Georgian mansion was built ca.1785 by merchant and ship owner Jonathan Hamilton. Used initially as an extension of Hamilton’s mercantile business, the parcel operated as a farm for the latter half of the 19th century.

In 1898 Emily Tyson, with her stepdaughter Elise (later Elise Tyson Vaughan), bought the neglected property and hired Herbert W.C. Browne to renovate the mansion and create an extensive Colonial Revival landscape. Browne surrounded the mansion with graded terraces, and designed a sunken garden overlooking the river aligned with the mansion’s east façade. The garden was bordered by a spiraea hedge and a lattice fence, with a garden house and a vine-covered pergola framing views to the river. The sunken garden featured granite steps, lawn paths, Neoclassical statues and a fountain, and seasonal plantings bordered by clipped boxwood. An arbor led to the adjacent cutting garden and a cottage made from salvaged building materials with a walled garden, added in 1907.

In 1949 Elise Vaughan left Hamilton House to Historic New England and donated 250 acres of woodland to the state of Maine, which created Vaughn Woods Memorial Park. Today the mansion and its 14.5 acres have been restored to their 1920s Colonial Revival peak. In 1970 the mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark.