Beginning on Saturday, June 23, and running through Saturday, July 14, the Kennebunkport Historical Society will sponsor a Designer Show House at the former Kenneth Roberts Estate, Rocky Pastures, in Kennebunkport. This is the first time the house has ever been open to the general public and is an historic opportunity to explore a beautiful property with a rich back story.
For decades, Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957) was one of America's most popular historical novelists, writing such best sellers as Northwest Passage, Oliver Wiswell, and Lydia Bailey. Roberts’ attention to historical detail, vivid language, and his ability to string together seemingly isolated, rather dry facts made his novels not only models of historical writing and accuracy, but also enjoyable to read. Roberts worked first as a journalist, becoming nationally known for his work with the Saturday Evening Post from 1919 to 1928. During this time period, he was the first American journalist to cover the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, Adolf Hitler's initial attempt to gain power.
Roberts' Kennebunkport neighbor Booth Tarkington convinced him that he would never find the time to succeed as a novelist as long as he worked as a journalist, and Tarkington agreed to help by editing Roberts' early novels. Although Roberts continued to sell a few essays to the Post, his next few years were largely dedicated to historical fiction. He often wrote about his native state and its terrain, also depicting other upper New England states and scenes. For example, the heroes of Arundel and Rabble in Arms are from Kennebunk (then called Arundel), while Langdon Towne, the chief character of Roberts's Northwest Passage, is depicted as being from Kittery, Maine.
The Kenneth Roberts Estate, or Rocky Pastures, is a sprawling stone house that was built for Kenneth Roberts in 1938 by the architect Frazier Forman Peters of Westport, CT. Set in rolling meadows and wooded areas with ancient stone walls, Rocky Pastures is a 6,000 square foot house with 12 rooms that reflected Roberts’ love of solitude and nature. The property is a stone’s throw from Kennebunkport’s picturesque Ocean Avenue. It was here that Kenneth Roberts penned his popular novels of historical fiction that earned him a 1957 Pulitzer Prize in the Special Awards and Citations category.
Additional events include:
- Monday, June 25 – The Colony Hotel – Lunch and Learn - Featured speaker is Joyce Butler, historian, archivist/curator, and writer. The topic is “Kenneth Roberts: The Man.” Guests will look at the talents and colorful personality of one of America’s most loved writers of historical fiction. Butler will chronicle his life at rocky Pastures and tell anecdotes of his family and friends. This intimate portrait is sure to delight all. Tickets to the show house are included. $45 per person.
- Monday, July 2 – The Colony Hotel – Lunch and Learn - Featured speaker is Sandy Oliver, renowned food historian and writer. The topic is “Kenneth Roberts’ chapter on food in his book, Trending into Maine.” This chapter unleashed a torrent of reader response that initiated the cookbook, Good Maine Food, authored by his niece and secretary, Marjorie Mosser. Tickets to the show house are included. $45 per person.
- Monday, July 9 – The Nonantum Resort – Lunch and Learn - Featured speaker is etiquette specialist Andrea Pastore. The topic is “Navigating a Place Setting.” Andrea will present etiquette situations and thoughtful, fun and useful solutions. For more information about Andrea, visit http://etiquettesolutionsbyandrea.com/. Tickets to the show house are included. $45 per person.