Jameson Tavern history exudes the atmosphere of its historical context. The restored inn contains the sentiments of an earlier time. A stroll through the rooms and various hallways attests to its heritage, set on a hillside on the bustling Main Street of Freeport, the building lends a feeling of importance and significance to the town.
Built in 1779 as the home of Dr. John Anglier Hyde, it was his family residence until 1801 until purchase by Captain Samuel Jameson. Captain Jameson and his wife ran it as Jameson’s Tavern from 1801 until the widow Jameson sold it in 1828. During this time Freeport was a strategic stagecoach town located between Portland and the town and cities to the north and ‘downeast.’ Such luminaries as the poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier as well as the 14th President of the United States, Franklin Pierce were known to have stopped here on their way to Bowdoin College in Brunswick. The Inn was a renowned meeting place for all of the prominent business men in the area and the taproom was known for its ‘fine spirits and jovial atmosphere’.
Old newspaper clippings indicate that the inn was a favorite meeting place for many years during the time that the Province of Maine was pursuing independence from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The shipping network in the area was taxed heavily down in Boston and desired a separation to alleviate the tax burden. The idea of separation was an extremely controversial issue within Maine itself. There was a good percentage of the population which felt that the connection to the greater metropolis of Boston was essential to keeping abreast to the growing industries of the times. Old records indicate that commissioners met in the northeast corner of the second floor of the Inn to sign the final papers giving Maine her independence from Massachusetts and giving Jameson Tavern and the town of Freeport their claim to ‘the Birthplace of Maine.’ Maine’s entrance into the union was accomplished through the ‘Missouri Compromise’ and a plaque hangs on the property placed here in 1914 by the Daughters of the American Revolution commemorating this historic event.
In 1828 the widow Jameson sold the Inn to Richard Codman and it became known as Codman’s Tavern; Inn Keeper Codman continued to run it as an Inn until 1856.
In 1856 the property was purchased by a local shipbuilder from Porters Landing named John Cushing. Cushing redecorated the house into the Victorian style of the times, with the exception of the one room where the commissioners had met some 36 years earlier. It is believed that he had a sick child in the room at the time and thus this room was spared. This is borne out by both the window seats and molding in that room as well as the name J.C. Cushing scratched into one of the old panes of glass in that room.
After Cushing’s ownership, the house fell on less illustrious times, passing from family to family until the current owners purchased it in 1981. While no records of building prints could be found to show the original design of the building, an attempt was made to restore the house to what would most likely have been like in 1779. The old panes of glass still can be seen in many of the original windows and attention was paid to framing when the front was dismantled to recreate what was once here.
Displayed outside the building is a plaque donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution commemorating Jameson Tavern as the “Birthplace of Maine”.
In the front halls are framed rubbings from the tombstones of Dr. Hyde and Captain Jameson.
In the summer of 2003, The Food Network’s Bobby Flay visited the Jameson Tavern (camera crew in tow) to learn first-hand the techniques of cooking a traditional Maine Lobster Dinner.