Inside the Tiny Maine Beach Town President Bush Visited Every Summer
The Bush family may have kept their permanent home in Houston, but Kennebunkport held a special place in the 41st President’s heart.
There’s a wall at Mabel’s Lobster Claw, a small, nondescript seafood shack in Maine’s quaint Kennebunkport, that’s adorned with framed photos of the 41st President of the United States. Here, at a wooden booth tucked into a corner, George H.W. Bush was a regular, who’d stop in frequently to feast on fresh lobster followed by his favorite homemade peppermint ice cream.
Now, as the nation mourns the loss of a world leader, Mabel’s, along with the entire town of Kennebunkport, is paying tribute to one its beloved locals.
In Kennebunkport, the Bush family legacy extends back more than a century, when George H.W. Bush’s grandfather, George Herbert Walker, purchased an estate on a rocky peninsula just outside of town. Walker’s Point, as it was named, was the summer escape for Bush throughout much of his childhood.
And it remained that way into adulthood and, subsequently, his presidency, putting the small maritime town into the national spotlight. At the “Summer White House,” as it became known, Bush hosted world leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev.
More often, however, he used the Kennebunkport compound as a place to escape. Speaking to reporters from a Maine golf course in 1991, Bush said of the town, “It’s where my family comes home, and it’s our anchor to windward.”
When in Kennebunkport, George H.W. Bush could often be found absorbed in one of his two favorite hobbies: golfing and fishing. It’s here, famously, that the former President jumped from a helicopter with a parachute to celebrate his 90th birthday, landing 6,000 feet below at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, where his mother worshipped.
For many local businesses like Mabel’s and H.B. Provisions, a restaurant and market, Bush and First Lady Barbara were regulars and friends. “I always looked at him as a second dad,” Ken Raynor, a golf professional at the Cape Arundel Golf Club, where President Bush hosted his annual charity golf tournament, told the New York Times.
They loved the beach, too, and could often be found strolling along Kennebunkport’s Gooch’s Beach—a favorite of the First Lady—with their dogs in tow.
Gooch’s Beach is one of several places residents are now honoring the President, with a special dog walk held over the weekend. In conjunction with the funeral in Washington, the town of Kennebunkport is also hosting a wreath laying ceremony near the Bush compound at Walker’s Point. Mostly, though, locals are trading memories of the first family and remembering the impact they had on their quiet little seaside town.
“They were woven into the fabric of the town,” Tom Bradbury, executive director of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, told the New York Times. “To not have them here is a void.”