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Port Clyde: Ever Strong

By Mimi Bigelow Steadman

Photos by Mimi Bigelow Steadman

The museum at the Marshall Point Lighthouse, located in the keeper’s house, includes exhibits exploring the beacon’s history and that of the peninsula. Photo by Mimi Bigelow Steadman

The weak November sun was no match for the icy gusts off the water at the tip of the St. George Peninsula. We walked down the hill to the nearly two-century-old Port Clyde General Store, its roof ripped open by a massive fire on September 27, 2023. I peered through gaping windows edged by glass shards and spied a few grocery staples still awaiting customers. Overhead, I heard the wind in the second-floor Wyeth Gallery ruffling what might have once been signed prints—all destroyed, along with an original painting by N. C. Wyeth and three by his grandson, Jamie. 

There’d been lots of news coverage, but seeing the destruction up close chilled me more than the weather. The quick response from the St. George Volunteer Fire Department, assisted by numerous surrounding communities, kept things from being worse. No one was injured. And it was encouraging to see that the Monhegan Boat Line ferry terminal, next door and also consumed by flames, was already under reconstruction.The Port Clyde General Store and the Dip Net Restaurant were town landmarks before being destroyed by fire in September 2023. Photo by Mimi Bigelow Steadman Photo by Mimi Bigelow Steadman

We’ve always loved visiting Port Clyde: motoring through the harbor to admire its charm, tying up at the dock to provision in the store, arriving by car for lunch at the Dip Net, the popular outdoor eatery on the water. 

We were in Port Clyde again last August, just a month before the fire broke the hearts of residents and countless others like us. We took friends into the general store and smiled when they commented on its handsome old floorboards. After browsing the Wyeth Gallery, we lunched at the Dip Net before driving over to Drift Inn Beach (named for a long-gone summer hotel), and on to the lighthouse.

Marshall Point’s diminutive white tower—probably best known for a cameo in Forrest Gump—has stood at the tip of a short footbridge just east of the entrance to Port Clyde since 1858. On that perfect Maine day, its surroundings were stunning—slate-blue bay beneath a cloudless sky, islands marching across the horizon, pleasure and commercial vessels streaming in and out of the harbor.

Part of the town of St. George, the village touched a chord with celebrated American illustrator and artist N. C. Wyeth, too. In 1920, he purchased a waterside Cape and named it Eight Bells after a Winslow Homer painting. The connection to Port Clyde has continued through the Wyeth family to N. C.’s son, Andrew, and Andrew’s son, Jamie. 

The site of the fire has been cleared of debris and is being readied for reconstruction. Photo by Peggy Fitzgerald

The patriarch often painted local fishermen. The moodily beautiful Island Funeral depicts working craft and their owners arriving at nearby Teel Island for a memorial gathering in 1935. On another day last summer, we cruised close to the painting’s setting during a Wyeths by Water excursion. Aboard the 42-foot Linderin Losh—a Royal Lowell-designed lobsterboat built in 1982—guide Rayette Hudon held up a print of the painting and compared details in it to landmarks on the island. Scrutinizing the view, I could almost see the procession of mourners heading up from their boats. 

A preliminary architectural concept drawing shows the new Port Clyde General Store and restaurant. This summer, the store will be open temporarily in the rebuilt Monhegan Boat Line building. Concept drawing courtesy Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Hospitality, LLC We steamed on to Allen and Benner islands, sitting side-by-side, seven miles offshore. The exquisite clapboard structures that Andrew Wyeth’s wife, Betsy, created here conjure visions straight out of the 18th century. Her husband often captured this landscape in his work. “In a way, Betsy created the paintings,” Hudon suggested. “She put the island together, and Andrew painted it.” 

Returning to the harbor, we drank in the waterfront panorama, the dark-green general store commanding pride of place at its center. I remembered reading about the Port Clyde Packing Company, a sardine factory that stood nearby until it burned down in 1970. We could have no inkling that such a fate would soon befall the village again. 

In the wake of the fire, residents have embraced the slogan, “Port Clyde Strong.” General store owner Linda Bean declared on its website that the store, restaurant, and gallery will rise again. “We have 17 years under our belt as owner and managers and staff here,” she wrote, “and with God’s help we will persevere.” 

Aboard a Wyeths by Water tour, guide Rayette Hudon points out sites captured in Wyeth artworks. Photo by Mimi Bigelow Steadman When I reached out to Monhegan Boat Line co-owner Amy Barstow in December, she predicted the new terminal will be ready this spring. “The community is one of a kind,” Barstow said. “You really don’t realize how strong your community is until a tragedy occurs.”

Port Clyde, strong, indeed.

Contributing Editor Mimi Bigelow Steadman lives on the Damariscotta River in Edgecomb.

If You Go to Port Clyde

On the Water

A new town landing is scheduled to be completed in July. Daytime tie-ups at the floats will be permitted, but boats may not remain overnight. The Port Clyde General Store owns a number of transient moorings; check with them regarding availability. Note that the harbor is open to the south and southwest; it can be uncomfortable when wind is coming from those directions.



Down a narrow lane a mile from the heart of the village, Marshall Point Light boasts a scenic and accessible site. Arrive when the museum in the 1880s keeper’s house is open. Staffed by volunteers from the St. George Historical Society, its exhibits reveal the area’s heritage of lobstering, shipbuilding, and quarrying. The footbridge to the light was damaged during January, 2024, winter storms but is expected to reopen by summer. Wyeths by Water offers a choice of three excellent boat tours focused on three generations of the Wyeth family. One heads up the Saint George River to view the Olson House, subject of numerous Andrew Wyeth works including Christina’s World. Another travels past Teel Island (featured in N. C. Wyeth’s Island Funeral) and on to Allen and Benner islands, which are now stewarded by Colby College as a multidisciplinary study site. A third tour goes out past Marshall Point Light to Tenants Harbor and Southern Island Light, often depicted in Jamie Wyeth’s paintings. Monhegan Boat Line’s ferries, Elizabeth Ann and Laura B, make multiple daily trips to the alluring island of Monhegan, 12 miles offshore.



Grab a delicious lunch at Village Ice Cream & Port Clyde Bakery, which sells soups, sandwiches, quiche, haddock chowder, pies, cookies, doughnuts, whoopie pies, and more. There’s also a tempting selection of ice creams and special concoctions including an old-fashioned ice cream soda. Pop into Squid Ink Coffee, on the dock, for coffee and espresso drinks as well as freshly baked pastries. Just outside the village, longtime local favorite The Black Harpoon serves fresh seafood and pub fare. The Port Clyde General Store will temporarily operate out of the rebuilt Monhegan Boat Line building while new construction takes place.



Check out the books, children’s items, and other lovely items at The Little Dipper Gift Shop beside the bakery. Look for the red barn across from the general store site and climb the stairs to the second-floor Red Barn Gallery. There you’ll find an appealing selection of paintings, jewelry, textiles, and other pieces by local artists. Barbara Ernst Prey offers her luminous paintings in a summertime gallery on Main Street. Her works are in the collections of the National Gallery of Art and Smithsonian American Art Gallery, among others. 


Hike and paddle

To explore the harbor and Muscongus Bay, rent a sea kayak or SUP from Port Clyde Kayaks, beside the launching ramp. Their experienced team also offers instruction and daily guided tours. According to Wyeths by Water guide Rayette Hudon, N. C. and Andrew Wyeth often went on multi-day walks from Port Clyde to Tenants Harbor. They camped along the way and painted whatever inspired them. These days, Route 131 is a bit busy for that, and property owners might object to campers. Instead, take an easy, half-mile hike on the Leslie Hyde Memorial Trail, which traces the edge of Ripley Creek Marsh. It’s great for families and birders, and has signs identifying flora and fauna.


Support Port Clyde

To make a contribution in support of those impacted by the fire, visit Administered by St. George Community Development, the Port Clyde Strong Fund is a restricted fund that will remain open until October 2026; at that time, any remaining monies will go to the St. George Volunteer Fire Department.


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