If you thought your family had drama, wait till you hear how Thomas McCobb reacted when he learned his siblings married each other and took over the family home.
On a hilltop overlooking the Kennebec River in Phippsburg, the placid, pilastered facade of the James McCobb House belies a backstory worthy of a Colonial-era romance novel. Irish landowner and trader James built the 1774 Georgian mansion for his second wife — with whom he had twin daughters and a son, Thomas — across the street from the log cabin where he’d lived with his first wife and their twelve children. The youngest McCobb kids grew up in the home (now a bed-and-breakfast), along with the son of James’s third wife, Mark Langdon Hill, who went on to become Maine’s first congressman. In the years following James’s death in 1788, Thomas returned from a sea voyage to discover his stepbrother, Hill, married to his sister and the family home transferred to the couple. Thomas retaliated by building a larger, more ornate Federal-style residence — dubbed the Spite House — nearby. However, the brothers-in-law, and their homes, did not remain rivals for long. In 1796, the men became partners in the shipbuilding firm Hill-McCobb, and, in 1925, the Spite House was moved by barge to Rockport, where it remains today.
Portland-based writer Julie Senk holds degrees in history and historic preservation and provides property surveys and architectural analyses to homeowners and businesses. To learn more about her work, visit northernvernacular.com.