A wedding gift for the couple.
George Washington Bourne
A Ship Builder
George Washington Bourne was a fourth generation ship builder on the Kennebunk River behind the Wedding Cake House. The area surrounding the house was known as Kennebunk landing and in its’ heyday, the shipyards employed about 1000 men from October to April building vast sailing ships. In April when the ice was off the Kennebunk River the ships floated down the river and out to sea carrying raw materials. George was born to John and Elizabeth Bourne in 1801 in the house next door to the Wedding Cake House which is now the Waldo Emerson Inn.
George’s parents built the federal brick house, known today as the Wedding Cake House, and gave it to their son as a wedding present in 1825. The bride and groom first came to live in the house in 1826 and the "icing" was added 26 years later starting in 1852 after a fire destroyed the barn and connecting structure.
Adding the Trim
George along with an apprentice and help from employees from his shipyard rebuilt the barn and new carriage house with the intracate trim over the next few years eventually adding it to the main house as well. He was inspired by the Cathedral in Milan as reported by his nephew who wrote in his diary that his uncle’s study was covered with sketches of the Cathedral. This era introduced the Gothic style of decoration which became very popular, utilizing the master carpenters and their carving tools. Sadly the magnificent trim was completed just four months before George Bourne's death in 1855, leaving a house that would become a beloved landmark.
Bride without her groom.
Some may say the truth may never be known but the history and then the stories created are quite different from each other.
The story of a young bride and groom separated on their wedding night as the man had to board his ship to catch the tide while the couple was not able to have their wedding reception and wedding cake.
The young man promised his bride that she would have her cake upon his return. So over the many months of his absence the bride pined away for him and he spent his long lonely nights carving all this beautiful woodwork. When he returned home he had the icing detail put on the house and presented his bride with her "cake."
The house became a symbol of love and commitment. Dreams were built of the magic of the house and lucky few that might add a little more good luck to their wedding if it was at the wedding cake house.
Stories were told of haunting brides finding home and love while they await their true love. This romantic tale was used by a local businessman to promote the Kennebunks as a romantic destination. A series of postcards were made of the grand homes along Summer Street and it was he who dubbed the house the “Wedding Cake House." A house where dreams are made WITH LOVE.
The home was passed on through many generations of family until it was sold to Mary Burnett in 1983. She proceeded to orchestrate an extensive renovation and used the carriage house as an art gallery and studio.
James Hunt Barker
The house is currently owned by Hunt Edwards and Lela Cason, family of James Hunt Barker.
They recieved ownership of the house when Barker passed away peacefully on October 10, 2020, in Kentucky after several years of declinging health. He was 92 years old. James Hunt Baker neice Lela Cason and sister Joyce Edwards were in town along with his nephew Hunt Edwards and great niece Meme Edwards by his side earlier that day.
James Hunt Barker was born and raised in Lexington Kentucky. He was a retired art dealer who owned galleries in Palm Beach, Nantucket and New York. He had a eye for art and beautiful things. While having an elaborate style and love of people.
Barker felt like he was destined to own the house since he first saw it in 1954 at age 26 while visiting the artist Channing Hare, a year after returning from the Korean War.
He believed his ownership was predicated by a psychic that had said he would have a wedding at age 70- the same year he bought the Wedding Cake House.
James Hunt Barker's Obituary from Palm Beach can be found here below:
Open to the public
"A Vow to Love"
In 2005 he opened the house to the public for the first time in 179 years as a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina and local food pantries. Stating "I love to give money away if I can get my hands on it." He loved to share his stories and “the peace that this house brings if even for a moment" to all passing by. He believed the key to life is to give out more love and this is his way to “vow to love." He believed he is here to take care of the Wedding Cake House admirers; his family is currently helping that happen by restoring this treasured home.
The Wedding Cake House is currently being restored and renovated by James Barker's nephew, Hunt Edwards, and family.
The structure of the main house is sound but, the foundation of the carriage house and barn needed attention. The barn and the carriage house are both timber frame construction and many of the sill beams that connect to the foundation needed to be repaired or replaced. The entire west end of the carriage house has had to be removed and rebuilt.
Currently replacing back porch.
The exterior repair and painting of all the flat surfaces (brick, clapboard and board and batten) began in September 2019 and has recently been completed. The ornate columns and trim of the barn and carriage house are being prepped for repair and painting. These columns and trim were the first to be applied to the structure.