History of Stage Neck Inn
New England is rich in History and no town better exemplifies the triumphs, trials, and tribulations of its pioneers, settlers, and citizens quite like York Harbor, Maine. Famed explorer John Smith mapped the shores right outside this hotel as early as 1614. On the very grounds of this hotel once stood ancient gallows. And the town of York itself was once the center of commerce for all of northern New England.
In 1642 Gorgeana (York), Maine, became the first English chartered city in America, by order of King Charles 1, named after its endower Sir Ferdinando Gorges. The town of York was incorporated in 1652 and in 1677 Massachusetts gained the title to Maine for $6,000, with York briefly assuming the role of the first capital of Massachusetts. During this time, the Old York Gaol began operating as a prison. Today, the Old York Gaol is recognized as the oldest English public building in the United States.
In the early days of York, Stage Neck Inn’s site was an island at the mouth of the river and was held as common land. Its location was ideally suited adjacent to a protected harbor and well down-stream from the colonial village of York. At one time, the Point was designated as a public execution ground, and gallows were erected. Some local histories refer to it as “Gallows Point”, although an Indian girl was the only person to meet her fate here.
During the American Revolution, the Isles of Shoals, located roughly 15 miles off these shores, became world-renowned for its cod, perfecting an old Viking method to dry the fish. Fish were dried and salted in order to be preserved for the long winters and for transport and sale to the islands and inland communities.
As the locomotive began to lay its tracks across the United States, the fishing industry began to suffer, and the Isles of Shoals was not immune. Fishermen and its residents deconstructed their homes on the island, fashioned them into makeshift rafts, and floated their way into the harbor, setting up a temporary encampment where the Stage Neck Inn stands today.
The fishermen got to work reestablishing their drying and salting process, setting up stages on Gallows Point. The process was done on long tables called “stages” which were built out in the open areas near the sea, away from towns and villages because of the pungent odors of the fish. (Of course, this is why Gallows Point was renamed Stage Neck.) The town began to boom.
During the War of 1812, a fort was maintained on Stage Neck in front of the Inn’s outdoor restaurant, Gallows Point. Below water level in the pond, just under the ledge, parts of the foundation of the fort still remain. This section of Stage Neck has hence become known as “Fort Point”.
In 1820, Maine became the 23rd state as a result of the Missouri Compromise which added two states to the union (Missouri, a slave state and Maine, a free state.) The Civil War delivered untold hardships to the town of York, and Stage Neck was the home site for several of the area’s poorer families. It remained such until 1871 when local York, Maine resident, Nathaniel Grant Marshall acquired the entire property.
Mr. Marshall leveled all the fishing shacks and stages and built a magnificent resort high up on the cliffs called the Marshall House, which was commensurate with the grand hotels of this era. People came from far and wide on trains and steamships carrying families from New York City, Baltimore, Pennsylvania, and Boston hoping to get out of the heat and enjoy vacation in the new hotel and the beautiful beaches of York, Maine. This started the harbor area’s evolution into a fashionable summer resort. In 1881, Mr. Marshall doubled the size of his hotel to accommodate the ever-increasing summer visitors.
In January 1916, fire struck, and the wooden hotel burned to the ground. By June of 1918, the Marshalls had built a stunning new hotel of red brick with all the safety features of the day. They operated the successful resort for the next 40 years until 1958, when it was acquired by the Tufts family of Pinehurst, NC. in combination with the infamous Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. Each resort was seasonal, with the Marshall House operating in the summer and Pinehurst resort operating in the winter. To serve both hotels with the same overhead the staff was shuttled between the Marshall House in Maine for the summer season and back down to Pinehurst in North Carolina for the winter.
In 1971, the Marshall House and Stage Neck was acquired by a group of year-round and summer residents. Finding the 53-year-old structure antiquated, they proceeded to demolish all of the buildings on the Neck and began redevelopment of the property. As part of the project, the Stage Neck Inn was built. Mr. and Mrs. Alexander B. Warrick, who had summered here almost all of their lives, opened Stage Neck Inn to the public on July 14, 1973.
In 1981, W. Mark Foster, a lifetime resident of York Harbor, and his father-in-law, Hal Field, purchased the Stage Neck Inn. Since that time, they have endeavored to maintain the well-established high standards of quality service and accommodations set by their predecessors.
During their ownership, they have made many improvements to the property including the addition of a fitness room, indoor pool and full-service spa. Initially built as an atrium structure, the indoor pool was demolished in 2012 and a new, energy-efficient pool accessible to all guests was built. The Inn has undergone extensive renovations to the public spaces; Shearwater Restaurant, Sandpiper Bar & Grille, Harborview Room, Upper Lobby, Outdoor Pool Club, and in June 2020 a new outdoor restaurant was added called Gallows Point.
Together with the entire Stage Neck Inn team, the Foster Family continues the preservation of elegance and luxury the hotel has maintained for the past 48 years to ensure that the fine traditions of exceptional hospitality continue today and for many years to come.