Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 20, 2014
Isle au Haut lobsterman’s house added to National Register of Historic Places
“It is historic for what happened there”
The Gooden Grant House on Isle au Haut has been entered into the he National Register of Historic Places based on the “iconic” life of Grant.
by Anne Berleant
Gooden Grant began fishing for lobster out of Head Harbor during the last quarter of the 1800s. He was nine years old and built a prosperous life as a lobstermen for 75 years until he retired in 1961 at the age of 84.
Now the Gooden Grant House is part of the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that arose from his life as both a prosperous lobsterman and one who has become part of American folklore.
“It is historic for what happened there,” said Christi Mitchell, an architectural historian with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission who researched Grant’s life.
Interviews conducted with Grant are archived in the Maine Folklife Center and helped determine Grant’s historic significance and, by connection, the Gooden Grant House. Grant died in 1975.
Mitchell listened to the recordings, not part of the normal investigative process for an application to the National Register.
“It was unusual,” she said. “This was the first time we did a national registry for a person.”
The two-story, balloon-framed, Queen Anne-style house is still known as the Gooden Grant House 40 years after the lobsterman’s death.
“We thought this house probably represented a house that could be afforded by a very successful lobsterman of this period,” Mitchell said. The spacious but “not ostentatious, not overly designed” house has been little changed throughout the years.
The current owners Ellard and Kate Taylor, who purchased the house in 2001, brought the house to the attention of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission about two years ago. Mitchell said the application process took two years, about twice the average time, because of its unusual nature.
“We wanted to honor the man who so well represents the fierce, complicated, and still brutally territorial world of lobster fishing. Gooden won those battles in his day,” Kate Taylor wrote in an recent email.
While not the only house built on Isle au Haut by a prosperous lobsterman of this period, the Gooden Grant House was chosen for its association “with Gooden in particular,” Mitchell said.
“Gooden Grant was larger than life,” reads a press release issued by the commission. “His exploits and skills, power and importance have transcended from mere factual biography to the realm of folk legend. Stories of the man are told both on and off the island…Grant became an iconic Maine lobsterman who embodied the traits of rugged independence that were so important for survival on the Maine coast.”
The period covered in the registration starts in 1911 when the house was built on property long owned by his family and ends in 1961, covering a 50-year period of “his active, productive life,” Mitchell said.
“He deserves his more formal place in maritime history, something the National Register of Historic Places designation achieves,” Taylor’s email continued. “I hope Gooden is up above or elsewhere celebrating by sharing his finest bootlegged whiskey!”