The Cooperage, or Cooper Shop formerly stood on the rocks on the shore in Sullivan Harbor along what is now Harbor View Drive. This was the main road (often referred to in those days as the town or county road) through Sullivan before Route 1 was built and filled in. The shop was built in the early 1850s for Daniel Wilson, who moved his family first from Bradford to Franklin, where the 1850 industry census for the town recorded Wilson as having made 4,680 barrels by hand that year, using over 93,000 staves and 46,000 hoops to do so.
Within a couple of years, Wilson had moved his family to Sullivan and the cooperage was built. They lived next door in the former Capt. William Salter house which had been built in the 1830s and originally was located just up the hill before Salter moved it for the Wilsons (Salter then built a new house for his family in the old location).
In 1863, Daniel Wilson purchased the parcel of land which held the shop and home. The 1863 deed also conveys “the points of rocks on which it now stands and also the stone wharf built expressly to accommodate said Cooper Shop.” Across the road was the childhood home of Sullivan author Alice Turner Curtis. According to Leila Johnson’s book Sullivan and Sorrento Since 1760, Curtis remembered the Cooper Shop as being most active in the 1870s. “…the “Cooper Shop” is the building toward the “Cove”, where Daniel made barrels in the 1870s, which were loaded onto schooners and sent to various ports.”
Daniel Wilson was born in 1816 in Bradford and married Lorinda there in 1844. They had 9 children:
- Stanislaus, b. 1845 in Bradford, m. Georgia Simpson
- Alvin T., b. 1847 in Bradford, m. Alice J. Wooster
- Harvey, b. 1850 in Franklin, died in childhood
- Augustus H., b. 1852 in Sullivan
- Arabelle C., b. 1854, m. Capt. Charles Allen in 1898
- Andalusia, b. 1856, died in childhood
- Charles M., b. 1858
- John H., b. 1862
- Charlene (Lena), b. 1866 in Sullivan.
Sullivan Harbor before the new Route 1 ran through it, with the Cooper Shop and house in center and remnants of the stone wharf running to the right.
The family all lived together in the same house through Daniel’s death at age 73 in 1889.
His son Alvin kept the cooperage going for a few more years. An excerpt from the Ellsworth American in 1893 reads: “Sullivan – Mr. Alvin Wilson has manufactured and sold over 100 fish barrels this spring.” As the need for handmade barrels declined along with the shipping industry, the Cooper Shop was left silent by 1900. Alvin had moved on to the stone and cement manufacturing business, and in 1898 his sister Belle had married with the old family house becoming the Allen home.
When Belle married Charles Allen, a steamboat captain, she had been running the Sullivan Harbor post office on her own for several years. He was a widower and single father of a 7-year-old daughter, Ruth. Belle raised her as her own, and after Charles’ death in 1919, Ruth continued to live at home while she worked as a teacher at the nearby schoolhouse. Not for long though, as on Sept. 7, 1920, she married Elwood Morton Wilbur, a civil engineer, and off they went to live at the American consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Belle remained in her old family home until the last years of her life, and she passed in 1941. Her estate sold the home to Winifred Zulich and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Berwind, early followers of Rudolph Steiner and anthroposophy.
Within a few short years, a new chapter for the home and Sullivan’s history would begin, when…
Sullivan’s first public library found its home in 2 rooms in the second floor of the house in 1948 when the owners donated its use – the first incarnation of Frenchman Bay Library. Rev. Margaret Henrichsen was inspired by this charitable act and got a committee together made up of 14 local women to guide the library forward. By 1952, the library occupied the entire second floor of the home and thrived with community support.
In the winter of 1956, an overheated chimney resulted in the old house burning, but many books were rescued and stored in the basement of the Grammar School. A newly planned Rec Center would become the future and current home of Frenchman Bay Library.
Also in the 1950s, the new state highway which would become US Route 1 was built across the head of the harbor on a small causeway, causing the interior portion to become known as the tidal pool, and the old main road to be called Harbor View Drive.
Years after the Wilson/Allen home burned and the Cooper Shop was dismantled, new property owners used brick and granite from the old foundation to build a patio at the edge of the Mill Brook.
Among the blocks in the foundation, they found a large piece matching the Paul Dudley Sargent monument, inscribed with his name and year of death, 1828. It’s unknown how it became a part of that foundation, though the reason would have been known by Captain William Salter who put it there in 1862.
Today, the Tidal Pool along Harbor View Drive fills and drains as ever, and though the two bustling buildings are long gone, the “points of rocks” on which the Cooper Shop was built are still in place, along with the remnants of the age-old stone wharf that once kept schooners steadily supplied with barrels to move goods to and from ports far away and long ago.
Side view from west of the Cooper Shop and the Wilson/Allen house on Sullivan Harbor, before Route 1 filled in the area.