It is interesting that Maine towns often have separate villages inside them. Phippsburg has Popham and Small Point, among others; Georgetown has Five Islands and Robinhood, and others.

One of the more exclusive villages is Pennellville, which is a historic district in Brunswick. This area features important shipbuilding history and several historic waterfront mansions, along with some of the highest real estate prices in Maine.

Thomas Pennell arrived in Brunswick around 1760 and soon set up a shipyard. He built the first house at Pennellville, which no longer stands, and had five sons. His second son, Thomas III, had five sons of his own (and five daughters), and together they carried on the family shipbuilding business for generations.

Between them all, the Pennell family built around 70 ships over the span of 114 years.

Jacob Pennell, son of Thomas III, built around 20 ships and bought up most of the land in Pennellville from his siblings. His own sons took over the business and the operation became known as the Pennell Brothers. Like many other shipbuilding families in Maine, the Pennells sold some of the ships they built, kept others for their shipping business, and sometimes served as captains aboard their own vessels.

The end of Pennell shipbuilding came toward the close of the 1800s with the popularity of steamships and railroads, along with the death of James Pennell, who was the last master shipbuilder in the family. While the shipyard is long gone, at least six of the old Pennell mansions still stand. These are the James, William, Jacob II, Job, Benjamin, and Charles Pennell mansions.

The Jacob Pennell II house was later the home of famous poet and author Robert P. Tristram Coffin, who married into the Pennell family and won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. His novel,“Captain Abby and Captain John,” is about two of the Pennell brothers.

Pennellville was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.


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