Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, The Cummings’ Guest House is an example of the type of lodging that catered to African American tourists in the years before they were guaranteed equal access to eating and sleeping accommodations by law. The house’ significance was enhanced by the renown of some of its famous African American guests, who stayed at the Guest House while performing in the seaside resort town of Old Orchard Beach. Old Orchard Beach was one of a string of seaside resorts in Maine that became popular at the end of the 19th century and became increasingly accessible via rail and then automobile in the early 20th century. Along with the requisite grand hotels, sandy beaches, eateries and amusements Old Orchard Beach became known for its extensive pier and boardwalk, which at one point in time stretched 1800 feet into the water and featured its own miniature passenger rail line along its length.
The Cumming's Guest House was owned and run by Rose Cummings along with her husband and her seven children. Rose Cummings kept a leather-bound guest register in which the names and addresses of all her guests and their length of stay were recorded. The first guest arrived in 1923 and the last left in September of 1993. Hundreds of names appear in the register, some of which reoccur year after year for several decades, and with addresses ranging from Oklahoma and Minnesota to Washington DC, New York City and the Boston suburbs. Although the business was successful, the Cummings Guest House was never mentioned in the vast number of promotional materials for Old Orchard Beach. It was never listed in Manning’s town directory or the Maine Register under Hotel, Guest House, or Boardinghouse. No formal name was found for the hostelry, it was commonly referred to by family and members of the community as a boarding house or guest house, or simply as ‘110,' a reference to its address. The house was frequently booked from May to September for decades on end, the Cummings’ Guest House is one of several facilities in Maine that catered to African American tourists via a network that relied initially on word of mouth and personal references, and eventually propagated through specialized touring guides like The Negro Motorist Green-Book.
Link to Cummings' Guest House File
110 Portland Ave. Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Ethnic Heritage/ Black, Entertainment/Recreation
Listed in the National Register – Reference number 04000744
Last updated: August 10, 2021