Frances Perkins Homestead

External view of a brick building.
National Park Service photo, 2012

National Historic Landmark, #14000919

Quick Facts
Newcastle, Maine
Family home of Frances Perkins, first U.S. female cabinet secretary
National Historic Landmark

The Frances Perkins Homestead in Newcastle, Maine is the family home of Frances Perkins (1880-1965), the first female cabinet member in U.S. history. Perkins served as Secretary of Labor in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration from 1932 until 1945. She designed or influenced many of the most significant programs and policies of the New Deal, including Social Security, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Fair Labor Standards Act, anti-child labor laws, and a minimum wage.  

Although she lived primarily in Washington, D.C. during her years in government, Perkins considered the family property in Maine her true home.[1] Officially known as the Brick House Historic District, it sits on 57 acres of land on the Damariscotta River. Frances Perkins’s ancestors settled the land in the 1750s. They ran a saltwater farm and brickyard on the edge of the tidal river. 

The family built the main residence, the Brick House, in 1837 as a wedding president for Perkins’s grandparents. Frances (or Fannie as she was originally known) grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts. But she spent most of her summers as a child on the farm with her grandmother, Cynthia Otis Perkins. “I am extraordinarily the product of grandmother,” Perkins once said, calling her “an extremely wise woman—worldly wise, as well as spiritually wise.” Perkins biographer Kirstin Downey describes her experiences at the homestead as formative: “Her undying belief in America’s greatness and goodness were rooted in her concept of what makes America unique—and these views were formed at and by that home in Maine.” 

Perkins attended Mount Holyoke College. In 1904, she moved to Chicago and worked with Jane Addams at Hull-House, a settlement house on the city’s west side.[2] She later returned to the East Coast and settled in New York City, where she studied sociology at Columbia University.[3] Perkins became a workers’ rights advocate. In 1911, this vocation was strengthened when she witnessed 146 workers—mostly young immigrant women—die in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.[4] Over the next two decades, Perkins built a career in New York government. Among other positions, she led a Committee on Safety of the City of New York and served as the state’s Industrial Commissioner. Perkins brought her experience and determination to her job as FDR’s Secretary of Labor. She drafted laws and administered key New Deal programs to lift the United States out of the Great Depression and protect workers’ rights. 

Frances Perkins’s career took her far beyond rural Maine, but throughout her life she returned to the family home to rest and recharge. The 57-acre property includes the main “Brick House,” a barn, and an outbuilding from the late 19th century. Also present are the remains of the Perkins family brickyard, a walled garden, and several fields previously used for agriculture. The family operated the property as a “saltwater farm”—harvesting from both the land and the sea. 

Frances Perkins died in 1965. She is buried in Glidden Cemetery in Newcastle, a short distance from the Perkins Homestead. The Brick House Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 13, 2009. It was designated a National Historic Landmark for its association with Frances Perkins on August 25, 2014. In February of 2020, the Frances Perkins Center purchased the property from the Perkins family. Its mission is to preserve Perkins’s memory and honor her legacy. 


[1] The Frances Perkins House in Washington, D.C. is located at 2326 California Street N.W. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark on July 17, 1991. 

[2] Hull House, 800 S. Halsted, Chicago, Illinois was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 and designated a National Historic Landmark on June 23. 1965. The house and the dining room wing were documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey

[3] Low Memorial Library at Columbia University was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 23, 1987, 

[4] The site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, now known as the Brown Building, was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 17, 1991. 



Downey, Kirstin. The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins. New York: Doubleday, 2009. 
"Frances Perkins Homestead, Newcastle." Maine Preservation, October 30, 2018. 
"Her Life: The Woman Behind the New Deal." Frances Perkins Center, June 1, 2014. 
Montes, Geoff. "A New Chapter for the Frances Perkins Homestead." National Trust for Historic Preservation, last updated March 9, 2017. 

Last updated: March 16, 2021