Historic New England Houses

The second place we stayed on this trip was in Maine and had the delightful name of Merrymeeting Retreat. It’s named after the nearby peninsula and bay of the Kennenec River to which it’s possible to walk, through woods, to see eagles nesting and other wildlife.

Our host told us that the house, below, was built in 1780 by Captain Samuel and Hannah Hinton Lilly. It stands next to the very quiet Route 128 (River Road) about 12 miles north of the historic town of Bath and about 8 miles from the equally historic (by American standards) town of Wiscasset to the east.

river road house


dining rm

In the past I’ve visited Historic New England properties in the Ogunquit, Maine region and its single Cape Cod property : The Winslow Crocker House.

After we’d booked the Retreat I discovered that there were two Historic New England houses in Wiscasset within easy reach of each other. On the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend I spent the afternoon visiting both. There are half hourly tours and at each house and I was conducted round on my own. Most people, apparently, prefer the beach on sunny Sundays.

Castle T Maine

First up was Castle Tucker (above) built in 1807 by Silas Lee.

Castle Tucker Wiscasset

Main Entrance to Castle Tucker

Dramatically sited on a hill overlooking the Sheepscot River, Castle Tucker tells the story of a prominent shipping family’s life on the coast of Maine over a period of one hundred and fifty years. From 1858 until the end of the twentieth century, both the Tucker family and their imposing house survived economic upheavals, emotional turmoil, and a rapidly changing outside world.

Built in 1807 and in need of updating at the time the Tuckers moved in, the house was redecorated and furnished to satisfy modern Victorian taste and sensibilities. With a reversal of fortune that came at the end of the nineteenth century, the family was forced to take in summer boarders in order to survive. Due to limited financial resources, the interiors have remained largely unchanged from this time, making Castle Tucker one of the most intact Victorian-era homes in New England.”

Tucker rear

Rear of Castle Tucker

Tucker view

River View from Castle Tucker

As usual, no photography was allowed inside. I bought a postcard showing the unusual kitchen and realised afterwards I should have photographed the other postcards.

CT Kitchen

The Castle Tucker Victorian Kitchen (postcard)

The Nickels-Sortwell House is on the main street (Route 1) which passes straight through the town. It’s a very prominent house and again the staff welcomed me and took me on the designated tour.

Nickells Sortwell House

Here’s a bit of history and introduction to the house :

In 1807, Captain William Nickells built of the finest examples of high Federal style architecture in New England, a mansion of beauty, style, and sphistication. From the elegant entrance to stunning interior detailing the house was designed to proclaim the wealth and taste of its owner. Eight years later, Captain Nickells and his wife and daughter were dead from a spotted fever epidemic and his estate was bankrupt. The family home became a hotel for the next 84 years enduring multiple owners and benign neglect. In 1889 wealthy industrialist Alvin Sortwell and his wife Gertrude of Cambridge, Massachusetts bought the house as a summer home for their family of six children aged from 8 to 17, plus servants. The old house came alive with children, friends, fun and laughter. Gertrude Sortwell furnished the house with beautiful furniture in the Colonial Revival style, combining 18th century antiques with high end reproductions. She and her daughter Frances were stalwart preservationists who restored the house to its former glory. Frances died in 1957, leaving her magnificent home to Historic New England as a gift to the village she loved. (Adapted from the Information Board outside the house)

NS door


6 comments on “Historic New England Houses

  1. Fran says:

    East Coast house envy! I love these. Years ago, pre-Internet days, I was involved in researching for such houses as possible inclusions in a book written by my employers. So many fascinating histories behind them.

    • How very fascintaing, Fran. There are some very unusual pieces and designs to be seen – but not to be photographed. Although it was pointed out to me that both houses had very different histories I could see many similarities too – such as opening up as guest houses when times were hard and being hit by the effects of the 1807 Jeffersonian embargo which crippled the local economy. Following the links to each house it’s possible to see some interior pictures. As you probably realise these two were far from being the only ‘big’ houses in Wiscasset. It’s nice to see that the others are still very much lived in by proud owners.

  2. Beautiful, thank you.

  3. sherry says:

    What is the room on the second floor of Castle Tucker, with the huge windows?

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