Merry Christmas from the Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine!
Designed by architect Henry Austin of New Haven, Conn., this exquisite beauty was built between 1858-1860.
The Italianate villa, which features colorful wall and ceiling paintings by Italian artist Giuseppe Guidicini, was built as a summer home for native Mainers hotelier Ruggles Sylvester Morse and his wife Olive. Morse left Maine to make his money in luxury hotels in New Orleans, New York and Boston.
“Morse hired Gustave Herter, a German-trained cabinetmaker and interior designer to decorate his summer retreat,” says the official Victoria Mansion website. “Herter was one of the most influential designers in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century. Today, Victoria Mansion is the only Herter commission that survives intact. Richly gilded surfaces, intricate plasterwork, enormous mirrors, and sumptuous fabrics combined to create lavish spaces of a palatial scale.”
Morse lived in the house until his death in 1893. A year later, Olive sold the house and its contents to Joseph Ralph Libby, a Portland merchant and department store owner. The Libby family lived there until 1929.
After the Great Depression and the 1938 Portland flood, unpaid back taxes caused the house to be repossessed. It was threatened with demolition, but was ultimately saved by William H. Holmes, who bought it in order to preserve it as a museum.
Holmes opened the house as Victoria Mansion (named after Britain’s Queen Victoria) in 1941, and it still operates as one today.
“Due to donations by the Libby family, 97 percent of the original contents survive, including Herter furniture, elaborate wall paintings, artworks, carpets, gas lighting fixtures, stained glass, porcelain, silver, and glassware,” according to its Wikipedia page. “The house has twin sinks in the guest bedroom on the second floor; a Turkish smoking room, which is one of the first example of Islamic architecture in the United States; carved marble fireplaces; and a flying staircase.”
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.