Maine’s history is among the oldest in the country. We were officially named the 23rd state in 1820, but York became the first incorporated city in America nearly 200 years before that – in 1642. Our age means we’ve got some interesting history and nowhere is that more evident than in the way we lived. Here are a few houses in Maine that have the best stories to tell – if these walls could talk!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Castle Tucker, Wiscassett
Castle Tucker sits on a hill overlooking the Sheepscot River. It was built in 1807 and was updated by the Tucker family when they moved in. At the time, Wiscasset was a fairly bustling port in Maine and the Tuckers were quite prominent in shipping. Over time they saw some upheaval, including a reversal of fortune that required them to take in summer boarders in the home to make ends meet. Due in part to the financial troubles they faced, the interior of the home has remained relatively the same since after their initial renovations. A visit to the home reveals three generation's worth of family possessions and a true glimpse into what life was life for them at the time.
2. Marrett House, Standish
In 1796, Harvard graduate Daniel Marrett became the town minister. In an effort to make his standing in the town known, he purchased one of the most imposing homes in Standish. Over the next 150 years, three generations of Marretts would live and thrive here. They made some updates to the home in the mid-ninetheenth century, but made a conscious decision to pay homage to the past by keeping much of the furniture and arrangements of the rooms the same. Today, each room in the home displays important pieces of the family history, along with relics of the time period.
3. Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Brunswick
This is the home where abolitionist writer Harriot Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. The Stowe family only spent two years living here, but Harriet called them the "happiest and healthiest" of her life. In April 2016, it was added to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom by the National Park Service.
The conversations that took place inside were an important impetus to the writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Bowdoin College also recently announced the opening of "Harriet’s Writing Room," which honors the time period and the novel. This structure was also home to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who lived there when he was a student. For more about the recent designation, click
4. Winslow Homer Studio, Scarborough
The former home of artist Winslow Homer is now owned by the Portland Museum of Art who offers tours seasonally. The home and studio were originally a carriage house, which Homer had an architect alter. One of the alterations was a 100-foot move to create additional privacy from his brother's summer home next door.
The artist often painted from the dramatic balcony in the winter. Another interesting fact about the house involves the restoration process. Homer's family made upgrades to the house, which were undone by the museum in order to ensure it looked as it did when the artist lived there. You can take private tours of the home and studio through arrangements with the museum.
5. The Wilhelm Reich Museum, Rangeley
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian-born physician-scientist who studied with Freud in the 1920s. He fled Germany in the 1930s and soon after, began studying ideas of life origins that distanced him from the more traditional academic world. He studied what he said was a life energy called "orgone" and ultimately was arrested by the government after the FDA found him selling questionable machinery as actual medical devices. Whether or not you agree with his ideas, his life and enthusiasm for his interests are intriguing. Reich was sentenced to two years in prison and, sadly, died while incarcerated.
His laboratory and home are called "Orgonon" and now house The Wilhelm Reich Museum. The area is a historic site and nature preserve comprised of 175 acres of fields and woodland, a system of trails, a Conference Center, and the Orgone Energy Observatory.
6. Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's childhood home is the oldest (still standing) structure on the Portland peninsula. It was built by Longfellow's grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth, in 1786. There have been no changes to the inside since 1901, when the last family member living there passed away. Before her death, she ensured that the home be given to the Maine Historical Society. You can visit it from May to October. The weekend preceding Halloween includes a ghost tour and Christmas is a lovely glimpse into what the home may have looked like during Longfellow's holidays.
7. Beckett's Castle, Cape Elizabeth
Lived in by publisher, Sylvester B. Beckett, who died in 1882, Beckett Castle is said to be haunted by his ghost. Sightings come in the form of sheets ripped off of freshly made beds and doors that refuse to stay shut.
8. Victoria Mansion, Portland
Also known as the Morse-Libby Mansion, this historic landmark was built in 1860 as a summer house for a hotelier. It has been identified as one of the best, original examples of an Italianate Villa-styled brick and brownstone town house in the United States. The last of the Libby family moved out in 1928, but the home was purchased to be preserved as a museum. It opened in 1941 to serve this purpose.
9. The Tate House, Portland
Captain Geroge Tate and his family arrived in the Colonies around 1750 and had this home built. Tate's job when arriving in Maine was Senior Mast Agent for the British Royal Navy. He closely oversaw the cutting and shipping of white pines from Maine to England. The importance of this job solidified his stature in the community and this status is reflected in the overall architecture of the home. The Tate House is the only pre-Revolutionary home in Greater Portland that is open to the public.
10. The Woodlawn Museum, Ellsworth
After the Revolutionary War, the tract of land where the Woodlawn Museum now sits was purchased by a businessman from Philadelphia. It was sold to an English landowning company in 1792. The landowner soon sent 18-year-old John Black to act as an agent for them in the area. John Black had this home built for his family sometime in the mid to late 1980s. Also called the Black Mansion, today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and acts as a museum.
11. The Joshua Chamberlain House, Brunswick
Joshua Chamberlain was born in Brewer in 1828. He attended Bowdoin, followed by Bangor Theological Seminary. His father commanded troops in the Aroostook War of 1839, which was enough of a soldiering background to urge him to become a part of the Civil War. His war career is now well-known, helped in part by Hollywood. But, after the war he returned to teaching at Bowdoin briefly. Soon after returning to his position, he was elected Governor of Maine for four terms.
In 1856, Chamberlain began renting this home on Potter Street in Brunswick. Three years later he bought it for $2,100.
Fun Fact: Chamberlain recalls having heard Harriet Beecher Stowe read aloud from her newly penned book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin." This book was written in the home featured as #3 on this list!
If you love Maine history, pay a visit to some of the state’s best landmarks. Click
here for a few of our favorites!