V is for Victoria Mansion
The Victoria Mansion is one of Portland, Maine’s most famous attractions, aside from the fresh seafood of course. The Victoria is a peek into Portland’s rich and influential residents and visitors at the decadent lifestyles they led. Inside and out, there was nothing leave undone or out of place. As soon as you step on the mansion’s grounds, you are wisped away to a time of high society and elegance. The gorgeously preserved and restored mansion still has an air of aristocracy about it and more than eight-five percent of the original Gustave Herter décor is still intact.
The Victoria Mansion’s Fascinating History
Originally called the Morse-Libby House, the Victoria Mansion was merely the summer vacation house for mogul Ruggles Morse. He was a wealthy pre- Civil War luxury hotel tycoon and had the Victoria built in the mid 1850’s to early 1860’s. The famous J.R. Libby family purchased the mansion in 1894 from Morse’s widow. The Libby’s took great care of the lavish mansion and altered very little. They called it home until 1929.
After the Libby family moved out of the mansion, disaster struck in the form of a hurricane. The mansion stood lifeless and on the verge of destruction to make way for modern conveniences, such as a gas station, until 1941. This is when siblings William H. and Clara Holmes purchased the mansion to be preserved as part of history. The Holmes siblings gave the mansion its current name of the Victoria Mansion as a tribute to Queen Victoria. The Society of Maine Women of Achievement became the proprietors of the not for profit museum in 1943. Then, in 1970, it became a National Historic Landmark.
The Victoria Mansion’s Stunning Architecture
None other than Henry Austin, the renowned Architect from New Haven designed the Victoria Mansion for the Mr. Morse. The Victoria is one of Austin’s finest examples of an Italianate style villa. This style was very popular in the 19th century, however, not usually in residential applications. The design of the Victoria was to marry urban and rural living and achieved brilliantly by Austin. You can see the craftsmanship still today.
The Victoria Mansion’s Exquisite Décor
After the devastating hurricane of 1938, many were surprised to see that most of the mansion’s interior décor spared. The Victoria is the only standing example of the design work of Gustave Herter, the 19th century immigrant designer of the Herter Brothers firm. Between the extravagant style of Gustave and the hospitality experience of Mr. Morse, the mansion became the talk of Portland. They had wall to wall carpet and even hot and cold running water. Also, many surfaces of the mansion are gilded in gold leaf, such as ornate column and entryways. The inside of the mansion is home to decadent furnishings and themed rooms along with yards and yards of expensive drapery.
The Victoria Mansion is truly a sight to behold. If you are planning a trip to Portland, be sure to stop by and have a glimpse at how the Donald Trump of his time, Ruggles Morse lived in 19th century luxury.