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Victoria Mansion, Portland, ME

Also known as the Morse-Libby House, Victoria Mansion was built between 1858 and 1860 as a summer home for two people, Ruggles Sylvester Morse and his wife Olive. Though both from Maine originally, the Morses made their home in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ruggles Morse made his fortune operating luxury hotels, although he also invested in many side businesses, as well as being an active participant in the slave economy that was so pervasive in New Orleans. This spectacular summer home was designed by the architect Henry Austin of New Haven, CT, and is widely considered one of the finest examples of the Italian Villa style in America. Strategically located near the city’s earliest gas and sewer lines, the house was a model of elegance and convenience with hot and cold running water, flush toilets, central heating, gas lights, a servant call-bell system, wall-to-wall carpeting, and a 25-foot-long stained glass skylight.

Picture of Original Gasoliers in Victoria Mansion

See the Original Gasoliers

Picture of the San Domingo Mahogany Staircase

Experience San Domingo Mahogany Staircase

Dining Room inside Victoria Mansion

Elegance and History Awaits You

Exterior View of Victoria Mansion, Portland, ME

Victoria Mansion, Portland, ME

Picture of Original Gasoliers in Victoria Mansion See the Original Gasoliers
Picture of the San Domingo Mahogany Staircase Experience San Domingo Mahogany Staircase
Dining Room inside Victoria Mansion Elegance and History Awaits You
Exterior View of Victoria Mansion, Portland, ME Victoria Mansion, Portland, ME

Attraction Detail and History

Morse hired Gustave Herter, a German trained cabinetmaker and interior designer, to decorate his summer retreat. Herter was one of the most influential designers in the United States during the second half of the 19th 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.

Ruggles Morse died in 1893, and the following year, his widow, Olive Ring Merrill Morse, sold the house with most of its furnishings to J.R. Libby, a prominent dry goods merchant who owned department stores, one of which was located on nearby Congress Street. The Libby family preserved the original décor and made few changes to the property. The Libbys owned the Mansion until the late 1930s.

In 1940, the house was rescued from an uncertain fate and has been open to the public as a museum since 1941. Today Victoria Mansion contains over 90% of the original interiors, including almost all of the original wall paintings by the Italian-born artist Giuseppe Guidicini, a master of the trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) style; many surfaces in the house appear to be three-dimensional and warrant a second look.

Victoria Mansion strives to return the house to its original 1860 condition while preserving important evidence of its evolution over time. As with any old house, deterioration happens, but careful monitoring and maintenance help to ensure that the Mansion remains stable and can remain open to visitors. Ongoing efforts to clean and restore paint, woodwork, furniture, and brownstone, combined with the replication of original textiles, allow visitors to see the Mansion in all of its 19th century splendor.

Located between Portland’s Arts District and West End neighborhood, Victoria Mansion provides guests with a look back at the luxuries available to the upper class in the Victorian era, as well as the Mansion’s place in 19th century Portland overall. Guests have the opportunity to learn more about the history of the house, its occupants, and its surroundings from the Mansion’s experienced docent corps during their visit. Following the tour, guests may visit the museum’s gift shop, located in the property’s original carriage house, which features unique items inspired by the Victorian period and the house itself, as well as creations by Maine and New England artisans.

 

Gift Shop & Handicapped Accessibility

Gift Shop

Think your friends and family won’t believe you time-traveled to the 1800s? Bring your adventure to the Victorian-era back home with a book on nineteenth century architecture, custom-made jewelry or an old-fashioned gift for a precious little one. 

 

Handicapped Accessibility

Arrangements can be made for wheelchair/walker drop-off.