The Victoria Mansion passed through three different families before opening as a museum dedicated to the United Kingdom’s Queen Victoria in 1941. Later bequeathed to the Society of Maine Women of Achievement, in 1970 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Enjoy the opulence of pre-Civil War wealth when everything was beautiful, intricate and delicately ornate from the inside out. As the most prominent residential example of the Italian villa-style architecture, this Henry Austin designed mansion will leave you astonished by the details and craftsmanship. Marvel at the Gustave Herter styled interior, draped from floor to ceiling in wealth. You’ll savor the chance to take a little bit of the Victorian-era home with you by visiting the gift shop before you leave.
Constructed out of New England brownstone with a booming four-story watch tower, you will notice the great contrast with many of the red brick or white wood homes in the area. Upon completion in 1860, Victoria was Maine’s priciest home at $400,000, and for good reason. No expense was spared by the Morse family in creating their utopian summer sanctuary. Observe architect Henry Austin’s intent to integrate the Italian countryside feel coupled with the Victorian-era niceties within 1860s urban America; a truly difficult feat. Through public grants and private donations, Victoria has undergone a few cosmetic touch-ups to recapture her gorgeous glow. You’ll appreciate the refurbished brownstone façade and piazzas that allow you to feel the nineteenth century breathe again. The Corinthian columns greet you in grand style making you want to put on your fanciest top hat or tie up that corset for the special occasion. Everywhere your eye meets you notice intricate stone embellishments and engravings, demonstrating true artistry that has endured the test of time. Luckily, the exterior grandeur is only an appetizer to what waits inside.
Victorian-Era Interior Precision
Majestic, opulent and incredible do not even begin to describe Victoria’s interior magnificence. As you embark on your Victorian adventure, enter through the precisely carved anterior set of doors and into the foyer. Stepping through the vestibule you’re met by the extravagant San Domingo mahogany grand staircase swooping down almost theatrically in Victorian-glory with its gorgeous stained-glass backdrop seeping sunlight throughout. Let your eyes wander about as you take in the custom Giovanni Guidirini painted Italian ceiling frescos framed by hand-carved scrolled woodwork. The one-of-a-kind artwork required the importation of eleven Italian artists to complete. Suspended all the way from the third floor down to the first are the original gasoliers hanging as the perfect centerpieces to nineteenth century aristocracy.
Throughout the home you will find seven fireplaces draped in Carrara marble mantles, a real rarity at the time. On the first floor, be amazed by the floor-to-ceiling luxurious décor. Imagine life as a nineteenth century grandee entertaining throughout the first floor music room, dining room, library and parlor. From the silver-plated doorknobs to the hand-carved wall panels of Brazilian rosewood, walnut and mahogany to the true Victorian-era furnishings, no inch of this home has been left unornamented. Currently comprised of ninety percent original 1860s Morse family décor, you are truly able to waltz back in time.
Up the mahogany-carved staircase, be sure to glance through the stained-glass roof and soak in the inspiring rays beaming through the home. The middle floor of the home, still intricately and lavishly decorated, centered on family and domesticity. Amongst the four bedrooms and smoking room is the water closet, a very rare gem from the era. The antique restroom came equipped with hot and cold running water, a privilege only for the elite.
The top floor again is swathed in rich textures and materials reserved exclusively for the posh. Besides accommodating three more bedrooms, in its heyday, you would have heard billiard balls breaking in the third floor parlor. A true continuation of the elite nineteenth century gentry.
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.