Historic New England’s Castle Tucker and Nickels-Sortwell House will open for the season on Friday, June 4.
The museums will be open for tours Friday through Sunday, June 4-6. Guided tours will be given on the half hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the last tour each day leaving at 3 p.m. All visitors must follow current state COVID-19 guidelines and follow social distancing rules. Tickets must be pre-purchased at historicnewengland.org/property/castle-tucker and historicnewengland.org/property/nickels-sortwell-house. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $7 for student and $6 for children. Tours are free for Historic New England members.
Castle Tucker, located at 2 Lee St. in Wiscasset, is one of Maine’s most fascinating landmarks. One can step back in time as one walks through a mansion filled with the original furnishings and decoration of the Tucker family, who lived there for more than 140 years. One of the most complete and original Victorian homes in the United States, this unusual-style house was built in 1807 by one of Wiscasset’s most prominent citizens, Silas Lee, a lawyer, congressman, and judge. This year, visitors will hear stories of how servants enabled the Lees to live an elegant lifestyle.
In 1858, Capt. Richard Tucker Jr., scion of a prominent Wiscasset shipping family, bought the house for his new and growing family. The Tuckers updated and redecorated to reflect the styles of their time. Very little was changed in the house after 1900, including a kitchen with four generations of kitchen technology still in place where it was used. Preserved by three generations of Tucker women, Castle Tucker is one of the most complete and original Victorian homes in the United States.
The extensive archive left by the Tuckers enables Historic New England to tell the extraordinary stories of the lives and loves of this talented and colorful family as told by the family themselves. The stories include that of Annie McMullen Donnell, who came to the house as a servant in 1891 and returned decades later as a lodger and companion to Jane Armstrong Tucker for the last several decades of the women’s lives. Through these voices, the 19th century comes alive in this truly unique house.
Nickels-Sortwell House, at 121 Main St. in Wiscasset, began life as the trophy home of shipping magnate Capt. William Nickels at the height of Wiscasset’s fortunes as a thriving seaport in 1807. This year, visitors will hear new stories of the Nickels family lifestyle and its cost as told by servants and family members.
The new tour shines a spotlight on untold stories, including that of Mary Chase Turner, who ran the house as an inn for 44 years after Nickels’ death in 1815, and William Wilcockson who spruced up the old building in 1870 for a new breed of guests and tourists. The Belle Haven, as it was known, became popular with locals and visitors from throughout the country and Europe until it was purchased in 1899 by successful industrialist and Alvin Sortwell, the former mayor of Cambridge, Mass. The mansion then became a much loved summer home for the Sortwells’ large and active family.
Alvin Sortwell’s wife Gertrude and daughter Frances restored the house over the years, decorating and furnishing it in the Colonial Revival style. This year, visitors will hear the stories of Ross Elwell, the butler, and Irish immigrants Margaret O’Hanlon and Josephine Dodge, who served the Sortwell family for over 40 years.
For more information about Castle Tucker and Nickels-Sortwell House, go to historicnewengland.org or call 882-7169.