Historic Homes For The Holidays: Victoria Mansion

Victoria Mansion, photograph by William H. Johnson

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, the holiday season has officially begun. It’s the time for holiday decorations, Christmas carols, and, this year at Victoria Mansion, a combination of the two. This year’s Christmas at Victoria Mansion theme is “Deck the Halls: the Carols of Christmas,” and there has never been a better time visit this lavish Portland mansion.

Featured in our latest title, New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens, Victoria Mansion is one of the finest surviving examples of mid-nineteenth-century American architecture and a perfect holiday getaway.

Designed specifically to flaunt their wealth, Victoria Mansion, the most costly residence built in Maine as of 1860, was built as a summer home for Ruggles Morse and his wife, native Mainers who had since moved to New Orleans. Though they visited soon after its completion in 1860, they were unable to summer there again until after the Civil War. Visitors to the mansion may notice that the main hall ceiling depicts only three of the four virtues. Since Morse, a hotelier in New Orleans, made his fortune wining and dining, Temperance is missing. Damaged by a hurricane in 1938 and scheduled for demolition in 1940 (to be replaced by a gas station!), the mansion was saved by Dr. William H. Holmes and his sister, Clara, who turned it into a museum. Today, the mansion, a National Historic Landmark, is a historic house museum and a preservation success story, with 90 percent of its original décor intact.

Inside Victoria Mansion, photograph by William H. Johnson

While regular-season tours are offered from May to October, holiday tours begin the day after Thanksgiving and last through early January. Each year, the mansion decorates for Christmas according to a different theme. Take a look at New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens to see the holiday decorations of years past, and then make a trip to the mansion to see this year’s theme: “Deck the Halls: the Carols of Christmas.” Each room’s decorations have been inspired by a different Christmas carol from the Victorian period. They have confirmed on their Facebook page that “I Saw Three Ships” and “Here We Come A-Wassailing” are represented; visit the house to see what other carols were chosen! Go on December 2 if possible to take advantage of Five Dollar First Fridays: tickets will only be $5, the mansion will stay open until 8:30pm, and real, non-alcoholic wassail will be served!

If you Go….

Victoria Mansion
109 Danforth Street
Portland, Maine 04101

Drive time from Boston: 2 hours


Curious about the Morse family and their extravagant Portland mansion? Pick up a copy of New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens at one of these local bookshops:

Longfellow Books, 1 Monument Square, Portland
Annie’s Book Stop, 295 Forest Avenue, Portland
Nonesuch Books, 50 Market Street, South Portland

Get fueled up and ready for a big day exploring Portland at the following cafes and restaurants:

Coffee By Design, 620 Congress Street or 67 India Street, Portland
Duckfat for some amazing sandwiches and fries, 43 Middle Street, Portland
Hot Suppa, for a unique and delicious meal any time of the day, 703 Congress Street
Eat great food amongst funky art at Local 188, 685 Congress Street

This post is part of a larger series celebrating the sites included in our latest title, New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens, by Kim Knox Beckius with photography by William H. Johnson. See recent posts on the William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Hildene, and the Mark Twain House for fun fall and early winter getaway ideas!

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