Playing “I Spy” at Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine

Ruggles Sylvester Morse and his wife Olive Ring Merrill Morse were prominent New Orleans hotel proprietors in the 1850s when they decided to leave the summer heat of the South and build a house in Portland, Maine. The house, built in the Italian Villa style, was finished in 1860 and the couple lived there until Morse passed away in 1893. Olive sold the mansion, and all its contents, to J.R. Libby, who lived there with his wife and five children until the parents died in the early 1920s. After the Great Depression of the 1930s, the children could not afford the upkeep and taxes on the mansion and abandoned it. William Holme, a local teacher and historian who loved the Queen Victorian era, bought it to be preserved as a museum, named after Queen Victoria.  The Victoria Mansion Museum opened in 1941 to the public, who are welcome to tour two of the four floors of the mansion. Each room has been restored to its original, mid 1860s glory, with authentic furnishings purchased by the Morse family. 

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Playing “I Spy” at the Flagler Museum on Palm Beach Island, Florida

We recently spent time exploring St. Augustine Florida, a city that Henry Flagler basically built after the start of his 1912 Florida East Coast Railway and subsequent hotels, hospitals, schools, churches, and farms. (Read more about our adventures in St. Augustine in these posts. So, it was fitting when we also traveled to the West Palm Beach area of Florida in the same trip, we spent the morning at Flagler’s “winter cottage” Henry Flagler was successful in the grain and salt mining industries before he helped to found the Standard Oil Company with John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews in 1867.  When he married his third wife, Mary Lily Flager, in August 1901, he promised her a “waterfront winter cottage” and had “Whitehall”, as it was named, built in a record 18 months. The Flaglers spent approximately two months there each year until Flagler’s death in 1913. 

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10 Family Friendly Activities in Alexandria, Virginia

Alexandria was established as a town along the northernmost part of the Potomac River in 1749, named after the Alexander family whose land formed the majority of the area. It was considered the first major seaport of British America. Known for its 18th and 19th century architecture (we could have spent days just walking the neighborhoods and checking out window boxes and front doors), it is a nationally designated historic district.

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10 Ways to Have Fun in the Berkshires in Massachusetts

The Berkshires, compromised of over 30 towns and villages, is located in the most western part of Massachusetts. It includes towns ranging from Sheffield and Great Barrington in the southern part of the state, bordering Connecticut, to the towns of Wiliamstown and North Adams in the northern part of the state, bordering Vermont. The region is popular year round for outdoor activities, performing arts venues, galleries, museums, and historic homes and landmarks. The Berkshires have been home well known figures such as authors Edith Wharton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and activist W.E.B. DuBois. Dubbed the “Inland Newport” during the Gilded Age of the 20th century, the area became well known for its over 75 estates, in addition to its thriving farming industry. Today, there are many spots to learn about the important history of the area and many preserved outdoor spaces to enjoy nature all year long.

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Naumkeag in the Berkshires

The summer home of attorney Joseph Choate, his wife Caroline, and their five children in the late 1800s, Naumkeag is the perfect representation of a country estate of the Gilded Age. The estate is named after the Algonquin word (meaning “good fishing spot”) used for Salem, Massachusetts where the Choat family originally lived.

The original gardens included two terraces, a topiary garden, and an arborvitae alley. A farm, greenhouse, orchards, and vegetable gardens provided much of the food for the family. The family also enjoyed hiking, swimming, and horseback riding on many of the 48 acres of the estate, which is located in Stockbridge in western Massachusetts. The Choate’s daughter, Mabel, inherited the property and spent significant time creating many additional gardens. She deeded it to the Trustees of the Conservation upon her death in 1958 and the 44 room estate was turned into a museum opened to the public in 1960.

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10 Family Friendly Things to Do in Fredericksburg, VA

Located an hour south of Washington DC and an hour north of the state capitol Richmond, Fredericksburg began as a tobacco seaport until the Civil War, when, in December of 1862, the area became synonymous with a battle that took the lives of 12, 000 thousands soldiers. Today, visitors come for an education in Revolutionary War and Civil War history and a chance to explore the numerous museums and historical sites. 

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