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.
Playing “I Spy” at the Victoria Mansion:
- Three of the four cardinal virtues (fortitude, prudence, and justice) displayed in the entrance hall ceiling. The fourth virtue, temperance, was exempt because the family did drink alcohol.
- The Gustave Herter cabinet that Morse used to store liquor in the Reception Room. Herter decorated much of the home.
- The number of utensils at each place setting on the dining room table.
- The total number of books in Morse’s collection on display in the library.
- The material used to make thresholds for each room entrance: a wooden threshold indicated that the space was private; a marble threshold meant the space was public.
- The painting of Queen Victoria’s house, sent by King George to William Holmes, on display in the hallway outside the library.
- The variety of cherubs in the parlor room.
- The state seals of Maine and Louisiana carved into stained glass windows at the top of the stairs.
- Drawings of all four seasons depicted in the ceiling murals in the Green Bedroom.
- The gas chandelier that must be lowered to be lit in the Turkish Smoking Room.
- The call bell (each room has its own call bell, with its own distinct sound) for the staff in Mrs. Morse’s Sitting Room.
- The porcelain chamber pot in the Red Bedroom, used for guests (and check out the double sinks!)
Disclosure: My family was given a media pass to Victoria Mansion; all opinions expressed are my own.