Visit of “Homes on Tour”

Four owners of Wiscasset opened their doors to visitors for the first “Homes on Tour” on Saturday July 9; Event sponsor Wiscasset Creative Alliance hopes it will become a new summer tradition. The weather couldn’t have been better, sunny blue skies and pleasant temperatures. By noon, nearly 100 people had taken part in the tour. Three homes on High, Lee and Federal streets were included in the city tour along with another south of town on Birch Point Road. Visitors could visit them in any order they wished, and the three in the village quarter were within easy walking distance of each other.

The tour included the Joseph Emerson Smith home on Lee Street owned by William and Hannah Stewart. Here, the Wiscasset newspaper caught up with Regina and Terry Stancill from Darlington, Maryland. The couple spend their summers at Friendship. “We love visiting the Wiscasset and reading articles about home visitation in the newspaper. It’s so wonderful to be able to see inside some of these beautiful homes,” commented Regina Stancill. Her husband said he couldn’t agree more. “You asked me what I love so much about Wiscasset. Well, it’s the sense of permanence of things that are here, the historic houses in particular. It’s wonderful that it has remained so unchanged over the years. years.

Smith Mansion was built in 1865 in a Greek Revival style. It is spacious inside with seven bedrooms and four bathrooms and has a small atrium in the forward saloon. The property is large for a town lot, 2.7 acres and beautifully landscaped with a small shaded pond. In the 19th century it was home to Joseph Emerson Smith, a lawyer and novelist and son of Samuel Emerson Smith who served as the 10th Governor of Maine from 1831 to 1834. Governor Smith’s mansion is a short distance away on High Street.

Sarah Whitfield, chairman of the Wiscasset Select Committee, was registering visitors at the front door of Smith House. Whitfield is a board member of the Wiscasset Creative Alliance and was thrilled to participate in the first Home Tour. “We’ve had over 70 visitors so far and it’s not quite noon,” she said.

In the nearby High Street, Peggy Konitzy had a line of people waiting on the lawn outside the Cartlon house, the third house on the tour. Konitzy began by sharing some of the house’s history. She is both historian and site manager for Castle Tucker and Nickels-Sortwell House, two other well-known historic properties in Wiscasset. Inside, Sally and William Gemmill welcomed people into their home. Sally was in the hall at the foot of the house’s very peculiar spiral staircase while Bill sat in his favorite room, the library. “We have partnered on a number of Historic New England-sponsored home tours,” he said.

Of the three townhouses on the tour, the Carlton House has the most colorful history. It was built in a Federal style in 1804 and 1805 for Joseph Tinkham Wood but soon after occupied by Moses Carlton and his wife Abigail who lived there for 50 years. Barbara Bennett, a summer resident of Westport Island and her friend Lorraine Fournier of Bow, New Hampshire, enjoyed the stories of the house as much as seeing inside the spacious and beautifully furnished Carlton House.

On Federal Street, Jennifer Jones and John Lepore were busy welcoming a steady stream of guests to their newly purchased home which adjoins Wiscasset’s Sunken Garden. Jones said they bought the house in April and slowly renovated it and researched its history. “I grew up right here in Wiscasset, it’s my hometown and where I always wanted to be,” said Jones, one of six children of Wiscasset residents Steve and Pam Miete Jones. All of the Jones children had first names beginning with the letter “J”; Jennifer, Jessica, Johnna, Jamie, Juliette and Jordan, and all were graduates of Wiscasset Middle High School. Jones added that his sister Jessica Hunter was married next door in a ceremony held at Sunken Garden in 1995.

Built in 1784, this rambling salmon-colored former farmhouse was owned from the 1970s to 2005 by Roland and Pearl “Choppy” Tarbox. The Tarboxes operated the House and Barn store, which sold yarn. For a few summers, their son sold ice cream from a take-out display case in the side yard facing the Sunken Garden. The Tarboxes bought the house from the Perkins family who had lived here since the early 1900s. Steve Christiansen of Wiscasset said his great-grandmother Kate Perkins had lived here most of her life.

“She remembered when the Hilton House hotel (where the Sunken Garden is now) burned down in the fall of 1903. I lived there too when I was a young child and remember that I was told the house was once located on the corner of Main and Fort Hill streets and was moved to where it is now,” Christiansen said. In recent years, the former owners of the property have operated an antiques business and a gallery there. Jones and Lepore plan to open a business here later this summer called Bull Antiques & Décor which will be in the barn. Lepore’s parents also have an antique business.

Not so far off the beaten track, Ron Sanchez and Thomas Cramer have opened their beautifully landscaped home on Birch Point Road which they call “Ledge Cottage”. The contemporary house includes a covered patio, an artist’s studio and a wine cellar. It was listed first on the event brochure.

Chris Erickson of the Wiscasset Creative Alliance board and liaison between the board and planning for the event said in an email to the Wiscasset newspaper that he was “very pleased with the turnout for our first year. I understand that we sold around 180 to 185 tickets; 165 people came to Ledge Cottage at 523 Birch Point Road. I asked many as I left if they had a good time and all said yes and all said they would attend next year’s event!

Several months were spent planning the visit which included two properties in Alna – Nordstrom Studio and the 1789 Alna Meetinghouse, both on Route 218. While in Wiscasset, visitors were encouraged to visit the Maine Art Gallery on Warren Street. The gallery is housed in the former Wiscasset Academy erected in 1807. They were also encouraged to visit the Old Jail Museum on Federal Street, Castle Tucker on Lee Street and the 1807 Nickels-Sortwell House and Sunken Garden, both on Main Street. Tour sponsors include Barnhouse Grill, BIRCH Home Furnishings & Gifts, Carriage House Gardens, Joseph Zoellers Interiors, Poe Cilley/William Raveis Luxury Properties, Sherri Dunbar/Tim Dunham Realty, Water Street Kitchen & Bar and Maine Tasting Center.

Proceeds from ticket sales were to benefit the Wiscasset Creative Alliance, a collaboration of volunteers, businesses and community partners working together to provide year-round family experiences. Learn more at www.wiscassetcreativealliance.org

Wiscasset’s original “Open House” began in the 1920s and continued through the 1960s. For one day in August, owners of some of the most beautiful and historic homes in “Maine’s Prettiest Village » have opened their doors to visitors for guided tours. A public lunch was held in the township to coincide with the event. Funds raised benefited the Wiscasset Public Library, which is still in operation today, and a group that is no longer active called the Wiscasset Village Improvement Society. The event was extremely popular; a guestbook from 1937 reveals that the Wiscasset Open House had over 400 signatures, including visitors from 30 states and Canada, Spain and London, England.

Information about Wiscasset houses was found in “Old Wiscasset” by William D. Patterson, published in 1931 and revised by JB Doggett in 1951.