“America’s historic houses are a key part of the country’s heritage. Stepping inside one of these well-preserved homes gives visitors a glimpse of architectural achievements, as well as the lifestyles and traditions of the past.” – Architectural Digest
Earle Shettleworth, Maine Historic Preservation Commission director, cites Wiscasset as one of three architecturally significant villages in the state. For those with a penchant for visiting historic homes, a drive to Wiscasset Village is in order – and soon. Within the town’s historic district, which encompasses 101 acres, five homes will be featured on the second annual Wiscasset Homes on Tour event Saturday, July 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The tour is patterned after the former Wiscasset Open House Day held circa 1927: Historian-journalist-author Phil DiVece’s research on the town’s history included finding a 1938 poster promoting the “11th annual Open House Day.” The single-day event saw all owners of historic homes welcoming the public inside for a guided tour for a small fee. The event included a noontime lunch. Profits were divided between the town’s library and Wiscasset Village Improvement Society.
Revisiting home tours in Wiscasset in 2022 turned out to be just as popular as it was in the 1920s and 1930s (“Open House Days”) and then again in the 1960s (“House Tours”).
“We were all sort of holding our breath last year, restarting an old tradition. But the reception on the part of visitors to last year’s homes was really phenomenal. We sold almost 300 tickets,” said Lucia Droby of Wiscasset Creative Alliance. “The two tours are a bit different geographically; last year we had two sites in Alna, one almost as far south of Wiscasset as you can get, and the other two in the historic district where all this year’s homes are.”
WCA President Alissa Eason is coordinator of the tour. Eason moved to town from Texas where she coordinated three home tours in Houston and Dallas over the years. Those tours were over Mother’s Day weekend and drew thousands of visitors both days.
“Homes are chosen because of architectural interest, yes, age was a factor; and it’s nice to hear by word of mouth about a home that has “cool stuff,” like some nice or unusual art, accented decor or whatever the case may be,” Eason said. “You want it to be interesting for the public. We want to show people how we live in these houses today. They’re beautiful, but we’re not trying to make them museums.”
The 2023 tour features Fort Hill Church, a.k.a. the Clock Tower Building (circa 1870); the Customs House (1870), designed by the supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, Alfred B. Mullett, and constructed by local contractor William Hogan; Damon House (part of the house dates back to the 1700s and 1800s), Rose Cottage; and Blagdon-Emerson House (circa 1790).
“We have a lovely variety here,” Droby said. “One of the homes is owned by a local artist and is a significantly old, beautiful home with really interesting hand painting on the walls, a phenomenal collection of ethnic art, gorgeous gardens, and an artist’s studio.”
Eason shared Fort Hill Church’s interesting history. “It’s been an art gallery, the Veterans of Foreign Affairs building, and people have told me they went to private parties there. And we believe Rose Cottage was once part of a blacksmith’s shop.”
Lunch provided by Back River Bistro is offered during this 21st century revival of the tours. Advance order your choice of roast beef or chicken sandwiches, or one of the vegetarian offerings – Caprese sandwich or pasta salad. For more details, from bread to dressings, visit www.wiscassetcreativealliance.org
The brochure, complete with map, is the ticket for the event. Tickets are $30 (plus a nominal processing fee) and can be bought on the Wiscasset Creative Alliance website. Tickets may also be bought July 8 at the 36 Water St. parking lot, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Ten ticket holders will be admitted into each home at one time. Tour goers can start with the home of their choice. “If the line is long at one home, visit another one,” Eason said. “There will be light refreshments at each location. Visit them all or just a few. It’s all up to the individual.”
Parking available at various lots around town and at Wiscasset Elementary School, 83 Federal St.
Wiscasset Homes On Tour is a fundraiser for Wiscasset Creative Alliance.