The "Smoking Room" at Victoria Mansion
After Ruggles died, Olive sold the property, along with most of its furnishings and decorations , to locale magnate J. R. Libby, whose family occupied it into the 1920’s. Threatened with demolition in the late 1930’s, it was rescued by a former teacher, William H. Holmes in 1940, then made into a museum a year later. He dedicated it to the British Queen, hence the current name. Since then it has operated as a non-profit entity open to the public, having been designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. It’s open seasonally (May to October) for guided tours, as well as at the holidays, suitably decorated, each December. Special admission rates are offered for families, children, seniors and college students, any of whom would find many things about the museum to intrigue them.
What makes this property unique is that, unlike any other historical residence in the nation, its contents are ninety percent original to the house, dating back to the first family residents. What this means is that one can get an atypically authentic window into everyday life of the pre-Civil-War period, at least for the wealthier citizenry of the era. Not only is it considered the finest existing Italian style villa in this country, it’s also a virtual time warp. The decorative arts, from the wall paintings by Giuseppe Guidicini (a theatrical scene painter), to the two identical sets of china (one red, one green) actually used by the family, to the over-the-top (but somehow still tasteful, even if it doesn‘t reflect prevailing taste today) “smoking room” (see the above photos of the room before and after restoration), it’s a total immersion in another era. And then there are all those stained glass windows, the original rugs, and…well, you get the idea. “Original” is the operative word.
The mansion is a logical stop on a city walking tour (just a few blocks, for example, from other museums like the Portland Museum of Art, the Children’s Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, to name but a few). Because of the extraordinary state of preservation of both the edifice itself and its contents, affording an unmatched view into another time, this is a must for tourists of all ages. Even Victoria herself would have been amused.