The Decorative Arts and Architecture of Southern Maine

EVENTS > SYMPOSIUMS > The Decorative Arts & Architecture of Southern Maine


September 24-27, 2015

From Maine’s rich maritime history to the lure of its enchanting landscape and renowned fall foliage, this destination links the sea and land through a wealth of ambitious architecture and noteworthy material culture. Our itinerary focuses on the Southern coast of Maine, between Portland and Wiscasset, with the expectation of a follow-up program further Down East in the years to come. From grand Georgian edifices to remarkable Victorian time capsules to heralded museum collections, our time in Maine will be sure to please.


ITINERARY  (subject to amendment)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

  • Registration begins, Westin Portland, Harborview lobby
  • Opening Reception, Maine Historical Society
  • Welcome remarks and opening lecture
    Greetings from Portland: A Postcard View of the City a Century Ago
    Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Maine State Historian

Friday, September 25 – The Portland Museum of Art

  • The Portland Museum of Art Re-envisioned
    Jessica May, Chief Curator, PMA
  • The John A. H. Sweeney Emerging Scholar Lecture
    Parlor Games: Decorative Arts and the McLellan House, 1801-2015
    Diana Jocelyn Greenwold, Curatorial Fellow, PMA
  • Coffee Break
  • The Jonathan L. Fairbanks Lecture
    Convenience, Taste, and Elegance: The Decorative Arts of Federal Portland
    Laura Sprague, Independent Museum Curator
  • Gustave Herter’s Opulent Interiors for Victoria Mansion, 1858-1860
    Arlene Palmer Schwind, Curator, Victoria Mansion
12:00 noon
  • Following our morning lectures we will stroll to the nearby Cumberland Club for lunch. Founded in 1877, the Club is housed in an elegant Federal-period building. Its early members included Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain, whose house we will visit on Saturday in Brunswick.
  • Our afternoon will be divided between the Portland Museum of Art and the Maine Historical Society. At the PMA, Karen Sherry and Diana Greenwold will share highlights of the decorative art collection for close inspection in the museum’s art study room, and participants will also have the opportunity to tour the adjacent McLellan House (1801), which was recently restored with reproductions of period wallpaper and carpet treatments but remains unfurnished.
  • While visiting the Maine Historical Society, Trust members will tour the Wadsworth-Longfellow House (1785), built by General Peleg Wadsworth and home to three generations of one remarkable family that made significant contributions to the political, literary, and cultural life of New England and the United States. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow grew up in the house and went on to become one of the most famous men of his time. Virtually all of the household items and artifacts are original to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.
  • Our day will conclude with a private evening tour and reception at the Morse-Libby House (1658-60), better known as Victoria Mansion. The Mansion was built as a summer home for Ruggles Morse, a Maine native who made his fortune in New Orleans as the proprietor of luxury hotels, and is widely recognized as the most important expression of the Italian villa style in American domestic architecture. The elaborate interiors were designed by Gustave Herter, a leading New York furniture maker and interior designer. Approximately ninety percent of the house’s elegant original furnishings remain in place today, and the textiles and passementerie have been magnificently restored.

Saturday, September 26 – Winter Street Center, Bath

  • Depart Westin by coach
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Decorative Art Treasures of the Maine Maritime Museum
    Lincoln Paine, Maritime Historian and Author
  • The Tale of Three Privies: Recovering Maine’s Material Culture
    Leon Cranmer, Historical Archaeologist
  • Coffee Break
  • Maine’s Landscape Legacy: Design and Decoration in the Garden
    Lucinda A. Brockway, Program Director for Cultural Resources, Trustees of Reservations
  • Catered lunch at the Winter Street Center
  • Depart Bath by coach for Brunswick
  • We will be greeted at the Bowdoin College Art Museum by co-directors Anne and Frank Goodyear, curator Joachim Homann, and guest curator Laura Sprague. In addition to viewing the museum’s heralded collection of fine and decorative arts in recently reinstalled galleries, including James Bowdoin’s own furniture, paintings, and silver, we will have the opportunity to take in a fabulous special exhibition of the work of Gilbert Stuart.
  • While in Brunswick, we will also visit two notable historic sites, both owned and operated by the Pejepscot Historical Society. The Skolfield-Whittier House (1858-62) was built by two brothers whose family made its fortune building ships and freighting goods around the world. Three generations of Skolfields and Whittiers occupied the dwelling, and it remains a time capsule of Victorian America. The completeness of the house’s collection of art and artifacts is remarkable, and there are very few such homes where the entire estate of a Victorian sea captain’s family and that of his descendants are preserved as well.
  • The namesake of the Joshua Chamberlain House (ca. 1825) was a Bowdoin College professor who purchased the dwelling in 1859 before achieving national fame and receiving the Medal of Honor as the leader of the 20th Maine Regiment commended for valor defending Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Following his military service, Chamberlain made several changes to the house’s exterior while serving as Bowdoin College’s president. The height of the original Cape house was raised 11 feet and a new first floor built underneath. The spacious and fashionable addition provided additional room for Chamberlain and his wife to entertain.
  • Return to Portland
  • Decorative Arts Trust Fundraiser for the Emerging Scholars Program at the home of Bill and Arlene Palmer Schwind.

Sunday, September 27 – Maine Historical Society, Portland

  • Coffee service
  • Folk Art on Parade: Images of Community and Identity
    Jane C. Nylander, President Emerita, Historic New England
  • The Marie Zimmermann Emerging Scholar Lecture
    Tiffany Ecclesiastical Works in the Summer Churches of Coastal Maine
    Josh Probert, PhD, Independent Historical Consultant
  • Concluding Remarks
    Matthew A. Thurlow, Executive Director, The Decorative Arts Trust


Thursday Optional Tour: Boothbay, Hallowell & Dresden

Thursday, September 24

9:00am – 5:00pm

From Portland we head up the coast to Boothbay, where we have the pleasure of visiting a noted private collection of American folk and Indian art. The collection is displayed in a carriage house inspired by an actual South Portland example built in 1904 and includes American Indian accessories, Maine rustic and camp items, including snow shoes, canoe paddles and cups, birch and quill work, all seamlessly intertwined with folk portraits, weathervanes, red ware, and decoys. While not a typical combination, the successful intermingling of these diverse collections attests to the connoisseurship of their owner.

We then head up the Kennebec River Valley to tour Vaughan Homestead (1794) in Hallowell, where we will enjoy a luncheon on a broad wrap-around porch. Built by Benjamin Vaughan, who emigrated from England to Maine in the late 18th century to manage vast tracts of forested land, the Homestead is situated in a spectacular setting above the Kennebec. Much of the family’s furnishings from the late 18th and early 19th centuries remain on site, including portraits by Robert Edge Pine and Chinese export porcelain as well as a conversation piece painted in England that depicts the Vaughn family prior to their departure for the colonies. The Homestead’s Executive Director, Ellen Gibson, a family descendant, will serve as our guide.

The Pownalborough Court House (1761) in Dresden is Maine’s only surviving pre-Revolutionary judicial building, where leading Colonial litigators, such as John Adams, practiced their craft. The court house serves as an introduction for our visit to the privately owned Bowman House (1762), built by Lincoln County probate judge Jonathan Bowman. This is a rare opportunity to see the house’s handsome paneled rooms furnished with many original Bowman pieces, including items from an extensive suite of rococo furniture that was ordered for the house in 1770 from Boston cabinetmaker George Bright and late-Colonial silver and porcelain. Like Vaughan Homestead, the Bowman House sits atop wide lawns affording splendid views of the Kennebec.


Sunday Optional Tour: Wiscasset & Harpswell

Sunday, September 27

11:30am – 7:30pm

We will depart directly from the Maine Historical Society for Wiscasset, situated at the mouth of the Sheepscot River and considered one of Maine’s most idyllic coastal towns. Upon arrival we will enjoy a lobster roll lunch and casual tour at Historic New England’s Nickels-Sortwell House (1804), one of the region’s finest examples of high Federal-style architecture. Built by successful ship owner Captain William Nickels, the house epitomizes the brief period when shipbuilding and the maritime trade brought wealth and sophisticated tastes to the village. In 1899, the house was purchased by industrialist and banker Alvin Sortwell, who lovingly restored the house over a period of years and decorated it in the Colonial Revival style with fine antique furnishings.

We will continue to Castle Tucker (1807), which tells the story of a prominent shipping family’s life on the coast of Maine over a period of 150 years. From 1858 until the end of the 20th century, both the Tucker family and their imposing house survived economic upheavals and a rapidly changing world. Due to limited financial resources, the interiors have remained largely unchanged from this time, making Castle Tucker one of the most intact Victorian-era interiors in New England. HNE’s Senior Curator of Collections Nancy Carlisle will host the group.

Our final stop in Wiscasset is the Moses Carlton House(1804) on High Street. The house has an impressive three-story circular staircase up to a cupola that provides a fine view of the Sheepscot River and contains an excellent collection ranging from Federal furniture to early-19th-century silk-on-silk New England embroideries, portraits of American ships visiting European ports, scrimshaw, and French porcelain for the American market.

Our second base on this journey is the historic village of Harpswell, established in 1749. We will have the pleasure of touring the Tarr-Eaton House (1783), a six-room cape on the National Register housing a superb collection of folk art, much of it made in Maine, and focusing on painted and grain-decorated furniture, portraits, ceramics, textiles, folk carvings and needlework.

The Tarr-Eaton House originally served as a parsonage for the adjacent First Meeting House (1759), the oldest standing house of worship in Maine. The raised pulpit and box pews were outfitted by its first reverend, Elisha Eaton, a trained joiner, and his son. The Meeting House remains in a beautiful state of preservation. We will enjoy refreshments at the adjacent Centennial Hall before returning to Portland.



Decorative Arts Trust Fundraiser at the home of Bill and Arlene Palmer Schwind

Saturday, September 26


The home of antiques dealer Bill Schwind and his wife, Winterthur-trained curator Arlene Palmer Schwind, is in the architecturally distinguished Western Promenade section of Portland. It was built in 1867 and retains wallpapers, lighting fixtures, and stained glass from a 1910 expansion and renovation. The Schwinds have furnished the house with antiques and art works that reflect their wide and eclectic tastes. They have sought out Maine-related fine arts including 19th-century paintings by William Mathew Prior and Charles Codman and 20th-century paintings and sculpture by Paul Akers. Their furniture ranges from a Maine-made tall case clock dated 1809 to a 1930s coffee table by Rockport artist Max Kuehne. In the dining room are 18th-century Chinese Imari porcelain wares juxtaposed against related English Imari-style examples. Arlene’s collection of early glass features unusual examples of opaque white glass.

Please join us for a wonderful evening of connoisseurship and conviviality as we toast the Schwinds’ hospitality and lend support to the Trust’s efforts to encourage the next generation of curators and academics through a notable system of grants, scholarships and internships. In 2015, more than a dozen graduate students and young professionals will benefit from the Trust’s laudable Emerging Scholars Program.

Attendance is limited to 40 participants and requires a $250 tax-deductible contribution to the Trust’s Education Fund.

Terms and Conditions

Land Arrangement Cost:
$5,975 per person, based on double occupancy for 9 nights, for the main tour. Please note that this excursion is one day longer than the Trust’s typical Study Trip Abroad.

$2,075 per person, based on double occupancy for 3 nights, for the optional extension to Gdansk.

Transatlantic airfare is not included. Please do not make your airline reservations until you have received written confirmation from the Trust.

A deposit of $1,400 per person is required by September 1, 2015. An additional deposit of $600 per person is required for the optional extension to Gdansk. Reservations and deposits are taken on an “as received” basis. You will receive a written confirmation from the Decorative Arts Trust. Do not make any irrevocable airline reservations until you receive your verification. Please make your check payable to “The Decorative Arts Trust” and mail to: 20 South Olive Street, Suite 304, Media, PA 19063.

Single Supplement:
The single supplement is $1,050 for the main tour and $200 for the extension, to be paid along with the deposit.

Final Payment:
Is due by January 31, 2016. Invoices for final payment will be mailed in early January.

A Benefactor-level membership is required for participation in Study Trips Abroad. Your membership contribution is fully tax deductible. If an increase in your membership level is necessary, the Trust will invoice you for the appropriate level upgrade with your final payment.

A donation to the Decorative Arts Trust of $500 per person is required for Study Trips Abroad. This gift is fully tax deductible and helps support the Trust’s mission and programs.

The schedule outlined in this itinerary is contracted for at this time but subject to change as necessary. A Study Trip Abroad reading list will be sent to you.

The trip is limited to a maximum of 25 members and requires a minimum of 15. The optional extension to Gdansk requires a minimum of 10 participants. The trip and/or extension will be canceled if under-subscribed, and deposits will be refunded. We will organize and maintain a waiting list on the basis of the time registrations are received. This is a strenuous trip. We regret that we cannot be responsible for those needing assistance on this trip. By registering, you are certifying that you do not have any mental, physical, or other condition of disability that would create a hazard for yourself or other passengers. The Trust reserves the right to decline anyone as a participant in this Study Trip Abroad should the person’s health, actions, or general deportment impede the operation of the Study Trip Abroad or the rights, welfare, or enjoyment of others. A valid United States passport is required for this itinerary.

Included in Trip Cost:
Hotel accommodations in 4–5 star hotels, 8 buffet breakfasts, 7 lunches, 3 dinners, 1 reception, private coach transportation, local guides, admission in museums, historic houses, and gardens, gratuities for professional guides and coach drivers, and porterage for one suitcase only. The extension to Gdansk includes 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners.

Not Included in the Trip Cost:
Airfare, airport transfers other than specified above, alcoholic beverages other than when provided, personal expenses, and trip insurance are not included.

Cancellation and Refund:
If you must cancel your reservation, you are urged to do so as soon as possible in writing to the Decorative Arts Trust. All cancellations are subject to a $250 administrative fee. Deposits are non-refundable after September 1, 2015.

  • Cancellations arriving by February 26, 2015, will receive a 50% refund.
  • Cancellations arriving by April 8, 2016, will receive a 25% refund.
  • There will be no refunds for cancellations received after April 8, 2016.

Travel insurance is strongly recommended to protect against cancellations. 



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