Victoria Mansion located in downtown Portland, Maine, is a remarkable display of Italianate Villa-styled residential building from the pre-Civil War era in America. Also known as the Morse-Libby House, the mansion is a detailed portrait of lavish living in nineteenth century America with its brownstone exterior design, superb furnishing, and early technological conveniences. Often mentioned in books on American architecture, the mansion is widely regarded as one of the most elaborate and least-altered Victorian brownstone homes ever built in the country. Victoria Mansion was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1971.
Completed in 1860 as a summer house for hotelier Ruggles Sylvester Morse, the mansion was designed by the New Haven architect, Henry Austin. Victoria Mansion features a distinctive asymmetry form which includes a four-story tower, overhanging eaves, verandas and ornate windows. Artist and decorator Giuseppe Guidicini created the mansion?s frescoes and trompe l?oeil wall decorations. The interiors were done by Gustav Herter in a range of styles. Most of the original content was preserved including Herter furniture, elaborate paintings and artworks, gas lighting fixtures, and glassware. When Morse died in 1893, the house and all its contents were purchased by Joseph Ralph Libby in 1894. For over thirty years, the Libby family occupied the house, until the last of the Libbys moved out in 1928.
William H. Holmes saved the Victoria Mansion from demolition when he bought it in 1940. He later transferred its ownership to the Victoria Society of Maine, which now preserves it. Though the d?cor inside is somber, the mansion offers an engaging look into a bygone era. There is an annual round of special tours and events in the weeks leading to Christmas. Each holiday season, local designers showcase their talents by transforming the Mansion?s interiors according to an agreed them. 2011 marks the 26th year of celebrating the event. The Victoria Mansion will be decorated to reflect the stanzas of the beloved Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.