Allegedly, one of the most complete and authentic 19th-century homes in the USA was preserved … on accident. Sitting on the shores of the Sheepscot River, this sea-view mansion is a memorial to Wiscasset’s prosperous port and the family that got duped into shaping its history.
Constructed in 1807 by Silas Lee, the mansion symbolizes the power that Wiscasset once held as the U.S.A.’s largest port east of Boston. The estate was puzzlingly designed as if Lee had won the lottery and had not known what to do with it–mirroring the town’s quick rise in prosperity. The grand front staircase points in the opposite direction of the front door. Multiple chimneys, whose matching fireplaces cannot be found to this day, jut out of the house’s shingled roof. Even the house itself is a mixture of architectural styles not seen in the Wiscasset area, making it quite the unique “castle.”
Passing through a few owners, it was in 1858 that the house would come into the hands of Captain Richard H. Tucker, his wife Mollie, and their children. A well-established merchant in Boston, Captain Tucker married Mollie at the age of 43–when she was 16. While Mollie thought the marriage would be her ticket to a grand tour of Europe and the globe, the captain had different ideas.
While not the escape Mollie had in mind, the Tuckers purchased the “wacky” Wiscasset estate as a respite from the Massachusetts port city. Updating the house to its present Italianate form, the family added the impressive three-story closed-in porch looking out onto the water. Instead of going towards Mollie’s dream travel fund, Richard poured their fortune into developing patents and inventions while at the estate. Unfortunately, Tucker was no Edison, and when the economy dried up the family found themselves in an old estate needing repairs they could not afford. Arguably more inventive than her husband, Mollie designed and built a makeshift tea room on her own in the enclosed porch area, covering up the fact that there were major leaks from the ceiling. Inventing means of income on her own as well, Mollie began renting out rooms in the summer in order to keep the humbling abode afloat. If only she could have invented a way to get abroad!
By the early 20th century, the captain and his wife had passed on, leaving the home in the hands of their daughter, Jennie Tucker. Living in the house until 1964, it was Jennie who realized the Castle Tucker had been fully preserved in its Victorian state as if by accident (but actually due to Molly’s clever thriftiness). Sensing a unique opportunity to share her living time capsule with the world, she linked up with the local non-profit Historic New England to restore the home and finally fix those leaky ceilings.
While it may not have been intentionally preserved for much of its life, Castle Tucker’s status as a well-preserved piece of history is a welcomed “accident” to the delight of many visitors. And thanks to the resourceful efforts of Mollie Tucker, this distinctive landmark is running smoothly enough to no longer take summer borders.