“Jane’s Walk” at Victoria Mansion Well Attended and Informative


Tim Brosnihan, Executive Director of Victoria Mansion, Led a Neighborhood Walk This Afternoon Beginning at the West End Mansion.

Victoria Mansion, 109 Danforth Street. was Built by Ruggles S. Morse, a Maine Native.

The Park Street Townhouses Were Built on Speculation, But Went Bankrupt Before Completed.

The Park Street Townhouses Were Originally Built on Speculation, But Went Bankrupt Before Completed.

Inspired by the legendary Jane Jacobs, an activist and journalist, 40 walks in 26 locations across Maine were conducted for the second year in a row.  The free outdoor Walks promoted as “Jane’s Walk,” occurred as far north as Houlton and as far south as Wells, with an emphasis on Portland neighborhoods.

“This is like dropping off a cliff,” mused Tim Brosnihan, Executive Director of Victoria Mansion, to about 40 walkers he was leading on a tour of the west end block in which the historic Mansion is located.. The line of.demarcation between the west end and downtown Portland is obvious because of protections enforced by city preservation efforts for the west end.  “This is a neighborhood that has changed little since 1860,” said Brosnihan, a Bowdoin College graduate where he was a history major.  He holds an advanced degree in geology.

Brosnihan noted that in the mid-1960s, urban renewal changed the landscape of Spring Street and Franklin Street.   Historic buildings were torn down and replaced with modern buildings. This government policy sparked the Portland historic preservation movement in 1966.  The Great Fire of 1866 and started near Becky’s Diner on Commercial Street, stopped just short of the Victoria Mansion

One of many stops on the 60 minute neighborhood Walk, was the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at the corner of Park and Pleasant Streets. It’s the second oldest church in Portland with the Abyssinian Meetinghouse on Munjoy HIll, the oldest in Portland.  It was founded in 1822 and has housed four Protestant denominations since then; originally built as a Methodist Church.  Every year it hosts a Greek Festival.  This year it is scheduled for June 22, 23, and 24.

Following a casual Walk through the neighborhood, participants were invited to the back lawn of the Victoria Mansion, where Brosnihan gave an informal talk on the background of this museum.  The significane ot Victoria Mansion goes well beyond its popularity in Maine.  It has a national reputation because of its architecture and extraordinary original interiors.  It is considered one of the most important historic homes of the 19th century in the United States.

Victoria Mansion was built between 1858 – 1860 by Maine native Ruggles S. Morse as a summer home.  He had been very successful as a hotel owner in New Orleans and the interior of the home is furnished in a manner appropriate for a man of his means and tastes.  The architect was Henry Austin. When he died in 1893,  Morse’s  children inherited the home.  Morse is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.  Eventually the Morse children sold the Mansion to the Libby family who owned a department store on Congress Street.

In 1940, William Holmes, from New York state, opened Victoria Mansion as a museum and sold it to the non-profit that still owns it.  In 1970, the Mansion fell into some disrepair,  However, with federal money and a major fundraising effort, it was saved.  Two thirds of its operating budget comes from ticket sales according to Bronsihan.  About 30,000 people visit the Mansion every year.  Locating the scarce brownstone to replace the aging exterior of the Mansion is the biggest challenge the Museum faces said Brosnihan.  Back in 2019, they were fortunate to locate a large block of brownstone in Vermont.  It will be shaped and then transported to Portland when ready to be installed at the Mansion.

Before Victoria Mansion was built, there was a smaller home on the site.  It was the site of John Seymour’s Furniture Company.  It went on to become a very successfl furnitre company with a national reputation.

Jane Jacobs, for whom the Walk is named, is the author of the classic book published in 1961 – “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”  Longfellow Books, Monument Way, Portland, keeps a paper back copy in stock because it’s considered a classic in the field of planning..  “The New York Times Book Review” once called it the “most influential single work in planning…. a work of literature.”

The Mansion is open as of May 1, 2023 through October 31, 2023 seven days a week.

2 thoughts on ““Jane’s Walk” at Victoria Mansion Well Attended and Informative

  1. What beautiful Mansion and Brownstones to house immigrants seeking asylum! A beautiful illustration of available housing for the homeless.

    A perfect opportunity for families to provide hospitality for those in need. A solution for the city’s homeless!

    • Love your suggestion, although I’m not sure the Mansion would agree! Would love to see some of these greedy landlords step up to the plate here and show their commitment to community concerns – that would be a miracle I’m not expecting though. Or what about using an empty airplane hanger at the Jetport? Or what about converting an unused barn into housing for those needing housing?

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