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The Wadsworth-Longfellow House History Essay

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Updated: Jun 26th, 2020

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House is a very special place. Being the most ancient building in Portland, it is at the same time a historically important landmark due to its connection with the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. One frequently points out the vital influence this place and its neighborhood had over the poet’s life and his creative work (Babin and Adams 22). Nowadays, hundreds of tourists come to visit this attractive site in order to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the House and the picturesque view of its surroundings. While walking around the former home of the poet, one is inevitably wrapped up in the exciting atmosphere of the mysterious and fascination past. The mansion’s interior preserved from the eighteenth century inspires one to become a part of the venerable culture; the greenness of the front yard garden encourages one to leave all the worries behind.

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House has a long and complicated history that implies the life lines of several generations. The house was supposedly built in 1785-1786 by General Peleg Wadsworth, and it turned out to be the first Portland residence made of brick (Barker par.3). The beautiful neoclassic-style mansion decorated by exquisite Greek features had to cover a long way until it became the favorite vacation destination of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Some historians say that at certain time periods it used to serve as a school for girls and later, as a private club with all the resort facilities included (Miller 78).

Nevertheless, one agrees with the fact that the Longfellow House would make a true home for Wadsworth and Longfellow families for more than a century. A lot of happy moments must have been spent within the walls of this residence as Mayer and Twiss recall the famous Longfellow’s lines about his feelings for this place revealed in one his letters to the parents “…but happier is he whose heart rides quietly at anchor in the peaceful haven of home.” (Mayer and Twiss par.1).

After the house had been abandoned by the Longfellows, the high expenses required for maintaining the mansion prompted the local authorities to plan its demolishment regarding it as an unviable project. Luckily in the 1990s the Scruggs family took up the responsibility for investing in the House’s reconstruction. According to the estimates of various experts, the family had to spend a sum of over a million dollars to return the mansion to the proper condition. After the renovation, the site was gracefully donated to the estate as a museum of high historical significance. Nevertheless, it was not the end of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House’s adventures.

In 2005, the hurricane Katrina brought considerable damage to the construction. In a point of fact, it completely destroyed the beautiful stairway that had served to be the hallmark of the site for a long period of time. Nevertheless, it was the Roth’s this time that bravely took charge of repairing the damaged parts and transforming the building into its original state (Miller 79). Despite all the misfortunes that the residence was to undergo, today, it is one of the most peaceful and pleasant tourists’ attractions in Portland.

The interior of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House has been carefully preserved in order to let the contemporaries fully experience the atmosphere of the past. When entering the house, the visitors find themselves in the front hall designed in the chic French rococo style. It may seem unbelievable, but the walls of the hall have retained their original paneling, and the floor is still covered with painted floor cloth, presumably ordered by Anne Longfellow (“The Wadsworth-Longfellow House ” par. 3).

By the way, one has an opportunity to visit her private room that is situated on the second floor. The chamber is small and cozy with pale pink walls and a beautiful view over the garden. However, the most significant rooms one would be eager to visit are definitely the parlor and the sitting room. The parlor is known to be the beloved place for all the family reunions. One can easily understand the motives when seeing the luxury furnishing along with the muted palette of the woodwork. It seems to be logical to suppose the Longfellows preferred this room for special occasions such as literature and musical events. The sitting room, though less impressive than the parlor, is also a fine example of sophisticated taste. Historians claim that this room was mainly designed by Anna Longfellow, in fact, one can easily notice some common traits this room has with her own chamber (“The Wadsworth-Longfellow House ” par. 6).

The room is furnished with a massive side-board bookcase and a large fireplace. The major part of the room is turned into working space with a handsome wooden table that makes one assume Henry Longfellow would use it as a writing desk. Apart from the enlisted rooms, one can also peep into the local kitchen totally admirable with its old-fashioned cutlery and cooking utensils. For those who would like to enjoy the view of an elegant bedroom, it is advisable to go up to the Mother’s Room. Though less authentic than the others, this chamber is, in fact, a very close reproduction of Zilpah Longfellow’s room. The exquisite woodwork and refined French patterns will definitely touch one’s feelings.

In the course of years, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House has undergone numerous reconstructions, although each renovator attempted to maintain the building’s initial view. Whereas the house’s interior has not been considerably altered, the exterior part has frequently required repairing. Thus, the latest restoration procedure included mostly the mortar and windows repairing operations(“The Wadsworth-Longfellow House ” par. 10). Moreover, as far as the site represents a historical landmark of significant importance, a lot of efforts have been made in order to improve the protection measures. Therefore, the new fire systems have been installed in order to provide complete security for both the museum workers and the visitors. Apart from this, the museum has been supplied with a special climate controlling system that is aimed at improving the storage conditions and making them less sensitive to the environmental changes (“Longfellow House Case Study” 82).

Today the Wadsworth-Longfellow House is a popular tourists’ destination – visitors from all over the world are welcomed to explore this beautiful site and its picturesque surroundings. Current tours offer exciting excursions around the mansion and the garden. All of them are provided by the skillful guides who have a perfect knowledge of the place’s history. The tours are to be booked in advance as the number of tourists is rather high.

Furthermore, the Maine Historical Society is always ready to provide extensive data and documents for those who have a particular interest in the life of the poet and the entire Longfellow’s family. The organization was founded almost two centuries ago and has largely contributed to preserving the national history since that time. The specialists engaged in this society are primarily focused on the poet’s life and his creative work; however, they also concern themselves with the lives of his famous contemporaries such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Fanny Kemble, and Oscar Wilde. The research library stores a priceless collection of historically important materials including the poets’ correspondence and genealogical documents (“The Wadsworth-Longfellow House ” par. 20).

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House is a place of significant importance for the national history. Its visiting opens up numerous opportunities in front of the tourists. First of all, one is enabled to have a careful study of the exclusive architecture and the exquisite furnishing styles of that epoch. The preserved pieces of interior let the researchers perform a detailed investigation of all the elements of the past. Secondly, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House reveals an exciting story of a glorious family that it has been storing for several centuries.

Every part of this place is full of poetic implication. The peaceful nature of the garden makes one feel calm, relaxed, and unexpectedly inspired to exercise the talent in writing. Finally, the Museum’s own history is so complicated, that it is, indeed, worth admiring. The building has undergone a lot of challenges including constant restorations, the possibility of being demolished, the damaged experienced from the hurricane. Still, it was finally transformed into the Museum that encourages its guests to take a part in an exciting journey to the sophisticated world of past full of beauty and Art.

Works Cited

Babin, John William, and Alan M. Levinsky Herb, Adams. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Portland: The Fireside Poet of Maine, Charlston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2015. Print.

Barker, Matthew Jude. Maine Irish Heritage Trail. n.d. Web.

“Longfellow House Case Study.” Old-House Journal, 32 (2004): 82. Print.

Miller, Mary Carol. Must See Mississippi: 50 Favorite Places, Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. Print.

Mayer, John and Twiss Dana. . n.d. Web.

2015. Web.

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