The Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow House is Maine’s first house museum and where American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow grew up. The house celebrates the political, literary and cultural contributions of the Wadsworth-Longfellow family and New England life.
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The Wadsworth-Longfellow home was built in 1785 by General Peleg Wadsworth. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, born in 1807, was raised in the home and went on to become one of the most famous poets in American history. Henry’s sister, Anne Longfellow Pierce, was the last person to live in the home and it remained in her possession until her death in 1901 when the home was turned over to the Maine Historical Society.
The home is preserved as a memorial to Henry and the Wadsworth-Longfellow family. Most of the household items are original to the family with furnishings from all four generation of Wadsworth-Longfellow’s who lived in the home. The home was the first entirely brick house in Portland and remains an important architectural landmark in the region and is the oldest standing structure on the Portland Peninsula. Originally built as a two-story home, Henry’s parents, Zilpah and Stephen Longfellow added a third story in 1815. The Maine historical society erected a research library on the site of the barn in 1907 and renovations were completed in 2009 to expand the library.
The home is open for tours from May through October with school and group tours available by appointment only. Hours vary throughout the year and are available on the website.
The main attraction is the home itself. There is also a garden in the back of the home.
Longfellow Garden- The garden located behind the home is Colonial Revival style and was created in 1926 by the Longfellow Garden Club on the site of what was once the domestic farmyard for the family. Access to the garden is free and open to the public May through October. The garden was dismantled in 2007 in efforts to renovate the library and was renovated to preservation standards. The Longfellow Garden Children’s Gate was installed in 2012. The original gate was designed by Alexander Wadsworth Longfellowm nephew of Henry Longfellow and was removed in 1960 in terrible condition. The recreation of the gate was completed through fundraising efforts and was dedicated June 2nd, 2012. The garden is available for rent for private events.
Front Hall- The front hall of the home still retains its original wainscot paneling from the 18th century. The flooring was changed to a floorcloth in 1852 by Anne.
Parlor- The parlor of the home has quite a history. Zilpah, Henry’s mother, wrote of the many musical and reading events that occurred in the parlor during her childhood, Eliza Wadsworth died in the parlor, and many of the women in the family were married in the parlor. The room is furnished with portraits of the family, landscapes, and other art works as well as heirloom furniture.
Sitting Room- Anne converted the front parlor into a sitting room in 1853. The room was also a dining room, law office, and study before Anne’s conversion.
Summer Dining Room- This room locatd behind the parlor served many purposes from a quiet reflection area to an office and dining room with views of the garden. The room currently features a portrait of a young Anne and mahogany writing desk.
The Kitchen- Most of the kitchen is still the original design including the cooking hearth, fireplace, and bake oven. Several modifications to upgrade the kitchen were completed between 1786 and 1853 including a cook stove added in 1850 and a pump installed for running water while Anne occupied the home in the late 19th century.
Mother’s Room/Parlor Chamber- This room was where Zilpah Longfellow spent much of her time when she was in poor health. The high-post bed designed in 1808 still adorns the room.
Anne’s Chamber- This was Anne’s childhood room and overlooked the garden with easy access to her Mother’s room. The walls still retain their 1901 paint.
Back Room- This small bedroom located above the kitchen was used by children of the family as a sleeping and play room. 18th century French prints decorate the room as well as a pine children’s desk with scribbles from Longfellow children still on it.
Sitting Room Chamber- Another bedroom located above the sitting room, this chamber was used as a guest room after Stephen Longfellow died in the room in 1849. Anne used the chamber as her adult bedroom and also died here in 1901.
Third Floor- This floor of the home was built with 7 chambers in 1815 with panoramic views of the city and Casco Bay. Henry used the large southwest chamber while the younger siblings slept in the northwest and northeast chambers overlooking Deering Woods and the mountains.
489 Congress Street, Portland, Maine, 04101, website, Phone: 207-774-1822