Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Things to see in Wiscasset, Maine [Part 2]

Looking for things to do in Maine? You’ve come to the right place! Welcome to Part 2 of our blog
series, “What to do in Wiscasset”. This series will cover some of the best sights in the quaint,
historic town of Wiscasset, Maine. You can learn more about (and take a tour of) each of the
places described using the ‘Wiscasset’s Museum in the Streets’ mobile tour guide app available
for Apple and Android.
If you want to check out another blog in the series, click on Part 1, 3, 4, or 5.

The Common

All early New England towns had a Common. Carried over from the English tradition, this was an area
in the center of town that could be used as a gathering place for community activities or by town
residents to graze their animals. A town’s most prominent homes and meeting house were usually
built around the Common. Wiscasset’s Common is smaller than it originally was, but it’s still here - a
triangle of land at the top of the hill facing the river, ending in a point near Summer Street and is one
of the most interesting things to see in Maine.

Swett - Johnston - Neal House 1805

This house was built in 1805 by ship’s mate Joseph Swett, who sold it shortly thereafter to fellow
seaman Captain John Johnston, Jr., eldest son of the Wiscasset shipping family. Captain Jack, as he
was known, was captain of the Stirling, built that same year just three miles up the Sheepscot River.
The Stirling became renowned for her adventures at sea and for the skill and bravery of her master in
the tumultuous and dangerous years of the Napoleonic Wars.

Bailey Tucker House 1803
This is a story about the end of a beautiful house. In 1803, Judge Jeremiah Bailey built his home here,
a fitting companion to the other beautiful houses on the street. The house stood where the
courthouse addition is now.

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church 1823

Most of the early settlers of Maine were Protestant - Congregationalists and Presbyterians – with
a smaller number of Catholics. But legally, it didn’t matter what religion you were. Under
Massachusetts law, all adults were expected to attend the local church, whatever denomination
it happened to be. Deemed to be too English during the American Revolution, the Episcopal
(or Anglican) Church gradually made inroads into coastal Maine communities, forming parishes
in most towns.

Wiscasset Academy 1807
Early Wiscasset education consisted of free district schools, with tutors teaching reading, writing,
arithmetic and the Bible. Supplies and classroom space were donated. There were no official rules
about how much schooling children should be given or how often they should go to school. As a result,
a child’s education depended on their parents’ means and occupation. Wiscasset recognized the
importance of having a good school for children in town, even if it was only available to those who
could pay. In 1807, a group of town leaders raised the money and built this private academy to
provide higher education to the town’s young people. By 1848, the co-ed school had 87 students,
whose parents paid $5 for an eleven-week term. The curriculum included English, classical Greek,
Latin, or French and the option to study Italian, Spanish, music, and drawing.

Octagon House 1855
This 1855 house was unlike any other in Wiscasset, Whether it was based on President Thomas
Jefferson’s Popular Forest, the earliest octagon house in the U.S. built in Virginia in 1811, or a design
from Orson S. Fowler’s popular 1848 book, The Octagonal Mode, we do not know. To Fowler, the
octagon shape was optimal for modern healthy family living. Eight sides allowed more windows and
more light into the house. His design included private bedrooms, central heating, indoor flush toilets
and hot and cold running water. All rooms opened to a central hall with a spiral staircase, creating
room for closets and storage space. Since it could be built in any size, theoretically, the design could
fit any income level.

Old Jail Museum

The Old Lincoln County Jail was built in 1811 to replace a wooden jail woefully inadequate to
prisoners eager to break free and is one of the most interesting things to see in Maine.

You can see the graves of the Carlton family right at the front of the cemetery closest to the street.
Part of the land for the cemetery was given to the town in 1831 by the heirs of Nymphas Stacy whose
home is our next stop, the Stacy House. Photo courtesy of Lincoln County Historical Association.

Of course, these are only a few of the sites you can see in Wiscasset, Maine.
To read the previous blog, click here; to read the next blog click here.

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