Scenic beauty can be man-made, too.
Here in Maine, many of us see fall as the time to go wandering the state’s back roads through picturesque towns as we gawk at spectacular foliage. Of course, if you’re too focused on the pretty leaves, you may miss some other spectacular sights along the way.
Several of Maine’s stately old historic homes are out in the country, in prime leaf-peeping territory. So while you may not normally take a drive out to western York County in summer — specifically, to the historic town of South Berwick — you might do so while searching for leaves.
And if you make South Berwick your destination, you’d have two marvelous historic house museums to choose from, the Sarah Orne Jewett House and the Hamilton House.
Plus, looking at historic homes inside and out is right in keeping with the spirit of fall foliage travel. I mean, most of us like looking at the foliage because it connects us with nature and reminds us of the simpler things.
And touring historic homes out in the Maine countryside reminds us of how people in the past built towns and cities out of the woods, and also reminds us of a simpler time.
There are lots of historic sites around Maine — just pick up a map to see where they are. But below are four recommendations of historic properties that are open to the public into mid-October.
2 Lee St., Wiscasset. Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, through Oct. 15. Cost: $5; free for Wiscasset residents. 882-7169.
Built in 1807, this castle-like structure is on a hill with dramatic views of the Sheepscot River. Much of the house is furnished as it would have been when the Tuckers, a prominent family with a shipping business, lived there. The house was redone to add Victorian flourishes at some point, and when the family lost its fortune, the house was changed again to make way for summer boarders’ quarters. There are family furnishings from three different generations on view in the house.
At 10 a.m. this Thursday, there will be a special tour of the house focusing on Wiscasset’s high society in the mid-1800s and the Tuckers’ place in it.
121 Main St. (Route 1), Wiscasset. Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday, through Oct. 15. Cost: $5; free for Wiscasset residents. 882-7169.
This house, built in 1807, sits right on Main Street in Wiscasset. It’s considered by historians to be one of the area’s finest examples of “high Federal” architecture. It was built by ship owner Capt. William Nickels at a time when shipbuilding and maritime trade were bringing incredible wealth and worldliness to this tiny Maine village.
When the Nickels family hit hard times, the house was sold and became a hotel for much of the 19th century. But in 1899, banker Alvin Sortwell, a former mayor of Cambridge, Mass., bought it, restored it in a Colonial Revival style and furnished it with antiques.
At 3 p.m. today, the house is hosting an event in which postcards of Wiscasset’s historic structures will be on display. At 7 p.m. Oct. 7, the house will be host to an event exploring how historic houses become protected and preserved.
SARAH ORNE JEWETT HOUSE
5 Portland St., South Berwick. Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday, through Oct. 15. Cost: $5; free for South Berwick residents. 384-2454.
Built in 1774, this Georgian structure was the longtime home of author Sarah Orne Jewett, who used the house as the inspiration for her novel “Deephaven.” The house was in the Jewett family from about 1819 to the early 20th century, so the interior furnishings and decorations are an eclectic mix of Victorian, Arts & Crafts and other styles. The house just recently acquired some additional Jewett family furniture, including the writer’s writing desk.
40 Vaughan’s Lane, South Berwick. Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, through Oct. 15. Cost: $8; free for South Berwick residents.
Shipping merchant Jonathan Hamilton built this Georgian mansion in 1785, overlooking the Salmon Falls River. It was later bought by the Tyson family, who turned it into a Colonial Revival country estate and owned it into the early 20th century. The house features two whimsical wall murals commissioned by the Tyson family.
Outside, the extensive gardens feature lots of plantings, a garden cottage and places for picnics. Visitors are allowed to bring a picnic lunch.
FOR MORE IDEAS on historic houses to visit this fall, check out the website of Historic New England, which owns and maintains 36 historic properties open to the public across New England — www.historicnewengland.org.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: