A masquerade ball raised money for the Tate House Museum in Stroudwater Landing.

During the Depression, it was the Colonial Dames – women descended from early American colonists – who saved the Tate House from neglect and set it up as a museum.

This past year, it was Colonial Dame Vana Carmona who inspired her husband, a retired California public affairs executive and sociology professor at Southern Maine Community College, to infuse new life into the museum.

“I believe this is just the beginning of our efforts to celebrate not only the things we’ve done, but what we’re going to do in the future,” said incoming Tate House president Ralph Carmona.

His ideas include a “Hamil-Tate” collaboration with Portland Public Schools, inspired by the popular “Hamilton” musical that engages a new, more diverse generation of students with the immigration themes of colonial America.

With Carmona at the helm, the first Tate House Museum Masquerade Ball, held Oct. 29 at the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks in South Portland, was a vibrant mix of ages and backgrounds – from longtime preservationists in black tie to SMCC students new to the United States, wearing more colorful interpretations of formal attire.

“Tonight was spectacular,” said Pete Robbins, investment advisor for the Tate House. “Ralph’s whole thing is connecting history and young people and finding a whole new relevance for the organization.”

“It’s great to see so many people coming out to support the museum,” said curator Harper Batsford.

“Happy faces and a good time – you can’t ask for more than that,” said the museum’s director, Betty Janus.

In addition to being a great party – the largest in Tate House Museum memory – the ball raised nearly $40,000 to continue the work started by the Colonial Dames.

“The Dames are about preserving history and the importance of patriotism, genealogy and preservation of buildings that tell us what Maine and the United States are all about,” said Mary Lou Sprague, who was recognized for her 40 years of service.

Sprague was featured in a short film shown at the ball that told of how Britain’s military strength depended on ships, which meant taking Maine’s majestic white pines to be made into masts. Captain Tate – who took over for Colonel Westbrook, another familiar name in these parts – was stationed along the Fore River as the king’s mast agent. Tate’s mansion was built at Stroudwater Landing in 1755. Today, it is the only pre-Revolutionary home in the Portland area open to the public.

“From the outside it doesn’t look like much – gray with yellow trim,” said docent Cynthia Setchell of Portland. “But when you get inside you can see it really was a mansion.”

“I really like this restoration because it’s living history,” said Janet Stewart, a Colonial Dame from Cumberland Foreside.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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