For the first time in at least 75 years Victoria Mansion was the opulent setting for New Year’s Eve festivities.

“You couldn’t ask for a better backdrop for a party,” said Melian Mulherin, a volunteer docent from Cape Elizabeth.

The Black & White Soiree was a members-only event hosted by the Gaslight League, a social club organized over the past year to benefit Victoria Mansion, one of the country’s greatest examples of Italianate architecture and pre-Civil War opulence.

“It’s something different, elegant and new,” said Julie Whited of South Portland. “The old is new again; it’s fresh.”

“I like the idea of attainable philanthropy,” said Jill Falkenberg of Portland. “And swanky parties with some fine people!”

“I’ve lived in Portland for 25 years, and this is the first time I really felt like I had something fun to do on New Year’s,” said Lucinda Cole of Portland.

“For me, New Year’s is a holiday that has lots of expectations and no traditions, so we’re starting a new tradition,” said Lauren Webster LaFrance, a steering committee member from South Portland. “The Gaslight League gets people into the mansion who were otherwise maybe, maybe, going to go at Christmas. We’re building people’s relationships to the mansion in their prime.”

“It’s very innovative – the whole Gaslight League concept in fundraising and attracting a new membership base,” said Sharon Hudson, a steering committee member from Portland, attending with the very dapper Kevin Ryan of Gray. “Besides, we have an interest in dressing up and not being totally out of place.”

“The Gaslight League makes it really affordable for people to be philanthropic,” said Julie Moulton of Portland. “It’s great to see the renovations continuing and to preserve it for future generations.”

“We’ve definitely exceeded our original goal, which was to have 20 members by the end of the year,” said Sam Heck, development director at Victoria Mansion. “People have said that young people don’t support museums, but we’re proving them wrong.”

The Gaslight League, which started up in late summer, already has 48 members. The founding members – those who joined before the Halloween Steampunk Masquerade – ranged in age from 24 to 52. Membership dues of $200 a year or $20 a month are paid via PayPal.

“A lot of people in my book club are in it,” said Stefanie Millette of Portland. “I figured this would be another nerdy but fun thing to do.”

“I did the whole 20s thing and I don’t want to go to the Old Port anymore, but I do want to go out,” said Jesse Mulherin of Cape Elizabeth.

“Everyone here is so like-minded in terms of historic preservation,” said Aubin Libby, a longtime fan of Victoria Mansion who can finally get other people in their 20s and 30s to share her excitement.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer (and Gaslight League member) based in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]