A Gothic-style “castle” that towers over a bluff in Cape Elizabeth is for sale with an asking price of $3.35 million.

Beckett’s Castle – built of quarried stone and host to decades of ghost tales – was placed on the market this month following a summer auction that emptied the landmark home’s contents.

Completed in 1874, Beckett’s Castle was built for use as a summer cottage by lawyer and author Sylvester Blackmore Beckett, a major figure in mid-19th century Portland history. One of the home’s most prominent features is a three-story tower that was used as a navigational aid for ships entering Portland Harbor.

By the 1980s, the property had fallen into disrepair and was better known for claims of paranormal activity inside the house, including an invisible force that pulled paintings off walls, repeatedly flung open the tower door and stripped bedsheets from freshly made beds.

According to published reports, then-owner Robert Lins believed the spirit of Beckett remained inside the home. Lins once hired a medium and invited a skeptical reporter to witness a seance in which the medium dramatically “channeled” Beckett’s ghost.

No documentary evidence exists to support the claims of supernatural occurrences, but they have led to Beckett’s Castle being featured in many books and websites about famous haunted houses. The fact that Beckett died in the home, coupled with his published views on the existence of life after death, have only added to the property’s mystique.

In 1982, the home was sold to Nancy Harvey, a prominent Portland social worker who died last November at age 82.

Harvey meticulously restored the home and added several new features, including beautiful rose gardens, which so impressed the late British rosarian, author and lecturer Peter Beales that he featured them in his books.

“(Harvey) undertook major renovations,” said associate broker Tish Whipple of Town & Shore Associates in Portland, the home’s listing agent. “She created the gardens, added a bedroom wing and a living space, converted the garage into a studio and guest space, and added a carport.”

Whipple said the home became part of Harvey’s estate when she died, and that her children have decided to sell the property.

“They’d love to find a new owner who will love it and treasure it, and carry it forward into a new century,” she said.

At well over $3 million, the property isn’t likely to sell to just anyone. According to real estate portal Trulia, the estimated monthly payment for a 30-year mortgage on the home would be about $16,350.

FOREFRONT OF A TREND

The house and its original owner both figure prominently in local history, according to retired Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth.

Beckett was a lawyer and a poet who also compiled and edited the Portland directory, a compilation of the city’s businesses and inhabitants that became the go-to source for information at the time. A key feature of the directories are beautifully engraved, fold-out maps of the city that remain a good source for historians seeking to track the development of Portland.

Beckett’s Castle was at the forefront of a trend, according to Shettleworth, who in 1974 wrote a report on the house that got it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was included on the list for its architecture and its position in the movement toward summer houses for the rich and famous.

A decade or so after Beckett started summering in Cape Elizabeth, the trend really took off. Doctors, lawyers and business owners got together to buy Delano Farm, a stone’s throw from Beckett’s place, and John Calvin Stevens designed his shingle-style “cottages” for them and their families. Thus Delano Park, ground zero of Cape Elizabeth’s development as an exclusive summer colony, was born.

Beckett also invited artists to join him at the castle, and they painted scenes of the shore, Shettleworth said. He said Beckett’s Castle itself was also featured by many of the artists, so the summer place is relatively well known, both in Maine and around the country, from those oil-on-canvas depictions.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

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Twitter: jcraiganderson

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