The Victoria Mansion holiday gala, which used to mark the unofficial start to the holiday season in Portland, returned Dec. 6 for the first time since the pandemic. The intimate gathering was essentially an opening reception for the 10 designers or design teams who have dressed up the mansion in “Colors of the Season.”

“We try to pick themes that give designers a little inspiration but don’t hem them in too tightly,” said Executive Director Tim Brosnihan. “This theme invited designers to look at the colors in the Mansion and respond to them.”

Dan Kennedy and Jennifer Miller from Harmon’s Floral Company made forest green draperies for the parlor, complementing the original woodwork and hand-painted details with a green-and-gold theme. Dawn Hachey decked the Turkish smoking room in gold and tassels.

And Theresa Ruel of the Saco Festival of Trees Design Committee outfitted the “green bedroom” in deep greens, navy blue, cream and turquoise reminiscent of pine trees and the ocean.

“We look forward to this every year,” said Danny Hatt of Emerald City Design, estimating that about 80 hours went into planning, ordering and decorating the reception room in silver and frosty blue. “It’s a passion of love.”

Chevaughn Laverriere of Chevaughn Marie Designs trimmed the “red bedroom” in dusty pinks and silvery sage greens with twinkling lights and cascading garlands.


“I’ve wanted to do this for years,” Laverriere said. “I happened to sit next to a docent at the Palace Diner in Biddeford, and I applied for next year, assuming that I’d missed the deadline. But there was a room open.”

While the décor was just as stunning and the gathering just as festive, the event was smaller and shorter than in years past. After an hour of mingling and photos capped off with a champagne toast, guests walked a third of a mile to the Cumberland Club for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, sweets and live music from Goldenwood Ensembles.

Most of the 110 guests – about half as many people as before the pandemic – are volunteer docents or designers, board members, preservation experts or financial supporters. They understand that behind the mansion’s ostentatious receiving rooms and grand staircase is a tiny kitchen and a focus on conservation over cocktails and canapes.

“The museum is a gift to the community,” said Joyce Berlucchi, a former docent from South Portland. “We’re so thankful that it was able to be saved.”

Victoria Mansion, also known as the Morse-Libby House, was built between 1858 and 1860 as a summer home for Ruggles Sylvester Morse, who made his fortune operating luxury hotels. Morse commissioned architect Henry Austin, designer Gustave Herter and artist Giuseppe Guidicini, who are responsible for the mansion’s Italian Villa style, palatial furnishings and trompe l’oeil paintings.

“Over 90 percent of the furnishings are original,” said docent Mark Ferrence of Lisbon. “This is the only surviving almost complete Herter commission, the only one left anywhere in the world that retains this level of authenticity.”

The mansion is open for “Colors of the Season” self-guided tours through Jan. 7. For details, go to

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

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: