May 16, 2017

Top Historical Places to see in Portland, ME

First settled in 1632, Portland, Maine has a wealth of history to charm any visitor or resident. From the cobblestoned elegance of its famed Old Port to graceful brick houses that preserve 19th-century architecture, Portland is full of old-world allure. Here are the top historical places to see in this serene, relaxing and charismatic seaside city:

1. Victoria Mansion

This lavish, multi-story house, also known as the Morse-Libby House for its former inhabitants, is famous for its beautiful architecture and rich, detailed interiors. Its exterior was influenced by Italian villas, and today it is one of the country’s best original examples of this style in brick and brownstone.

If its grandeur calls to mind the elegance of 19th-century hotels, that’s because it was originally built for hotelier Ruggles Sylvester Morse and his wife Olive. Constructed between 1858 and 1860, it was designed by Connecticut-based architect Henry Austen for the Morses as their summer home, and was one of the most modern homes of the time, with hot and cold running water as well as flush toilets and central heating.

Morse brought his eye for luxurious opulence to the home, and one of the house’s most standout features is a 25-foot long stained glass skylight. He also hired one of the most influential cabinetmakers and interior designers of the time, Gustaver Herter, to decorate the mansion in gilded surfaces, plasterwork and oversized mirrors that seem more appropriate for a palace than a home. To complete the look, he hired Italian artist Giuseppe Giudicini to create original trompe l’oeil paintings and frescoes for the walls.

After Morse died, his wife sold the house to the dry goods merchant J.R. Libby, whose family lived there until the end of the 1920s. Thanks to their efforts in preservation, around 97% of the house’s contents are original.

2. Portland Observatory
America’s oldest maritime signal tower, the Portland Observatory was built in 1807 and is the last of its kind in the country today. During Portland’s prime maritime period, it was built to let merchants working at the port know which ships were entering, and even featured a telescope so watchers could identify ships as far out as 30 miles away.

Situated on Munjoy Hill, it can be seen from both the open ocean and the wharfs. It was constructed in lighthouse-style architecture with an octagonal design that lets it withstand wind pressure, even with the absence of a basement. It stayed in use until 1923, when it was decided that thanks to technological advancements and improvements in radio communication, it was no longer needed.

Today, you can visit the building between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, when volunteers give guided tours on its history. On clear days its view extends to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

3. Wadsworth-Longfellow House
The childhood home of beloved poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, this stately brick home also has the distinction of being the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula, and of being the first building constructed entirely in brick in the city.

It was built by the poet’s grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth, as a two-story Federal architecture-style home from 1785-1786, with a third story added later by Wadsworth Longfellow’s parents. Growing up in the house from the age of eight months till when he was 35, the house today stands a monument to the poet and his family, including his sister Anne, who preserved the house and donated it to the Maine Historical Society in her death in 1901.

Today you can go on guided visits that explore the house and show how people lived in the 19th century, thanks to an array of original artifacts and furnishings in the parlor, sitting room and front hall. Next to the house, on what used to be family farmland, the Longfellow Garden Club designed a Colonial Revival-style garden that only adds to Portland’s tranquility.  

4. The Shanghai Tunnels
For history of a more bootleg type, don’t miss Portland’s Shanghai Tunnels. Part legend, part reality, the Shanghai Tunnels were constructed in the 1850s, reputedly as a maze of interconnected basements, rooms and tunnels that led from Old Town Chinatown to the sea.

The tunnels were reportedly used for a number of different purposes, from shifting illegal goods between the town and the boats, to housing underground opium dens and gambling houses, or even as temporary prisons for people who had been kidnapped to be sold as slaves in a practice known as “shanghaiing” or “crimping”.  

While it’s uncertain how much of this is true, you can still take tours led by local groups and historians that will take you both above and below ground, into musty basements and passageways that, though blocked, will spark your imagination about the city’s wilder history.

Image: Bex Walton via Flickr

5. Abyssinian Mansion

Maine’s oldest African-American church building cuts a humble, low-key figure on Newbury Street in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood of the city.

Built between 1828 and 1831 with a brick body, simple windows and an arched fan that decorates the outer fa├žade, The Abyssinian Mansion was an important cultural center for local African-Americans. People would gather here for meetings, classes, worship, speakers, and concerts. At one point it was even a schoolhouse for children in the local area.

Since then, it’s been used as tenement apartments, an antique store, and even a stable. An archeological dig in 2008 helped to discover more original details, and today is run by the Committee to Restore the Abyssinian, a historic prevention group.

One of America’s oldest cities, Portland is full of historical gems to discover and explore, and there’s definitely something for every type of explorer within the family.

Author Bio:

Chestnut Portland is a quiet community of one, two and three bedroom townhomes in Portland and Scarborough, Maine that is perfect for anyone looking for easy access to day-to-day life, but also a little fresh air and breathing room.

Going Green: How To Use Eco-Friendly Cleaners To Get Ready For An Event

Photo via Pixabay by TheUjulala

These days it can be difficult to know how to do the right thing where the environment is concerned, but when it comes to finding eco-friendly ways to clean your home, it’s important not only for the Earth but for your family’s health as well. If you’re going to have a party or big event soon, it’s a good idea to find the most Earth-conscious ways to prepare so that your guests will be safe and comfortable.

One of the best perks that come with going green is that it can also help lower your utility bills and can make your home run more smoothly and effectively during winter and summer months. Here are some of the best ways you can use eco-friendly methods to clean your home and prepare for a big event...and clean up after.


Most parties include quite a bit of food and drink, so you’ll want to make sure your kitchen is in good shape. Even if none of your guests will be filtering through this room, it’s important to make sure all surfaces are clean and bacteria-free, including countertops, the stove, the sink, and cutting boards or other prep areas. For this, you can use a mixture of one part distilled white vinegar to four parts warm water, which will cut through grease and grime on stovetops. Baking soda will remove stubborn stains without leaving a harsh chemical smell behind.


The bathroom is an important room to get right because most of your guests will come through here sooner or later. You can actually use the same cleansers from the kitchen in this room, as well, just in a different mixture. Throw one cup of baking soda, one cup of white vinegar, and several drops of scented essential oil into a large bowl and mix well. This makes a wonderful toilet cleaner that won’t leave the room smelling like a cleaner.

Plain vinegar is great for mold or mildew in bathtubs or around the bottom of the toilet, as well.


For windows and glass surfaces, use ¼ cup of white vinegar in about a quart of warm water. Mix in a spray bottle and wipe away those fingerprints and smudges. This is a handy mixture to use after the party, as well!


Mix four cups of white vinegar with about a gallon of hot water. Add several drops of lemon oil so that after you mop the scent of vinegar will dissipate, leaving behind a pleasant citrus scent. This can be used on a variety of floor types and in various rooms.


Banisters, wood tables, staircases, and cabinets will gleam after you use a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and olive oil. Use a thick rag to apply the mixture in long, even strokes to any wood surface, including doors and countertops.

Add some plants

One of the easiest and most eco-friendly ways to clean the air in your home is to place several plants in each room, and they add some color to the area as well. Try spider plants, English ivy, rubber plants, and peace lilies. Space them out in each room and give them plenty of sun and water to keep your home full of clean, breathable air.

Finding eco-friendly ways to clean your home doesn’t have to be difficult; in fact, most green cleaners are made from items you might already have in your home. Make a plan for each room, start in one area and work your way out from there to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

How to Have Fun While Getting in Shape


Experts are always talking about the importance of including exercise in our everyday life as a lifestyle choice, as one of the best ways to keep ourselves healthy, happier and less stressed. You know this already, you've probably known this for a long time and yet, you still struggle to make time for exercise, not because you don't have time but probably because you approach it as another boring task you have to check off your list.

Making exercise a part of your life doesn't mean you have to be super disciplined, rather, it is about finding an activity you absolutely love and doing it often. This is the only way you can consistently move your body. There are so many ways you can get in shape while having fun and the following are a few ones you can try.

Find a sport you love

Which sport have you dreamt of playing professionally as a kid? Whether that's football or volleyball, boxing or karate, find a class or a group that you can join to lose weight while doing what you love.

Video games with a twist

If you are obsessed with video games, then use them to move your body instead of just spending hours on the sofa. Find video games that will get you moving like Pokemon Go but don't forget to stay safe when running about outside as these games have caused injuries!


Sporty dates

The dating game can make you pile up the pounds, especially if dinners and cocktails are on the menu. Do something different the next time you are going on a date like taking a walk in the park or a hike with your date to get to know each other in a different environment.

Go for bliss

When it’s balance and peacefulness you want more in your life, to contrast your bustling day-to-day life, then try a softer, more centering workout like yoga. The latter has a slew of benefits, including helping us to ease anxiety, so the next time you want a workout that nurtures your soul, try a yoga class or find a video online.

Go wild

When you want to nurture your wild side, find activities that will give you an adrenaline rush. Go canoeing and explore mysterious caves, rock climb outside in the highest spots and find other high gear activities so you can never get bored of exercising.

Bring out your inner kid

Exercise should make you feel happy and relaxed and one way to do this is by letting your inner kid out. Activities like jumping rope or twisting the hula hoop; playing laser tag or paintball are all ways you can workout while having a laugh.


Find a workout buddy

It is much easier to exercise when you are joined by someone else. Having a workout buddy means there is someone there to push you, someone to talk to and someone to make the time pass quickly. Getting a friend to join you for long walks, your partner or getting the whole family in on the action will turn exercise from being a task to a social event.

At the end of the day, exercise is about making you feel your best, so you can't go for a workout that makes you feel miserable or bored because you will stop doing it. Always go for something you love doing, only then will working out sound good to you, no matter how tired or busy you are.