The Wadsworth–Longfellow House
In June 2002, the Maine Historical Society celebrated the centennial of the Wadsworth–Longfellow House as Maine's first house museum open to the public. Join us for an hour-long guided tour of this historic landmark.
Within its walls lived three generations of one remarkable family that made significant contributions to the political, literary, and cultural life of New England and the United States. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), grew up in the house and went on to become one of the most famous men of his time.
General Peleg Wadsworth, built the house in 1785–1786, and the last person to live there was Anne Longfellow Pierce, Henry's younger sister. Mrs. Pierce, widowed at an early age, lived in the house until her death in 1901. At that time, in accordance with a deed she executed in 1895, the house passed to the Maine Historical Society to be preserved as a memorial to her famous brother and their family.
Virtually all of the household items and artifacts are original to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.
Furnishings from the three generations illustrate changes in style, technology, and attitude over the 19th century. Peleg and Elizabeth Wadsworth raised ten children in the house before retiring to the family farm in Hiram, Maine, in 1807.
The Wadsworth–Longfellow House is also an important architectural artifact of New England's past. Originally a two–story structure with a pitched roof, it was the first wholly brick dwelling in Portland. Zilpah and Stephen Longfellow (Henry's parents) added a third story in 1815. The only single–family residence to survive downtown Congress Street's change from a mixed commercial and residential neighborhood on the edge of town to an urban business district, it is the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula. The House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, and administratively added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
After two and a half years of meticulous renovation to the era of the 1850's, the Wadsworth–Longfellow house re–opened to the public in June of 2002.
The Longfellow Garden
Behind the House you will find the Longfellow Garden, a secluded Colonial Revival style garden that is an oasis of green and quiet in the heart of downtown Portland. Located on what had once been the domestic farmyard for the Wadsworth Longfellow family, the Longfellow Garden Club created the garden in 1926. Beautifully landscaped, with meandering paths throughout, it is open to the public in seasonal weather. To read more about the garden, visit the Longfellow Garden page on the HWLongfellow.org website.
The Longfellow Garden Club continues to nurture this Portland landmark as well as the Longfellow Arboretum at Payson Park. The Club has active and supporting membership, meets monthly and hosts speakers and relevant programs. For more information please contact Karen Rea, president of the garden club at LongfellowGardenClub@gmail.com or 207-317-0316.
See the Longfellow Garden Plant Identification guide.
Discounts for Historic Trust Members
Maine Historical Society is proud to be a Distinctive Destination of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We welcome all National Trust members to receive a 20% discount off admissions to the Longfellow House, current exhibits, and 10% off any purchases in the Museum Store. Visit http://www.preservationnation.org/travel-and-sites/distinctive-destinations/ for more information.
For information about the Portland History Docent program, see Volunteer Opportunities.