Victoria Mansion Christmas

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Flag of United States  , Maine
Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review of: Victoria Mansion, Portland, Maine
Type of Attraction: Historical Museum
Reviewer: Sierra Canino
Date of Visit: December 2nd, 2012

    Walking up toward the Victoria Mansion, the bright lights on the majestic building mystified through the dark night and caught my eyes and interest. As I walked up the large ornate staircase and opened the heavy, creaky storm doors, I felt myself going back in time. All of a sudden, the smells, sights, and sounds of the parlor took me to Christmas in the Gilded Age. Bright lights, beautiful decor, and the sounds of visitors of all ages filled the majestic room. As I walked in, I was warmly welcomed by a smile of the worker. She immediately welcomed me to the mansion, handed me a visitor's guide, and asked if I was eligible for any of the discounts showcased on the admission prices board. Although I was not applicable, I pleased to know that there were many discounts, including AAA, Senior citizens, and children. I was also informed that any active U.S Military personnel are admitted free of charge. The museum also offers families a special rate, in which two adults and up to five children under the age of 18 will be admitted for only $35, which makes such an attraction a great and affordable place for families. 
    Upon my arrival in the parlor, and after the purchase of my undiscounted $15.00 ticket, I went on a self guided tour. I enjoyed the idea of having a self guided tour, so that one may tour at their own pace. To guide visitors, there were employees in each and every room, to inform the public about the displays, as well as answer any questions. The employees were very helpful, enthusiastic, and informative, as well, which made the overall experience even better and more enjoyable for sure. During the tour, I was truly amazed and mesmerized by the impeccable detail evident in each and every room open to the public. The first floor offered visitors a glimpse at the Library, Dining Room, Reception Room, and a Parlor, all of which were beautifully ornate and filled with intricate details through every nook and cranny of the rooms.
    Due to the time of year, each room was decked out in Christmas decor of the Gilded Age. Christmas trees, wreaths, and poinsettias filled the rooms and corners of the amazing mansion. Stockings which were hung over the various fire mantles, a large gingerbread house in the shape of the Victoria Mansion, and garland throughout the walls and staircase of the grand home all added to the overall "classic Christmas" theme throughout the mansion. The variety of decorations used to portray the holiday season during this era also made it quite intriguing to view,as some rooms were filled with bright colors of gold and silver, others with the classic red and green decor. 
    Immediately upon arriving and exploring the mansion, I realized that this tourist attraction is a wonderful place for families and people of all ages. There was everyone from young couples to teenagers, and small children to elderly, visiting and enjoying the miraculous sights of the Victoria Mansion. I was especially surprised to find that so many little children were touring the historic mansion. Most historical homes are not child oriented, as many of the artifacts within such places are fragile. However, the staff warmly welcomed the children who arrived and explored, and much to my surprise, ,the children seemed to enjoy and take a liking to the scenes of the home.
    Midway through my self guided tour, all of the visitors began to accumulate to the entrance parlor for a performance of The Nutcracker  by the Portland Ballet Company. At 4:30 pm, people of all ages, especially children, sat on the grand staircase and alongside the beautifully intricate walls, hoping to catch a glimpse of the upcoming performance. Once everyone was situated and ready for the performance to begin, one of the workers at the museum explained to the audience that during the 20th century, each Christmas and holiday season this performance would take place in the parlor of the house for the children of the family to enjoy. The fact that this play was performed as part of the family's holiday celebration and festivities made stepping back into time even more of a reality for visitors. The worker then introduced the dancers to their audience. The dancers all welcomed everyone to the performance, and explained the scene which they were portraying to the audience, and then the play began. The ornate costumes and suspenseful music definitely added to the lovely performance of the dancers, as well as the setting of the dance itself within the mansion, as the parlor acted as a wonderful scenery and location for such a performance to occur. It was truly a beautiful sight to watch the dancers, who ranged from young to teenaged, twirl and act out the scene, The awe- inspiring performance lasted about fifteen minutes, which was the perfect amount for the younger crowd who are not able to sit still and watch so easily. At the very end of the performance, the applauds of the audience filled the entire parlor room, which immediately brought brilliant smiles upon the dancers. The act was simply stunning and truly made the visit even more memorable and grand. 
    After the crowd pleasing performance, I continued to tour the rest of the mansion. It took a few minutes of waiting for the crowd to disperse throughout the rest of the room, which became quite frustrating as there was so many people, particularly young children, in such confined areas. However, once the crowd separated into the different areas of the museum, I was finally able to explore the second floor of the grand mansion. Walking up the ornate staircase alone was quite an adventure, as if each step I took brought me closer and closer to the past and time period portrayed throughout the house. Like the first floor rooms, the second floor, which consisted of bedrooms and a Turkish Smoking Room, was also decorated for the holidays, with even more Christmas trees, wreaths, and stockings. The theme of both floors remained consistent, which was great and helped maintain the old fashioned feel of the mansion. From the second floor, the third floor is visible, however, it is not open to the public. After admiring the breathless sights of the second floor and the far off sights of the third, I made my way back down to the first floor, toward the exit. 
     On my way down, a small decorated Christmas tree in the corner of the staircase walls caught my eye. It was then in which I truly realized how amazing the intricate attention to detail the staff gave to the entire decor of the mansion for the holidays. So much of a focus on the little things, such as the small ornate trees and garland even in the corners of the house, really magnified the holiday and Gilded Age theme and made a wonderful contribution to my overall positive experience. In order to exit the grand mansion, each and every visitor must go through the back door and toward the carriage house. Even in the path between the mansion and carriage house, there were large and small Christmas trees which illuminated the paths. Along the sides of the large canopy, which protected visitors from inclement weather, there was also little porcelain Christmas villages present,all lit up and lighting the way to the carriage house. Through this moment I, once again, saw and realized how dedicated the staff is at impressing their visitors and remaining consistent with the theme of Christmas during the Gilded Age. 
    This theme of Christmas remained constant also throughout the gift shop within the carriage house. The gift shop, like the house, was adorned with Christmas trees and typical holiday decor. However, the gift shop did have a more modern feel and look to it, which hindered the consistency of the classic Christmas theme which overbeared the mansion itself. The gift shop offers visitors a chance to purchase a variety of small gifts, from Christmas ornaments to soaps and jewelry. While the mansion itself, with the performance of The Nutcracker and the friendly staff throughout the museum, is very child oriented, the gift shop certainly was not as kid friendly. A lot of the items in the gift shop were fragile, such as the jewelry and wine glasses. Also, the gift shop was geared toward a more mature crowd, as there were no gifts for children there, besides a few books. The prices were fair, however, they did tend to remain on the more expensive side. However, the exceptionally high quality of the items sold at the store reflect the slightly higher price of the goods sold at such a store
    While on the tour of the beautiful mansion, I learned a lot about the history of the home, such as the fact that it was built as a summer home in 1858 for Ruggles Sylvester Morse, who was a wealthy hotel owner from Louisiana.  Mr. Morse and his family occupied the house for various years, and the mansion was used as a vacation house until it was sold to the Libby family in 1894. The Libby family then occupied the mansion for thirty six years, until it was sold again. In 1940, William H. Holmes purchased the mansion and transformed it into a museum the following year. The majority of the artifacts within the museum are original to the home itself, with most of them being from the time the Libby family owned the mansion. 

Getting There

    The mansion is located on 109 Danforth Street in Portland. The website does not offer directions on how to get to the mansion, unfortunately, and therefore, I had to use my personal GPS to locate the attraction. Fortunately, I did find it rather easy to locate the mansion. I traveled from Gorham, Maine, and the overall trip from the town to the museum took a little under one hour. Once you arrive on Danforth Street, the grand mansion is truly not hard to miss, as it stands out among the nearby homes on the street. The museum is situated in a residential area and does not offer on site parking, both of which make it challenging for finding a place to park. Across from the mansion, there are 15 minute parking locations, which can be helpful with dropping off those who may not be able to walk as far in order to get to the attraction. Also, there are 2 hour meter parking located on the various side streets alongside the mansion, such as on Park and High streets. I found parking on High Street, and had to walk to the mansion from my parking spot. The walk from such areas to the museum is only a short distance, and was rather charming, as well.  

Hours of Operation

    Hours of operation vary from season to season . The mansion is also open for self guided tours during the holiday season November 23rd to January 6th, from 11am to 4:30 pm daily. They are closed on Christmas and New Year's Day, however. The museum reopens, this time for guided tours, during the spring and summer months, with different hours of operation. For more information regarding the museum, the website is very helpful:

    Overall, the Victoria Mansion is truly incredible. The ornate mansion itself is a great attraction to visit, and I would highly recommend it as a tourist destination. The mansion is great for people and families of all age ranges, and, besides the gift shop, is very child friendly. The experience one will have on their visit to this site is nearly as grand and great as the mansion itself.

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tah101fall2012 on

Overall a nicely written review, with some good details about the visit. The photos are nice as well.

In terms of suggestions for improvements:

1) There is really not much specific information about how to find the Mansion, parking, hours, etc. This should come either at the beginning, or at the end, maybe under a subheading like "Getting There."

2) The review itself is pretty short. Maybe you could add some info about what else to do in the area, such as where to eat. This would give visitors from out of town a better idea of what else to do in the area.

3) Provide web links to any places you mention in your review.

Grading Criteria
1) Did the author show that he or she visited the location and made careful observations? Yes

2) Does the review follow the basic requirements for length, format, and overall content? Short

3) Does the review give the reader a good idea of what it is like to visit this location? Yes.

4) Does it give the reader information about the attraction, e.g., costs, hours, location? Could use more specific info

5) Does it offer opinion regarding the quality of the attraction and its goods and services? Yes

6) Is it written in a readable style, with few or no grammatical, spelling and other errors? Yes, mostly

7) Does it include photos or videos (these are optional but can earn extra credit points). Yes

8) Was everything done on time, including draft, class presentation, and final version? Yes

Bottom Line: Could use some refining and additional info on area attractions.

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