HOMESTEAD HOUSE CALL – The Historic Ruggles House in Maine.

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The original circa 1820 wallpaper in a parlor that is now the dining room.
The Ruggles House (upper picture) in 1920. Note that one of the chimneys had fallen off. The Ruggles House (lower picture) just after restoration in the 1950’s (Yes, it took over 30 years to restore it!)

Visiting historic homes is like time travel. In most cases you get to see exactly how people lived in the era that the house was built. How great is that! This is certainly the case for the Ruggles House in Columbia Falls Maine. At the very northern tip of Maine’s beautiful coastline, there is a tiny village Called Columbia Falls. I stopped in at n antique dealer on Route 1 who advised me to make a detour to this village about an hour from the Canadian Border because there was a house there that I must see (he could tell that I was a house fanatic)

He told me that the house was pretty much in its original state from the time that it was built by a local lumber baron in 1818. When I got to the sleepy village, I was excited to see the sign outside that it was open. So, on a brilliantly sunny fall day, I found out that this sumptuous house is a perfect mix of grand and practical. The house still has no running water or bathrooms (but now does have electricity in the back addition which serves as an office). Come and take the tour with me. I was allowed to take pictures of every room to show all of you so PLEASE DONATE (if you can) to help continue the restoration of this beautiful house! – VLR

The Ruggles House is open! Come on in! Note that in a more recent restoration of the fence, an extra post and finial has been added on each side. The original fence had only finials on either end of each side (See picture of 1950’s restoration above)
Look at the major swag detail above each window. Remember this was all done in wood by a local carpenter from 1818 to 1820. Also, I’ve never seen a building that was clad with just basic, flat planks such as these (each one flush with the other). Usually it is pieces of wood siding that overlap each other to shed off the water.
All of the doors in the house are original (as well as all of the paint colors and some of the wallpapers). The front entry door is painted black on the outside but on the inside (shown here) there is a faux finish (with gold detail on the inserted panels) to simulate mahogany. The (lower) lock case is original.
Directly in front of you as you come in is the grand entry staircase (which takes up almost 1/3 of the house). You will see more later.
Look at the detail of the banister. Also note that the balusters are squared off instead of rounded.
Going around to the left hand side of the staircase, you can see that the stairs literally float away from the base. The guide said that they are convinced that there are iron rods that go all the way up under the stairs as there has never been any cracking or sagging over the years. Amazing.
Behind the (grand) stairs are the original (practical) Coat Knobs that go all the way from one end to the other.
On the right hand side, the rail comes through under the staircase with the coat knobs. On a hanger is one of Mr Ruggles’ fine dress suits that was found in the attic (probably for weddings or special events).
Now we go left into the main parlor. I was immediately struck by the detail work of the interior shutters. Note that between the upper and lower panels there is a little shelf on the top of the lower window sash that ensures a tight closure and less cold air coming through. They still work perfectly.
The minute you walk into the large parlor, you are struck by the mahogany inlaid fireplace. Note that the room goes from the front to the back of the house (This room was 1/3 of the entire house).
Here are some of the fine details on the fireplace surround. All of the decoration is hand carved wood (even the floral garlands) except for the beading which is glued and painted buckshot!
Here is the seating area in the large parlor. Many of the pieces are original to the house and the paint colors have been carefully restored to their original colors (Including the floor’s mustard yellow).
The tea service is of the period (I’m dying for it!) and you can see the delicate tone on tone wallpaper that was made to match the original. Not the black painted edge detail on the floor all the way around the room.
I asked if we could close the door so that you could really get a sense of the grandeur that was achieved in the room. The guide said that the owner was highly influence by the neoclassical Adam Style (Even though Scottish brothers Robert and James Adam were deceased by the time the house was built). The hardware is original.
Then we go back into the entry hall and to the smaller parlor on the right hand side of the house which is now the dining room (The dining room was originally in the back add on of the house). The wallpaper is original and the portrait is one of the Mr. Ruggles’ daughters. Once again (But to a much lesser degree) you have mahogany inlays in the fireplace surround (Note the iron fireplace inset for keeping food and tea warm and also the cabinet on the side of the fireplace for keeping dishes warm). There are window seats in this room as was common at the time so that the furniture could be removed and the room used for dancing (giving the ladies seating near the windows).
This massive sideboard is original to the house as is the wallpaper.
This silver and place settings were purchased for the house and are copies from the period. Notice the filament wire running across the plate and silver – No touching please!
This is an area in the back of the dining room that represents what a kitchen would look like from the era. The original kitchen would have been in the basement (Not yet open to visit) and this area would have been part of the original dining room.
The soapstone sink is killer and I loved looking at all of the utensils and gadgets used to prepare meals.
Now we go up the staircase to the second floor landing where there is a bedroom on each side (Yup, only two bedrooms!) The picture window is magnificent.
The smaller bedroom is on the right hand side of the house (just over the smaller parlor now fitted out as the dining room). Note the closet on the side of the fireplace for keeping linens warm and dry.
A very simple scroll headboard and bed with a very delicate wallpaper (similar to the original in the room) in the smaller bedroom.
Behind the smaller bedroom is a nursery. They need help to restore this room (note that the wallpaper has been painted over) to make it look like a proper nursery (The items are original to the house). You can donate HERE to keep the restoration going!
Now we cross the landing into the larger bedroom. The first thing that you notice here is the pink fireplace and trim (The original color). The wallpaper is a copy of the original.
The original bed is still here with it’s gentle lace canopy. This is a rope bed (meaning that there was a straw mattress lying on a rope netting that was passed through holes in the frame). There are pegs that twist on the sides to tighten the ropes (that have a tendency to stretch out over time and with weather conditions) so that the mattress doesn’t sag. Thus the expression “Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite” (Bedbugs were very common in the tavern / hotels of the time due to the number of guests and also the straw mattresses).
A detail of the upstairs larger bedroom door (like all the doors) has its original brass hardware (Probably imported from England) and its faux mahogany finish with the gold line design simulating panels.
Now we are back on the landing and heading down the staircase. You can really feel the cathedral like quality of this space. Note that there is a pattern on the floor (painted black). This is original and was painted in black so that you would know exactly where to step after nightfall with only a candle to light your way.
And now one of the best views in the house that shows you the upper landing, stairs and entry door. Apparently there never was a chandelier installed as the owners wanted a feeling of open space. There were wall sconces with candles though. Interestingly, this is the only staircase in the house. There was no back stair! Once again, to donate (You can pick your favorite ongoing project whether it’s the nursery renovation or the carriage house rebuild). Even a $10.00 Donation is appreciated. DONATE HERE – VLR

3 Responses

  1. Peter Lione

    The first time I went to the Ruggles House I finally knew what “heaven” meant…

    • Madeleine et

      What a wonderful visit of this gorgeous house were we just dream to live in…Style, elegance, beautiful details…

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