WISCASSET, Maine — Historic New England’s Cathy Messmer will explore the creation of a Wiscasset treasure, the Sunken Garden, beginning with a lecture at 10 a.m. on July 26, at the Nickels-Sortell House Barn. After Wiscasset’s Hilton House Hotel burned to the ground in 1903, Alvin and Gertrude Sortwell, who owned the house across the street, acquired the land to extend their outdoor property. Daughter Frances Sortwell put the hotel’s stone foundation to good use. The lecture will be followed by a firsthand look at the Sunken Garden just across the street. Advance reservations are required. Space is limited. Admission is $10 for members of Historic New England, $15 for nonmembers. Call 207-882-7169 or visit www.HistoricNewEngland.org to purchase tickets. The Nickels-Sortwell House is located at 121 Main Street in Wiscasset. The barn entrance is on Federal Street.
Frances Sortwell had a wide and varied group of friends that included artists, academics, professionals, politicians, and many members of similar Gilded Age families through school and family connections. Miss Frances and her friends, including Rose Ishbel Greeley, one of the first female landscape architects in the country, transformed the dismal site of the total devastation of the Hilton House into a magical sunken garden and a place of tranquil beauty. Used by the Sortwell family for many years as a beloved private garden and unique outdoor entertainment space, the Sunken Garden was given to the Town of Wiscasset by Daniel Sortwell and Marion Sortwell Warland at Frances’ death in 1957.
Historic New England is the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the nation. For a full program calendar and more information on their collection and thirty-six historic house museums across five states, visit www.HistoricNewEngland.org.