Castle Tucker Landscape History
Castle Tucker is built on a hill overlooking the Sheepscot River and Wiscasset Harbor. When Judge Silas Lee built this Regency style house in 1807, Wiscasset was the busiest seaport north of Boston. By the time Captain Richard Tucker, Jr., bought the house in 1858, the condition of both town and house had deteriorated. Wiscasset’s economy plummeted with the Embargo of 1807, the War of 1812, and subsequent recessions and financial panics. The Tuckers moved in determined to return the house to glory befitting their social status as one of the leading families in town.
One of the first changes they made was to add an Italianate entrance on the street side of the house. This required redesigning the landscape on the Lee Street side. The Tuckers chose to create a circular driveway with lawn and flowers in the center. The Tuckers’ children Dick and Jennie later described this as a pinwheel garden.
The most significant change was the addition of a three-story piazza on what had been the front of the 1807 house, facing the river. The view from the piazza included a sweeping lawn with an apple orchard and vegetable garden close to the house. Initially, elms surrounded the main house and the piazza, shielding it from sun. By 1871, the family’s finances had been reduced to a need for subsistence farming and taking in paying guests in summer. The Wiscasset working waterfront at the edge of the property dried up.
The landscape of Castle Tucker in the 1880s through the 1920s reflected the decline in income. The Victorian planters, pinwheel garden, and masonry walls along the Lee street side of the house all disappeared. The field was used for haying. The top of the knoll between the house and the river became an agricultural work yard. This contained a small apple orchard and vegetable and fruit gardens with pens for chickens and pigeons.
When Captain Tucker’s granddaughter, Jane Standen Tucker, moved to Castle Tucker full-time in the late 1960s, she added a flower garden to the northeast of the house and rose bushes along the back of the house.
The pinwheel garden in front of the house had become an oval with a center planting of hostas. A line of ferns grew along the front side of the house. Jane also added a vegetable garden that she planted around the old well about halfway down the slope of the hill.
In 2010, in order to understand the steps needed to restore the landscape to its early twentieth-century appearance, Historic New England commissioned a landscape treatment plan. Small steps have been taken to carry out this plan, such as establishing new mowing patterns to create a path around the property and clear the tennis area.