Collections on Display
Gertrude Sortwell loved to sit in this old wing chair and look out the window at her beloved sunken garden across the street. She was so tiny that the family had a platform made to hold the chair high enough so that she could see. The needlework patch on the back and worn arms are evidence of many hours of comfortable and contented use.
The many wool and cotton braided rugs in the house were all made between 1890-1950 by Ross Elwell, the Sortwells’ devoted butler for more than thirty years. Elwell worked for the family in Cambridge before coming with them to Wiscasset in 1899 when they purchased the house. He is even pictured serving dinner in a 1949 McCall’s magazine photo of a Sortwell Thanksgiving.
Portraits of Sophia Augustus Foye and Alvin (Peter) Sortwell
The Sortwell family had roots in Wiscasset long before Alvin and Gertrude Sortwell summered at the Belle Haven and then bought it as their family’s summer home. Alvin’s mother Sophia’s family, the Foyes, settled here in the mid-eighteenth century. These pastel on canvas portraits of Alvin as a young boy and his mother, made between 1860-1870, presided over these front rooms throughout the Sortwells’ time here.
This beautiful mahogany games table, made c. 1790-1820, is representative of the furniture that was in this room when the Nickels family lived here. Even with their eight children to care for, William and Jane Nickels were known for their lavish entertaining and high society fashion.
This figure is a version of the Lincoln Imp, a famous carved image in Lincoln Cathedral in England. The legend is that Satan sent two imps to Lincoln Cathedral to cause trouble. One imp was destroying the Angel Choir when an angel appeared. The imp jumped up onto a pillar and began throwing rocks at the angel. The angel turned the imp to stone, where he remains to this day. Perhaps the Sortwells put this doorknocker on the nanny's room so that the children would think twice about disturbing her when her door was closed.