Quick — what do all the following things have in common?: Susan B. Anthony, exotic animals, a U.S. ambassador, 1960s hippies, and Stephen King. Yep, you guessed it . . . they all have connections to “the Gilbert Mansion,” a unique Victorian home in Hampden, Maine.
The history I was able to dig up about this house is, at times, a little muddy — but there is no denying the intrigue of the many eclectic tales surrounding this property. Here are six (6) of them:
1) Although the “Year Built” is listed as 1880, the owner says the “kitchen ell” is actually an older structure — an old farmhouse that was gutted & retained as part of the much-larger current house, which was completed during the 1880s. I couldn’t find how old that original structure might be, though a Calvin Snow is listed as owning the property from 1843-1876.
Just like the mystery of the age of the original farmhouse, there are some further gaps in the information about the people who have owned the house over the years. I’m still doing some further research about the ownership chain & the owners themselves, but here are some more interesting historical tales I’ve gathered about the property:
2) In 1898, Susan B. Anthony slept here. A former owner, Mrs. Jane Spofford, hosted her for the Maine Suffrage Convention. Anthony spoke at nearby Harmony Hall in Hampden Highlands. So a pretty impressive historical connection on it’s own. But . . .
3) . . . while we’re talking about reformers & human rights, there was a long-persisting rumor that the house — like so many old houses — was part of the Underground Railroad. I know, I know. But the old tale says there was a tunnel from the house to the Penobscot River, almost 1/2 a mile away. Like many of these legends, the story is very unlikely. A 1/2 mile tunnel (!) would have been quite an undertaking, and no evidence of a tunnel has ever been found. And, obviously, slavery ended in 1865 — almost two decades before the current 1880s structure existed. So if the house had housed runaways (tunnel or no tunnel), it would have been the original farmhouse portion of the structure (now the kitchen ell).
4) One of the early owners was Fred Gilbert, one of the founders and vice-president of Great Northern Paper Company. While living there around the turn-of-the-century, Gilbert used to keep exotic animals in large pens behind the house.
5) Gilbert’s brother very much liked house and so he built one like it in nearby Bangor. That house is now owned by the renown author of horror & sci-fi, Stephen King. Some think that the Hampden house was King’s inspiration for his story “Salem’s Lot.” While King’s own account of his “inspiration” for the book does not go into much detail, the idea seems plausible. King explains that the idea for the book was sparked when he got to wondering what would happen if Dracula returned, in modern day America, in a “sleepy little country town” like his in Maine. Later, King said the story of Salem’s Lot “seems sort of down home to me.” Interestingly, I’ve noticed that some of these local houses also bear a visual resemblance to house in movie adaptation of “Salem’s Lot.” A few interesting King-related-house-photos to consider:
First, just for fun — King’s more famous Bangor house with “spider web” gates:
Now, King’s “other” Hampden house — where he’s reputed to hide from fans (notice the protruded center portico & dormer, which resemble a center tower):
Next, the “shell facade” of a house used in the later film adaptation of Salem’s Lot (notice the protruded center porch/turret, resembling a tower):
Lastly, and interestingly, the Hampden listing (subject of this article) bears a resemblance to the movie house above — at least with its centered tower/turret:
Who knows? Anyway, back to another interesting fact about this house . . .
6) In the 1960s, the house was used as a hippie commune. But not just any hippies. The house was owned by the granddaughter of famous painter Waldo Pierce — who is sometimes called “the American Renoir” and “the Hemingway of American painting” (he was buddies with Hemmingway, and didn’t like this nickname). Pierce’s granddaughter ran the commune until she ran out of money & gave up the venture (I know . . . can you believe a hippie commune ran out of money?). But she did leave a legacy — they cut out the floor between the first and second floors of a large room to increase the light for an art studio.
And now this historic, interesting property — with all its fascinating tales — is now offered for sale. A new chapter awaits!
Besides its grand exterior, the house features terrific woodwork inside (see pics below) and a variety of original features in 16 different rooms –including a parlor, a library, a sunroom. The house also boasts two large pantries. The owner notes that the house “needs some interior work to bring it back to what it should be,” and the house has been priced to reflect this. Here is the ‘Tale of the Tape’:
Asking Price: $249,000
Acreage: 7.0 acres
Square footage: 5,554 sqft of living space (wow.)