Scarborough scout spearheads Victoria Mansion project in Portland

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PORTLAND — Scarborough High School sophomore Erich Chase’s interest in historic homes and bygone eras led him to lead a project to create space in Victoria Mansion to properly archive items at the landmark. 

Chase, a member of Scout Troop 39 in Scarborough, met with the mansion’s Executive Director Tom Johnson to ask how he and other scouts could serve the mission of the organization through an Eagle Scout project. 

Chase’s father, Scott, urged his son to choose something he was passionate about, which led him to the museum. Victoria Mansion was built from 1858-1860, and only two families lived in the home before it became a museum in 1941. Ninety percent of the interior is original, including wall paintings from Italian artist Giuseppe Guidicini.

Chase, 16, has been an Earle E. Shuttleworth docent at the mansion since he was 12, when his father said the family went to a Victorian fair at the home and learned about the docent program.

“His eyes just lit up,” said Scott, who was part of the same Boy Scout troop growing up in the 1970s and is now a troop leader.

Chase said he is interested in the Victorian era, the architecture, the upkeep of historic homes, and the etiquette of the time. He said he enjoys teaching others what he has learned at the mansion, and his interest in history was developed by his father; the two also take part in historical re-enactments together. 

Aside from a keen interest in history, Chase does karate and plays the violin and viola in a youth orchestra at the University of Southern Maine. 

“It’s amazing to see,” Scott Chase said of the work the troop has done, and the interest they have shown in the process. The group, in its mini-renovation project, has built shelves and and cabinets, and painted and plastered the third-floor cistern room into a dedicated archival storage area, and a place for small meetings and scholarly research.

The room once housed a 1,000-gallon copper tank that held the mansion’s water supply. The water was gravity-fed throughout the house in one of Maine’s earliest indoor plumbing systems, according to Victoria Levesque, development and communications coordinator at the mansion.

The remodeling project, which ran through the winter, has been helpful to the mansion staff because there is limited space available for archiving and storage, Levesque said.

Transforming the former cistern room into a workable space without the clutter of miscellaneous storage, was a project the museum had considered for a long time, she said, and Chase said the project turned out better than he envisioned. 

Chase said he will continue volunteering at the mansion throughout his senior year, and is interested in studying archaeology, or museum curation.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net or on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

Victoria Mansion on Danforth Street in Portland.

Scott Chase, left, and his son Erich Chase. The Scarborough residents are renovating the former cistern room of the Victoria Mansion in Portland at part of an Eagle Scout project.

The former cistern room at Victoria Mansion in Portland, where members of Boy Scout Troop 39 in Scarborough built shelves and cabinets to create a research and archive space. 

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