When 42-year-old Mary Hobbs inherited her father's woolen mill in 1881, it marked the beginning of a golden era in North Berwick, Maine. For the next 52 years, Mary's sharp business acumen and magnanimous generosity greatly influenced the fabric and culture of the community.
Following the deaths of both her father and first husband, Mary moved the plain home--which her Quaker father had built for her as a wedding gift—to the rear of her property. Then, she constructed a magnificent Victorian mansion in front of her relocated home. The original home became servants’ quarters connected to the mansion. To this day, Mary’s home has served as the architectural and social focal point of the community. The mansion became known as Hurd Manor when Mary took the name of her second husband—Daniel Hurd—in 1893.
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, called Hurd Manor “the most outstanding example of its style in southern Maine and nowhere in the state does a more impressive Queen Anne—Eastlake residence exist.” Hurd Manor has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, not only for its architectural significance, but also because Mary Hurd was one of our nation’s first female industrialists.
Inside and out, Hurd Manor incorporates an array of stunning architectural features. Hand carved friezes on the front porch and porte cochere depict the face of the North wind and the Greek god Bacchus. There are also carved images of a frolicking griffin, vines, leaves and the mansion’s signature sunflowers. The slate roof is crowned with fancy iron cresting on the ridgepoles and original lightening rods.
Each of the four medieval-style chimneys displays unique features with the most prominent chimney rising alongside the mansion from ground level to more than 50 feet. There are eight fireplaces with mantles of marble and intricately carved wood. The Music Room fireplace features Corinthian columns flanked by fluted pilasters with ceramic tiles surrounding the hearth. The library fireplace is made of fossilized marble (marble impregnated with tiny prehistoric fossils from the Cambrian Period).
Stepping inside Hurd Manor can easily take your breath away. The 11-foot high ceilings are hand-painted in beautiful patterns and designs. Friezes of gilded plaster in a swirl design adorn most rooms. The great center hall features paneling of black walnut. Quarter-sawn oak paneling graces the dining room, along with a hand carved oak mantle featuring the mansion’s signature north wind and sunflower motif.
Stained glass is displayed throughout the mansion including within the center staircase skylight. Even Mary Hurd’s original safe still stands in its custom built cabinet. Etched and leaded glass panels add beauty and grace to several interior doorways.
The mansion maintains a bit of whimsy in its “stairway to nowhere.” A door on the second floor opens to three stairs that end at a wall. Apparently, the three stairs are the beginning of an old staircase that was removed when the original home was connected to the new mansion.
Landscaping at Hurd Manor has been evolving for more than 100 years. Magnificent maple trees grace the property along with flowering fruit trees, elms, birch and evergreens. Several varieties of flowers are sprinkled throughout the grounds in well-manicured perennial gardens.