When Thomas Ruggles' new Federal style house was completed in 1820, it was praised as one of the most exquisite homes in Maine.
After coming to Maine from Rochester, Massachusetts, in the late 1790s to claim a land grant, Ruggles amassed huge tracts of timberlands in Washington County and made a fortune cutting and shipping lumber.
By 1818 he had the means to hire Asa Sherman, a housewright from Marshfield, Massachusetts, to design a fine home for him in Columbia. He spared no expense in building his home, which featured a grand flying staircase and meticulously carved woodwork.
Ruggles, also Chief Justice of Court Sessions for Washington County, head of the local militia, and a successful farmer, died within months of moving in.
Ruggles’ descendants continued to live in the house until 1920, when Lizzie Ruggles died. The house had never been modernized -- Lizzie’s sole source of heat was the fireplace — and while its interior detailing was intact, it was in terrible condition, as the ca. 1920 photo shows.
Mary Ruggles Chandler, a cousin who was the pharmacist at the drugstore next to the house, saw the value of the house and dedicated herself to restoring it. She enlisted the assistance of wealthy Bar Harbor residents and the founder of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.
The Ruggles House opened to the public in the 1950s, with Mary, at age 80, as the first docent. The Ruggles House Society has done further restoration, including rebuilding the chimneys and removing and rebuilding the original ell.
Today the house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
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