Custom House Antiques Gallery is a large, three story, Federal Mansion boldly presiding at 43 Main Street in Limerick, Maine, 235 years after it was built. In those days it was a tremendous
achievement for the 36 inch wide by 16 fool lone granite slabs to be towed from Vermont to
for the foundation of the mansion. But, Major General John McDonald, it's owner,
had a vision for a grand estate and nothing was
spared to complete the imposing appearance and strong structural foundation of this Historic Mansion.
Major General John McDonald was a friend of General George Washington and a member of the
Maine State Senate for five terms until his death in 1826 at age 52. He was nominated Governor
Governor during that year and was Judge of the Court Sessions, Justice of the Peace and Major
General of the Maine and Massachusetts Militia during the War of 1812. He used his mansion's grand third floor ballroom for Militia Practice during the War of 1812. The spring floor boards have survived to this day lively dancing as well as militia drills.
It is said that hidden in the Mansion, are his fringed uniform epaulettes. One was seen sitting on
the fireplace mantle in May of 2012 in the grand third floor ballroom, then suddenly it disappeared
again. The home stayed in his family for almost a century and was passed on to each descending
generation until it was sold in the year 1900 to Steven A. Grant of the Crawford House in Boston.
He turned it into a lucrative Inn called :Shade of the Elm Inn". The original sign resides inside the
lobby of the Custom House Gallery today.
During the 1830's and onward, many coach travelers visited the Inn and one in particular stands
out. His name was Payne, an avid follower of the famed artist Rufus Porter. He painted murals in
the likeness of his mentor on the front foyer walls and staircase along with several second floor
rooms instead of paying for his stay. This was a common New England practice during the early
During the 1920's one of the Inn's owners began
redecorating and removed some of the wallpaper that had
been put over the murals some time in the previous century
He was amazed to see the most vibrant and
colorful paintings. He had all the wallpapers carefully
removed. They are painted on plaster and still fully intact
throughout the first and second floors.
Some researchers believe that the murals of the vistas of
the sea, mountains, and meadows with grazing sheep are
actually those of Rufus Porter. However, some of the vivid murals are more to the likeness of the
followers and students of Rufus Porter. It has been documented that some of the scenes are from
the mouth of the Saco River and Casco Bay with stately clipper ships cruising through the bays.
One of the murals over the fireplace in a second story chamber portrays the early Shaker
settlement near Poland Springs.
The estate still boasts important original stenciling, knotless 26 inch wide King's timber floor boards and wainscot throughout the rooms. There are 10 formal fireplaces, an original
early kitchen with an open hearth so large it takes up one entire wall and hand carved moldings, Indian shutters, carved wide pine
and heavy crown molding, all original to the home.
The mansion has not been open, for the most part, to the public for the past 20 years. It's doors are now fully open to all, and space is rented to New England Antiques Dealers (established and new to the
trade ) who may display and sell their antiques and collectibles in
this group gallery. The gallery is open April through December
every day of the week but Monday. Operating hours are from 10am
to 5pm. All are welcome to browse and take in the adventure of
touring this historic building.
We have more space available for dealers to enter and sell their
antiques, so please call 207-793-8788 to make an appointment. Please be sure to visit our website
www.customhouseantiques.com to view our 100 pictures of this beautiful and historic federal mansion.
Someone, like Elaine, to our left, is always here to greet you with a smile. When you arrive you will feel like you've entered into Early New England Americana
and be surrounded with thousands of antiques. Come and enjoy treasure hunting at the Custom House
-Heather Smith Labbe