History of the Inn
This grand home was built by Captain Albert Vinal Nickels in 1874 for his wife, Elizabeth McGilvary and 5 children at the time. Soon, it would house three more children as the family grew. Being a wealthy and influential family, Elizabeth insisted on a spacious ballroom and manicured grounds for entertaining.
Much of the house was built by shipbuilders and crew during breaks from sailing and their handiwork was uncovered during renovations. Recycled ships’ timbers were used as beams and studs throughout. Built-in cabinets, desks and alcoves were constructed much like the merchant Brigs and Sloops of the time.
Searsport was a major hub of shipbuilding and merchant ship masters, and the Nickels family was well represented in the area. Nickels, Nichols, McGilvarys and other families were all related in one way or another and many of the male members were sea captains.
Captain Nickels took command of a number of ships during his career including his last ship the ''Iroquois'' built for her speed by Captain Nickels’ father-in-law, William McGilvary. Captain Nickels passed away in 1902 in the same year that the ''Iroquois'' was ship wrecked passing through the Straits of Sapi from the Indian Ocean.
Despite the “Widow’s Walk” at the top of the home, most wives (and the children) sailed with their husbands. In fact, many of the Nickels’ children were born at sea. The picture at the top of the page features a number of Searsport captains and their families meeting in the Chincha Islands at the turn of the century.
Searsport was also a major shipbuilding center in the last half of the 19th century. Above, an artist’s rendering of the building of a Schooner off Navy Street in Searsport. Located just down the road (within walking distance from the inn), the Penobscot Marine Museum offers a massive variety of exhibits over a campus of 15 buildings with a plethora of information regarding Searsport. The museum buildings include a classic New England Town Hall, the First Congregational Church, private residences, and a commercial building. There are also plenty of hands-on displays, kid-friendly sections and workshops, libraries, and even a marine science lab open to the public. Check their website for admission fees and hours as they change depending on the season.
Searsport Lobster Pound, c.1910 (from a postcard)
Searsport Lobster Pound, c.1950 (from a postcard)