In Yarmouth, the Captain Reuben Merrill House — a.k.a. “Reuben’s Folly” — towers over West Main Street. The 1858 Italianate mansion crowned with a widow’s walk and five chimneys was once considered the grandest home in town, but the distinction came at a cost. While working to pay off the debts he incurred building and furnishing the 15-room home with luxuries such as marble fireplaces and English carpets, Captain Merrill reluctantly embarked on a shipping voyage to California. Nearing its destination, the ship encountered dense fog and rocks and began to sink. After ensuring his crew was safely in lifeboats, Merrill was struck by the ship’s rigging and knocked overboard. His body was never recovered, but his legacy lives on in the stately home that is still owned by his family and currently serves as the headquarters of Maine Preservation — a non-profit advocacy group that works to preserve historic buildings like Merrill’s throughout the state.
Portland-based writer Julie Senk holds degrees in history and historic preservation and provides property surveys and architectural analyses to homeowners and businesses. To learn more about her work, visit northernvernacular.com.