Architecture & Design

Who Wants to Buy a Village?

To satisfy his penchant for rescuing, and living among, period houses, a Pittston antiques dealer created his own 19th- century-style compound. Now his family is looking for an ambitious new owner.

map of the Tuthill campus in Pittston

ABOVE A 1988 commissioned painting of Tuthill by the late New Gloucester artist Reginald Jacqmin hangs in the Tuttle family’s Greek Revival here.

TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY DANIELLE SYKES

From our Winter 2021 issue

Walking the nameless, tree-lined avenues that crisscross antiques dealer Nathan Tuttle’s 55-acre compound in Pittston, you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. And that’s by design. Tuthill, as it’s called, is a 19th-century-style village on a hilltop overlooking the Kennebec River, with 23 buildings that were either built to look centuries old or that actually are. In the latter category are three pre-Civil War homes bought by Nathan’s father, Kenneth, for a dollar, disassembled at their sites elsewhere in central Maine, and reconstructed here. All told, this come-to-life collector’s set includes six houses, two apartments, two antiques shops, a wooden kids’ fort, a paint shop for the maintenance worker, and several barns, multi-bay garages, and sheds.

“It’s been the best thing in the world, growing up here,” Nathan said on a recent autumn morning, standing in front of a Federal-style seven-bay garage erected by his father to house his collection of Ford V-8s. “But all good things come to an end.” He and his wife, Anna Boucher, a real estate agent with Augusta’s Coldwell Banker Rizzo Mattson, who is listing the property for $5.5 million, plan to build a new home on 25 acres nearby and live life unencumbered by the upkeep of a small village. Boucher says she’s received calls weekly since the listing went live, but hasn’t fielded any serious offers yet. The reason for most of the inquiries? “They want to know what the story is,” she says. “How it all ended up here.”

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ABOVE 1) This circa 1800 Federal was little more than a shell when antiques dealer Kenneth Tuttle moved it to his Tuthill property in Pittston from Hallowell; now a two-unit, it features restored fireplaces, wainscoting, and pumpkin-pine floors. 2) A tiny guesthouse (below), erected in 1982 for the antiques business’s out-of-town clients, references this 1820 Greek Revival church-turned-antiques-showroom. 3) This circa 1800 Federal was rescued from demolition in Dresden, sawed in half, and trucked here in pieces to be reassembled.

The tale begins with Kenneth, a gregarious bootstrapper whose charm and savvy propelled him to wealth as a rural antiques dealer for out-of-state collectors happy to pay handsome sums for fine pre-Civil War American furniture. Born in 1942, the second oldest of 13 children, and raised poor in Randolph, Kenneth developed a passion for American antiques and architecture as a boy helping his father paint mansions in Gardiner. He dreamed of one day living in a picturesque New England village filled with period homes. “Randolph doesn’t have it,” he told Down East in a 1986 profile. “So I decided to create my own.”

In 1967, Kenneth and his wife, Paulette Adams, bought an 1840 Greek Revival in Pittston for $11,000 and made it their family home. Four years later, he acquired the condemned 1825 church next door, which he fixed up as a showroom for his antiques, as well as the acres of surrounding fields and forests that would become Tuthill. In the 1980s and 1990s, he added dozens of Federal- and Greek Revival-style buildings to his collection, including a mausoleum-like home that’s a miniature version of Tuthill’s historic church. He also rehabbed four period buildings and a railway station in downtown Gardiner, and convinced some of his wealthy out-of-town friends to do the same, sparking a mini revival. “It was always important to him to not see something destroyed,” says Nathan, who was often by his father’s side as he went about his business. “By the time I was 10 years old, I could tell you, as well as any seasoned dealer, what things were, where they were from, what the woods were. I never played any sports. When I came home from school, I was in the antiques shop, and anywhere he went, I went.”

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A tiny guesthouse at Tuthill, erected in 1982 for the antiques business’s out-of-town clients

Kenneth died in 2002, and, in the ensuing years, his three children and widow battled in court over the fate of Tuthill and his estate. After a 2010 court ruling, Nathan was able to buy the village, where he, Boucher, and their 13-year-old son, Kenny, live in the Greek Revival he grew up in. From a seven-dormer Federal-style house across the street, he runs Kenneth E. Tuttle Antiques on a part-time basis.

Meandering along Tuthill’s narrow streets, Nathan points out massive lilac bushes, walnut trees, and sugar maples, purchased as mature plants by Kenneth and brought here on a flatbed truck so that even the landscape would look old. At the top of the hill, where the homes occupied by Nathan’s mother and eight other tenants encircle an immaculately green lawn, their power lines buried underground to preserve the antique look, the preternatural stillness of Tuthill is disrupted by the roar of a riding lawnmower. “That’s Jason Lamb, of Gardiner,” Nathan says, pointing to the thin man hunched over the wheel, Tuthill’s sole full-time employee for the last 15 years.

Some of the tenants have also been here for years, and Nathan hopes the future buyer will keep them on. But lately, he has felt less tethered to this place. “There was a time in my life when all this was important,” he says, gesturing toward a circa 1800 Federal hauled in from nearby Dresden by Kenneth. “When my father was here, it was important. But now he’s gone. It’s lost that edge for me.” He plans to keep up the antiques business from his next home, and continue adding to his collections of antique Fords, pre-Civil War grandfather clocks, and antique American furnishings. “I have a love for all that stuff and I always will,” he says. “I’ll never live with modern furniture. Anything from 1840 on, it’s all garbage.”