Historic Highlight

The Enduring Elegance of the William S. Hagar House

The William S. Hagar House in Richmond, Maine
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPH BY JULIE SENK

The William S. Hagar House is a lasting symbol of Richmond’s wealth.

Perched on a hill in Richmond village, William S. Hagar’s heavily ornamented Second Empire home overlooks a placid stretch of the Kennebec River, its slow-moving waters enlivened by the occasional powerboat or kayak.

It’s a vastly different view than the one Hagar would have seen when he stepped outside the three-story house he built in the early 1870s. Then, Richmond was at the peak of its prosperity. Its shipbuilding industry was second in the region only to Bath, and it was the center of an ice-harvesting industry that every winter drew 25,000 men to the Kennebec to cut one million tons of ice for shipment around the world. Icehouses, shipyards, and mills crowded the riverbanks, and tugboats, steamships, schooners, and clipper ships jammed the river. Shipbuilders, dockworkers, ice cutters, sailors, and merchants crossed paths in Richmond’s streets. And wealthy businessmen like William Hagar built grand homes.

The son of a prominent judge and shipbuilder, Hagar was born into wealth in 1846. He started his own coal and wood supply company, and was active in the community as the postmaster, justice of the peace, town chairman, and a member of the Freemasons.

He spared no expense when it came to his house, choosing what was then a contemporary style and embellishing it with elaborate window surrounds, brackets at the molded cornice line, and a projecting pavilion with a center tower. Arched windows with heavily molded hoods peer out from the concave curve of the mansard roof.

Today, Richmond is a service center for surrounding communities and, thanks to its well-preserved historic district, which includes the William S. Hagar House, it’s also an appealing bedroom community for Augusta, Brunswick, and Lewiston. Life on the Kennebec may have changed since Hagar’s day, but his home remains one of the most elegant and stylish residences on its banks.


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