It’s a good thing the Tate House is a little bit off the beaten path. If not for its location, it would have gone the way of nearly every other colonial building in Portland – up in flames.
Instead, it stands today as the only existing example of pre-revolutionary architecture open to the public in Portland, and it functions as a museum and the ideal place to get a real feel for life in Maine before the Revolutionary War.
The house was built in 1755 for George Tate, a former London resident and sea captain who was appointed Mast Agent for Great Britain’s Royal Navy. He oversaw the procurement and shipment of Maine’s finest pine trees for use as ships’ masts – a resource controlled by Acts of Parliament. This trade became a source of tension between England and Maine. (See History Behind the History.)
Tate House is an outstanding example of Colonial architecture, complete with an unpainted clapboard exterior and carved interior paneling.
It also features an unusual indented gambrel roof. Its clerestory windows light the rooms on the third floor. This once more common architectural feature can also be seen at the Burnham Tavern in Machias, Maine.