Located on Wiscasset's Main Street, Nickels-Sortwell House is one of the region's finest examples of high Federal-style architecture. Built by successful ship owner Captain William Nickels, the house epitomizes the brief period when shipbuilding and the maritime trade brought wealth and sophisticated tastes to this coastal Maine village.
Jefferson's Embargo of 1807 devastated the town of Wiscasset, sending it into an economic decline that would last for years. The Nickels family was forced to sell the mansion in 1814, and for much of the nineteenth century it served as a hotel, catering to the growing number of summer visitors to Maine's coast.
In 1899, the house was purchased by industrialist and banker Alvin Sortwell, the former mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Sortwell family had Wiscasset roots reaching back to the early eighteenth century. They lovingly restored the house over a period of years and decorated it in the Colonial Revival style with fine antique furnishings.