Romantic Captain Nickel’s Inn: Historic Maine inn at Searsport
Captain Nickel’s Inn had fallen into disrepair until mother and daughter innkeepers arrived in 2019 to revive its former historic glory. Nestled on a sprawling six-acre waterfront parcel, Victorian charm and room to roam await guests at this historic Maine inn in Searsport.
Captain Nickel’s Inn in Searsport, Maine, was like a grande dame fallen on hard times, staunchly proud, standing regally, but looking a bit frayed and mussed. The locals sadly watched this historic inn in Maine falling further into disrepair after a bank sale, long-distance owners, and a time of sitting empty.
Then, in May 2019, the circa-1874 mansion gained loving caretakers in mother and daughter team Dawn and Cassidy Gintz. They immediately set about painting, fixing frozen pipes, gutting and renovating rooms, planting dozens of trees, fixing leaks in the roof, and putting in pristine gardens at the historic bed and breakfast. Finally — literally the frosting on the cake — they took down, refurbished and then re-installed the copper-top cupola of the Captain Nickel’s Inn in MidCoast Maine.
Today, Captain Nickel’s Inn seems to wave proudly from alongside U.S. Route 1, beckoning travelers passing through the working-class area of Searsport and Belfast to stay a spell, shop a little, and enjoy an inn offering casual luxury with authentic historic charm.
With only nine rooms in 10,000 square feet, the Victorian mansion built by Captain Albert Vinal Nickels, has an envious setting on an expansive six-acre plot with lawns and gardens reaching all the way down to its private waterfront on Penobscot Bay.
“We’re really serious about the house,” said Dawn. “We could see it, where we wanted it to be.”
For years, locals had seen the inn go through owners who didn’t seem to recognize the importance and beauty of this landmark house to the area. It was clear that all eyes in the small town of Searsport (pop: 2,650) were watching Dawn and Cassidy carefully. And when it became obvious the duo was indeed seriously passionate about the house, area residents would sometimes approach them in stores and compliment them on one repair or another. The cupola being raised back to its proper spot created quite the town stir.
“The neighborhood has definitely enjoyed watching what we are doing,” said Dawn. “The locals had been really sad, watching the inn get sadder and sadder.”
Not that the inn in October 2021, when I stayed at Captain Nickel’s, was really where they want it to be for Maine visitors … yet. Even though Dawn and Cassidy are ahead of their five-year plan, they are still fixing roofs, renovating floors, working on a couple of rooms, updating fixtures and bathrooms – all while keeping the inn historically relevant. Which is important because the inn is on the on the National Register of Historic Places.
A stay at Captain Nickel’s Inn in MidCoast Maine
Each of the nine rooms is different; most are named after an international seafaring city. Think Portofino or Istanbul. All have private bathrooms although Dublin’s is a few steps down the hall. The Havana suite in the back is an awe-inspiring accommodation with its large private deck and broad views, situated just below the Captain’s Suite. Charleston, the room I had, is a quiet south-facing room that was Captain Nickel’s office, maintaining that piece of history with two walls lined with the original bookshelves. One drawback is the view from both Charleston and Istanbul is over the tar roof of the downstairs dining room – another feature Dawn and Cassidy are considering how to improve at the historic Maine inn.
Despite being built in 1874, Captain Nickel’s Inn offers a deep quiet, in part because it was so solidly built by shipbuilders, Dawn said. With all rooms in the main house on the second floor, — except The Albert Nickels (a room the duo added on the first floor and the only one that does not require climbing stairs) — you also avoid the squeak of wood floors overhead often encountered in historic inns. The two suites in the back of the inn are accessed from a separate entry.
Meals, sitting rooms, games and lounging
Breakfast is a sit-down meal served by the duo (Cassidy is queen of the kitchen). In their “I love guests” style, you are served the hot entrée of the day along with fruit, juice, and a hot beverage of choice. A sun-filled dining room (where they added a heater and had insulated for all-year use) offers spaced tables set with flowers and china, as does the solarium.
With just nine rooms in such a large building, there are plenty of cozy spaces and overstuffed chairs to nestle in for a relaxing afternoon or evening, perhaps in front of the fire on a cool day or on the covered porch if it’s warm. A stack of games is available to choose from and if you don’t have your own book, there are some here and there to pick up. With a ballroom the duo gutted and refurbished, the inn in Maine is also well set-up for large events and weddings.
There is also the 1874 tavern in the back serving beverages, wine and beer, and small snacks, but only until 7 p.m. when I visited in Fall 2021. Although dinner is not served at Captain Nickel’s, they can put together something like a pizza or charcuterie board, if ordered in advance.
The grounds with Penobscot Bay waterfront
What truly sets the historic Maine inn apart from many others are the expansive grounds. When the duo purchased the inn – their first innkeeping experience — it only had half the grounds it has now, or three acres, in a rather odd L-shape. That left the opposite L-shape section completely wild and overgrown with bushes due to an unfriendly parting of former owners. Today, the six acres are again one, and although flowers and gardens dot the area, Dawn has plans for many more.
Now, the lawns are a treat on a hot summer day or a cool fall evening with plenty of room to ramble and roam. A small storage shed near the water’s edge has a tiny deck, and Adirondack chairs are scattered here and there to add to your lounging ability at this MidCoast Maine inn. But don’t forget exploring the working class, seafaring Searsport and Belfast area, too, which has some great marine history and antique shops to explore. Both are real working ports and more authentic than travelers will find in the likes of Bar Harbor or other more-touristy cities.
When passing through MidCoast Maine – perhaps on a road trip touring famous Maine lighthouses – a stay at Captain Nickel’s Inn in Searsport offers an opportunity to slow down and allow yourself to be lulled into a slower pace – made much easier once you settle back on the lawn in an Adirondack chair watching the waters of Penobscot Bay.
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