Woodlawn Museum, also known as the Black House, is a historic estate and house museum located in Ellsworth, ME. The 180-acre estate features a beautifully preserved, Federal style mansion, lovely gardens, walking trails, and Maine’s only tournament-sized croquet court.
If your Maine getaway travels take you in the direction of Acadia National Park and Downeast Maine, consider making time for a stop at Woodlawn Museum. The historic estate is a must-see for history buffs.
Woodlawn Estate is located on Bridge Hill, overlooking the Union River and the town of Ellsworth, ME. Colonel John Black commissioned the Maine Federal style brick home for his family in 1824.
John Black (1781-1856), a lumber businessman and a land agent, built Woodlawn as a gentleman’s farm, with barns, stables, orchards, and gardens. He planted trees, cleared meadows, constructed woodland trails to exercise his horses, and added over a mile of stone walls. The estate evolved into a summer home as the years passed, with a variety of gardens and a croquet court added.
Black’s grandson willed the property to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations in 1911 as a house museum and public park. The gift included the entirety of the estate, even the family furnishings and vehicles.
Visiting Woodlawn Museum
Visitors to Woodlawn Museum will discover an exceptionally well- preserved historic house and grounds. Very little has changed since the museum’s opening in 1929.
The 1828 mansion was built in the Maine Federal style with Greek revival details. Its form is based on a design from “The American Builder’s Companion,” a 19th century architectural book. The home’s neoclassical details are exquisite, its non-central entrance being the only deviation from the classic, Federal style.
Inside you’ll find richly detailed rooms populated with the Black family’s original furnishings and collections. The mansion’s elegant woodwork, spacious parlors, and nine marble fireplaces are stunning. The elliptical flying staircase is considered to be one of the finest in Maine.
The grounds also include a carriage house, sleigh barn, vibrant gardens, trails, and a championship croquet court you’re welcome to play on!
Croquet at Woodlawn
As I mention at the top, Woodlawn is home to Maine’s only tournament sized croquet court: 85′ x 105′ (25.9 m x 32m)! The court is typically open to the public from May to October every year. Six-wicket is the primary game at Woodlawn, though other versions are also played.
Woodlawn offers croquet instruction throughout the season and is also the site of several popular annual croquet tournaments. These include the Woodlawn Invitational Croquet Tournament, the Golf Croquet Double Tournament, and the Big Lobster Tournament. These events draw players and spectators from around the country and Canada.
Trails at Woodlawn
Woodlawn Park, open daily, sunrise to sunset all year long, is home to over two miles of wooded trails. The trails, originally used to exercise the Black family’s horses, are flat and easy to walk. Come winter, they are popular for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The trails are wide, threading their way through wood and over bog. Benches are thoughtfully placed at points of interest throughout, such as near a peaceful lily pond. One side trail leads to John Black’s tomb. Leashed dogs are welcome.
Getting There From Here
Woodlawn Museum is located at 19 Black House Drive in Ellsworth, ME. This is just a little over a half-hour’s drive from our Maine Coast bed and breakfast, Captain Nickels Inn.
Getting to Woodlawn from Searsport is a snap:
Simply head out northeast from our Searsport inn on US-1. Stay on US-1 for around 30.2 miles (48.6 km), reaching the outskirts of Ellsworth.
Here, you’ll take a right on Court Street, then another right onto W Main Street.
Follow W Main Street for around 400 feet (122 m) and Woodlawn will be on your left. There’s a fee to tour the house and play croquet. Exploring the park and walking the trails is free all year round.
Visit the museum website for tour hours and more information. You can also find Woodlawn Museum on Facebook.
If you get hungry during your visit, you’ll be happy to know that one of the state’s best lobster restaurants is only 2 minutes from Woodlawn Museum. We highly recommend stopping by Union River Lobster Pot in Ellsworth, for delicious fresh seafood and homemade blueberry pie. 8 South Street, in Ellsworth, ME.
If you are a fan of cheesecake and who isn’t? You will need to make a quick stop and check out the “sweet” little gem Momo’s Cheesecakes Bakery right there in Ellsworth. Well known to the locals, Momo’s is always open and offers a self-serve honor system. The only downside is you won’t be able to decide which cheesecake is your favorite from the nearly 60 varieties offered. That number does not include their “seasonal” offerings like the Maple Bacon Pecan, Unicorn Bark or Red Velvet varieties to name a few. Find them on Facebook and bring a slice back to the Inn after your long day of exploring our area.
Making a day trip out of your visit to the area, which includes iconic Acadia National Park, is a great idea. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, let us know! We have plenty of ideas to fill out a fun day’s itinerary!
Updated March 2023