The inspiration behind Norumbega, Camden’s stone castle by the sea

During the infancy of American exploration, a legend arose of a fabled city in the dense northeastern wilderness — i.e. Maine — known as Norumbega. Tales spread of citizens dressed in furs and jewels and living in houses made of silver and gold. The mythical land drew the interest of many, including Samuel de Champlain, who was commissioned by French King Henry IV to seek it out (and found a whole lot of pine trees instead). Some say the legend was also on the mind of Joseph B. Stearns 300 or so years later, when he built this 1886 Camden home and named it Norumbega. Although not rendered in fine metal, the Queen Anne building’s complex massing, cobblestone facades, and prominent turret speak to the grandeur of the coast, as well as the immense wealth Stearns obtained after inventing a system that allowed multiple parties to communicate by telegraph. Now a stately inn, Norumbega — a.k.a. “The Castle” — offers a taste of the opulent lifestyle travelers to this area have long been seeking.

Portland-based writer Julie Senk holds degrees in history and historic preservation and provides property surveys and architectural analyses to homeowners and businesses. To learn more about her work, visit

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