The village of Kennebunkport in Maine is a well-preserved enclave of Federal period houses built at the heyday of shipbuilding and maritime trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Many sea captains and shipbuilders erected stately homes in the village, with high-quality design and woodworking inside and out. This Federal period home was built for Asa Hutchins (1769-1860) a blacksmith who was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and settled in Kennebunkport in the late 1700s. The house exhibits a central chimney a feature more common in Colonial-era homes, with a five bay facade and projecting entrance.
Kennebunkport Post Office // 1941
During the Great Depression, the federal government built over 1,100 post offices throughout the country as part of the New Deal’s Federal Works Agency. Many of the post offices funded and built in this period were designed by architect Louis Simon, Head of the Office of the Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury. Few architects had such a role in designing buildings nationwide than Federal architects who designed buildings ranging from smaller post offices like this to courthouses and federal offices. They really are the unsung designers who impacted the built environment in nearly every corner of the nation. As part of the Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts, artists were hired to complete local murals inside many post offices built in this period, depicting local scenes and histories of the towns they were painted in. In Kennebunkport, artist Elizabeth Tracy who submitted a preliminary sketch of her piece “Bathers” which was approved depicting a beach scene, though the townspeople had not been consulted. Unfortunately, the opinion of a vocal part of the Kennebunkport populace was highly negative to Tracy’s painting, largely due to the fact that her beach scene depicted people on a beach in adjacent Kennebunk, not Kennebunkport! Within a few years, the townspeople gathered funds to hire artist Gordon Grant to paint a satisfactory replacement mural in 1945. The new mural remains inside the post office.
Captain Nathaniel Ward – Abbott Graves House // 1812
In about 1812, Captain Nathaniel Ward Jr. of Kennebunkport purchased this home in the village from housewright and builder Samuel Davis. The Federal style house is five bays with a central entrance with pedimented fan over the door. Two end chimneys would heat the home in the winter months when Nathaniel was out at sea and his wife, Sarah, would be maintaining the home and caring for their six children. The couple’s eldest son Charles Ward, served as the second American Consul to Zanzibar in Africa. In his role, Ward bickered continuously with the Sultan, whose word of law changed with the wind and he eventually left his position and settled in Salem, Massachusetts. This house was later owned by Abbott Fuller Graves (1859–1936), a renowned painter before he built a Prairie Style house in Kennebunkport in 1905.
Benjamin Mason Store // c.1815
Across from the Luques Store in Dock Square in Kennebunkport, another 19th century commercial building serves as a visual anchor to the vibrant village, this is the Benjamin Mason Store. Built in the 1810s, the Federal style commercial block was originally owned by businessman Benjamin Mason (1777-1855) who built a house in 1812 just nextdoor (which has since been converted to commercial use). The store is three-stories with a cupola at the roof. Later porches were added as the village prospered.
Luques Store // 1827
In 1827, a young Andrew Luques (1791-1873) built a store in the village of Kennebunkport, Maine where he sold dry goods, hardware, and fancy goods to the area’s citizens. As the village grew around him, the store grew and occupied the entire block near a drawbridge, which spanned the Kennebunk River to Harbor Village in adjacent Kennebunk. The business did well and the store was eventually inherited by Anthony Luques in the late 1850s. Anthony expanded the store, modernizing it and added a Mansard roof for an additional floor. Anthony continued operating the store until his death in 1890, when it was sold to a member of the Dennett Family. Around 1900, the building was occupied by a few businesses, with one taking advantage of the town’s recent desirability as a summer resort colony by selling bathing suits and hammocks. The building remains a visual and important anchor to the human-scaled and walkable village of Kennebunkport.
William Allen Jr. House // 1866
Italianate style houses dominate the Deering Street area of Portland architecturally, but there are definitely some great Second Empire residences and other styles seen here. This house (like seemingly every building in Portland in the 1860s) was designed by architect George M. Harding for William Allen Jr. The house would soon be Harding’s neighbor, so he made an effort to site and design this residence with care. The brick building is capped by a slate mansard roof and it has a beautiful projecting door hood with pendants carved of grapes. Sadly, like some others on the street, the belvedere was removed in the mid-20th century.
George M. Harding House // 1868
Architect George M. Harding built this boxy Italianate style house as his personal residence on Deering Street in Portland, Maine. Harding was very busy in the late 1860s after the destructive Great Fire of Portland in 1866. He designed some of the finest commercial blocks Downtown, including the Rackleff Block and Woodman Block, both excellently preserved landmarks in town today. For his own residence, he pulled out all the stops, with bold proportions, carved trim details, and a center tower capped with a mansard roof. The tower was removed in 1956, but the rest of the house is just stunning. Architect-designed houses for their own residency are always fun to find!
Francis Waldron House // 1867
Francis Ashby Waldron (1816-1898) was born in Buckfield, Maine to an old New England family. He moved to Portland for job opportunities and worked as a merchant, eventually establishing Waldron and True with business partner Samuel True. The firm was engaged in dealing grain, salt, corn, and more. After a few years of profits, Francis had this Italianate style mansion built on the fashionable Deering Street just west of Downtown. The property was passed down to his children after his death in 1898, and it remained in the family until 1950. The house originally had a prominent belvedere at the roof, but it was eventually removed. The former Waldron House is now maintained as a law office.
Printer’s Exchange Building // 1866
Why is commercial architecture from the second half of the 19th century so perfect? This structure in Downtown Portland is known as the Printer’s Exchange Building and was built in 1866, amongst the ashes of the buildings lost in the Great Fire of 1866. Charles Quincy Clapp is credited as the designer of the structure, which is Italianate in style with the paired round arched windows set into larger openings. The rounded corners are a really subtle but splendid touch in the design. The building got its name as it was home to the Eastern Argus and the Portland Daily Press, among other newspapers who rented the space from owner, Horatio Nelson Jose. I really like this one!
Thompson Block // 1868
Another of Portland’s stunning mid-19th century commercial blocks is the Thompson Block, built in 1868. The structure is one of the most high-style commercial buildings in Maine and is in a great state of preservation. The building was designed by George M. Harding, a VERY busy architect after the disastrous Great Fire of 1866, which destroyed much of Downtown Portland. The building stands three-stories tall with a polychrome slate mansard roof providing a full fourth floor, a subtle and great way to get extra height without making a building too overbearing. The mansard is broken up at the facade by dormers with round-arch windows and keystoned and eared hoods. If only all cities held off urban renewal, we would have so many more structures like this!