Located just south of Portland Head Light, on the rocky ocean shore of Cape Elizabeth, is the settlement called Delano Park, a group of summer cottages, many of which were designed by iconic Maine architect John Calvin Stevens. Arguably the most significant and interesting is this Shingle style cottage, completed in 1886 for Charles A. Brown of Portland as a summer home. The cottage, sits atop a fieldstone foundation that are the very color of the ledges out of which the building grows. The walls above the are of shingle, “untouched by paint, but toned a silvery gray by the weather” as Stevens noted in his writings. Stevens was a master in siting his designs perfectly into the existing landscaping, and by covering all of the home with shingles, Stevens created an unembellished, uniform surface, which celebrates the honesty of its form. The home originally had a wood shingle roof, finished with a green stain. The home remains extremely well preserved by the owners and showcases the Shingle style of architecture brilliantly.
Built in 1889, this interesting structure is located away from the rocky coastline of Cape Elizabeth, a lasting remnant of the agricultural history of the town. The building was constructed as the Cape Elizabeth Grange Hall. The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a social organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. The Grange organization, as it is often known as, had grange halls all over the country, where farming community members would gather to discuss issues and challenges that needed addressing. The building echos late 19th century architectural styles, blending multiple to create an elegant composition, wrapped in wood clapboard and shingle siding. In 1916, the hall was purchased by P. W. Sprague from the Cape Elizabeth Grangers to insure its use and upkeep – and it is still the home of the Patrons of Husbandry, Cape Elizabeth Grange #242.
The Cape Cottage Casino and Theater was one of several amusement parks developed in the late 1890s by Portland’s electric railways in order to increase business on their trolley lines. Residents of Portland would be able to take a surface trolley to the outskirts of the city in record time, and soak up the sun at luxurious summer communities. The Cape Cottage Casino and Theater was designed by iconic Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, completed in 1899. The casino represents the best in Neo-Classical design, with a full-height, projecting classical pediment supported by bold ionic columns. A wide entablature is accentuated with dentils and modillions; and at the entry, the main front door has a fanlight and is flanked by two small windows, creating a Palladian motif. In 1922, due to the demise in the trolley ridership, partly caused by the rise in personal automobile, the casino was sold off and the Cape Cottage Park Company then hired E.C. Jordan & Company, civil engineers, to subdivide the land and retained John Calvin Stevens and his son as consulting architects. Roughly 50 house lots were platted, resulted that were arranged around the former casino, which was extensively downsized and remodeled as a private residence. While the side wings were removed, the building does retain much of its architectural integrity, while its sheer size has been severely diminished.
Cape Elizabeth is full of amazing late-19th and early-20th century summer cottages, but one of the best examples of early International-style architecture can also be found here! This house was designed by Marcel Breuer, one of the most famous architects working in the International Style in the mid- 20th century. The house plays on the traditionally New England vocabulary, but Breuer, a proponent of the Bauhaus Movement, turned it on its head. The house appears to emerge from its ‘ancient’ fieldstone foundation towards the street and levitates over the hilly landscape, supported by light columns. The house originally was painted a shade of white, common in the International style, but a later owner preferred the natural wood finish. The home is one of the most significant examples of the style in New England, and an uncommon example in Maine.
On a rise above the Cape Elizabeth’s rocky shore stands Beckett’s Castle, a picturesque Gothic cottage of a century ago. Designed and built by the Portland literary figure Sylvester Beckett for his summer residence, the Castle was begun in 1871 and finished in 1874. It is said that Beckett constructed the cottage from local gray fieldstone largely with his own hands, though he must have had help, or fabricated this fiction as he would have in his own books. The home was patterned after a typical English castle, but on a much smaller scale, and is tucked away from the street. Sylvester Blackmore Beckett was born in Portland, Maine in 1812, as the son of English parents. Although never attending college, he acquired a modest education and became a prominent journalist and articulate writer. He was admitted to the bar in 1859 and spent much of his time administering and settling estates becoming well-connected in town. Beckett held massive parties in the home, and invitations to the social gatherings held there were highly prized; guests were served expansive dinners cooked in primitive fashion in a large fireplace. Sylvester Beckett died in 1882, and went to his only child, Lizzie. The home fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but was restored by the most recent owner. It was sold in 2018, and the listing photos show some great interior spaces.
At the southern tip of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, two lighthouses have long provided a beacon to ships that sailed the rocky coast where the town protrudes into the ocean. The story of Cape Elizabeth’s Two Lights begins in 1614, when Captain John Smith, who sailed along New England’s shores, gave the appellation to the cape in honor of Princess Elizabeth, King Charles’ sister. After the American Revolution, Portland Harbor became an important trading port, and ships from all over the world would dock there. In 1827, the decision was made to use two lights at this location, a fixed light in the east tower and a revolving light in the west one, so the station would not be confused with the lights at nearby Portland Head Light or Wood Island Light in nearby Biddeford. After land was purchased for a mere $50, the towers were built, spaced by 895 feet and topped by octagonal wrought-iron lanterns housing lamps and reflectors, first shone their lights in October 1828. The stone towers were poorly constructed and keepers would consistently complain about poor working and living conditions. A $30,000 appropriation was made in 1873 to fund the erection of two matching sixty-seven-foot, brick-lined, cast-iron towers set 923 feet apart and featuring elegant Italianate details. In 1878, a new wood-frame, one-and-a-half-story dwelling was built for the principal keeper near the east tower, designed in the Gothic Revival style. During World War II, the west tower became an observation tower after a cylindrical turret was installed atop, which had had its lantern room removed after being discontinued. It was auctioned to the highest bidder in 1959. In 1971, actor Gary Merrill, ex-husband of Bette Davis, purchased the west tower for $28,000. Merrill sold it in 1983, and a new house was built next to it. The keeper’s cottage at the east tower is also privately owned, but the tower is retained by the Coast Guard, and is automated today.
When I think of Maine, I think of rocky coastline, lobster, and lighthouses. Located in Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland, you will find the Portland Head Light, an obscenely beautiful lighthouse, which has provided a beacon to sailors for centuries (and more recently Instagrammers). In 1787, while Maine was still part of the state of Massachusetts, President George Washington engaged two masons and instructed them to take charge of the construction of a lighthouse on Portland Head. Washington reminded them that the early government was poor, and said that the materials used to build the lighthouse should be taken from the fields and shores surrounding the site. The original plans called for the tower to be 58 feet tall, but when the masons were finished, they climbed to the top of the tower and realized that it would not be visible beyond the land to the south. When the masons were ordered to increase the height another twenty feet for visibility reasons, one quit, leaving a single man to finish the lighthouse and a small dwelling. It was completed, and the light, powered by sixteen whale-oil lamps, first shone on January 10, 1791, following its dedication by Marquis de Lafayette. Over the next century, many issues plagued the building and light-keepers, from cold winters and rogue waves icing over the pathways, to a poorly constructed top of the lighthouse, which was re-constructed due to safety concerns. In 1891, the station’s old stone light-keeper’s house was demolished, and upon its foundation a two-story wood double dwelling was constructed. A square brick oil house was also built at the same time along with a flight of steps at the landing. Portland Head Lighthouse was extinguished from June 1942 through June 1945 to avoid aiding German submarines, which did not work as planned. In 1945, the USS Eagle PE-56 just miles off the coast, was sunk by a German submarine (though previously thought to have been sunk by a boiler explosion), only 13 of the 62 crew survived. The lighthouse is now owned by the town, but the US Coast Guard retains control of the light and fog signals.
Ram Island, about a mile offshore from Portland Head near the entrance to Portland Harbor in Maine, is surrounded by dangerous ledges. For as long as ships have been navigating Portland Harbor, they have crashed into the rocky shore, losing supplies and lives. Because of this, a Congressional act on June 28, 1902, authorized the construction of a lighthouse and fog signal on Ram Island Ledge, to work together with the Portland Head Light to guide ships through the treacherous channel. The next year, the federal government purchased Ram Ledge from two Cape Elizabeth families for $500, to erect a new lighthouse. Before the lighthouse could be constructed, at least two ships, the Glenrosa and the Cora & Lillian schooner sunk in the bay. As the ledge was underwater for much of the year, a stone tower was required. Granite from Vinalhaven was shipped in and a crew of 25 men built the tower which was complete in 1905. The iconic double flash of light has guided sailors ever since. The lighthouse was manned by multiple keepers until the late 1958, when an underwater power cable was laid between Portland Head and Ram Island Ledge, allowing the ledge lighthouse to be automated. In 2008, the structure was deemed “excess to the needs of the United States Coast Guard” and auctioned off. After a bidding war, a local doctor from Maine purchased it for an estimated $190,000.
This charming home in Cape Elizabeth, Maine looks to have been built after the American Civil War, as an interesting Italianate cottage. The home is clad with scalloped shingle siding which works well with the paired round headed windows facing the street. The deep overhanging eaves are supported by brackets. Running under the eaves on the sides are octagonal windows, a very unique detail. The home is located at the center of town, away from the summer cottages which sprouted up along the rocky coastline in town starting around this time. It was converted into condominium units sometime in the late 20th century.
This shell of a former mansion was built in 1859 for Colonel John Goddard (1811-1870), a Civil War Union Army Officer. Goddard was a “lumberman” who amassed substantial wealth before the outbreak of the Civil War, and he hired architect Charles A. Alexander, to design an estate house for him and his family. The home appears to have been constructed of local stone with white granite trim and featured a prominent tower, emulating an Italian Villa. The home was purchased in 1898 by Judge Joseph W. Symonds, who presided over the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Just two years later in 1900, during the expansion of Fort Williams, the estate was acquired by the Federal government. The home was used for housing married enlisted men and their families while stationed at Fort Williams. The basement was converted into the fort’s Non-Commissioned Officers’ Club. At the time of the town’s purchase of the Fort in 1964, the mansion was already in serious disrepair and its future was uncertain. People routinely broke in and damaged the interior, which suffered numerous small fires over the years, until the town decided in 1981 to hold a controlled burn of the home, leaving the shell. The shell remains a significant architectural landmark and a massive opportunity for the town.