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Down East Doorways
These photographs, taken by George W. French for the Maine Development Commission between 1941 and 1949, were focused on some of the most elegant front doors in the State of Maine. The majority of these homes were constructed in the federal style of American architecture (1775-1830). Federal architecture usually featured two windows on either side of the door, with five windows across the second story of the facade. Nearly all of the mansions pictured were built by wealthy sea captains and merchants who were prominent in the coastal shipping trade.
While a few of these dwellings are still maintained as private homes, most are operated today as bed and breakfast establishments, country inns, or are open to the public as museums.
With its simple ionic columns contrasting with the intricate carvings around the door, this house is a splendid example of federal architecture.
Etched Glass Sidelights, Fryeburg
The sidelights add an interesting feature to this doorway. They are repeated again in the window above the door.
Unusual Semi-Circular Sidelights, Parsonsfield
There is also a very nice antique lantern hanging at the left of the doorway. George French grew up in the Parsonsfield - Fryeburg area.
An Elaborately Carved Doorway, Wiscasset
During the years when most of these photographs were taken, people in coastal towns were concerned about German submarines that were known to be nearby.
Symetrical Perfection, Wiscasset
Many of these coastal homes had "widow's walks" in the center of the roof, where women could look for the return of vessels bearing their loved ones. Seafaring was a dangerous trade and often the men never returned.
Graceful Simplicity, Thomaston
These were the years when sailing ships plied the oceans of the world, and many of these houses were furnished with curios, Chinese dinner sets and other memorabilia from faraway places.
A Different Doorway Style, Damariscotta
The intricately carved trellis may be a later addition. It is unusual for what appears to be a typical federal-style home.
An Unusual Doorway, Wiscasset
This dwelling was built as a duplex. The sea captain or merchant who built this place certainly did not need to charge the other inhabitants rent, unless he was particularly miserly.
A Graceful Residence, Thomaston
Simple classical pillars frame this doorway and rise straight to the roofline. Thomaston is well known for numerous sea captains' homes like this one.
A Home in Wiscasset
The trellis that surrounds this doorway may be a later addition. Otherwise, the visible evidence suggests that the house is a typical federal-style structure.
The Nickels - Sortwell House, Wiscasset
This elegant mansion was built in 1807 by Captain William Nickels. At the time it was built, labor was so cheap that it only cost $14,000 to construct. It was purchased later in the century by Alvin Sortwell for use as a summer home.
1832 Home, Blue Hill
Doorway, North Parsonfield
During World War II, stars were provided to families of servicemen by the National Organization of Gold Star Mothers (see the small flag with three stars hanging in the lower window on the left). Active servicemen were indicated by blue stars; deceased members of the military by gold stars. The people in this home had three members of the family in the service.
The Sarah Orne Jewett House, South Berwick
Sarah Orne Jewett (1849 – 1909) was a noted novelist and short story writer, perhaps best-known for her novel The Country of the Pointed Firs. Her family had owned this house since 1819.
Another Dwelling in Wiscasset
Although this house seems to have been in some disrepair at the time this photograph was taken, the doorway has some unusual features. Note the circular portico supported by four columns instead of the usual two.
A Window Box Graces this Doorway, Fryeburg
Many of these houses had ells, stables, carriage houses and other outbuildings that are not shown in these photographs.
The Ruggles House, Columbia Falls
This house was designed and built in 1818 for Thomas Ruggles by Aaron Sherman of Marshfield, Massachusetts. Renowned for the "Flying Staircase" in the front hall, the house also contains many original furnishings that passed down through generations of the Ruggles family.
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