Happy 10th Anniversary, Safford House!

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The Safford House at 93 High Street became the headquarters of Greater Portland Landmarks on November 9, 2009. Built in 1858, the Safford House is one of the last high style homes built on High Street in Portland. The building is attributed to Charles Alexander, one of Portland’s prominent 19th century architects, who helped popularized the Italianate style in the city.

The Libby Mansion (demolished 1928) on Congress Street ca. 1925, courtesy the Maine Historical Society

The Libby Mansion (demolished 1928) on Congress Street ca. 1925, courtesy the Maine Historical Society

Other examples of Alexander’s work can be seen at 308 Danforth Street and in the Libby Mansion, which used to sit at the corner of Congress and High Streets. These examples and the Safford House are all masonry houses with hipped roofs, cupolas, and symmetrical facades with a central entrance capped by a shallow porch. (Like these other examples, the Safford House used to have a balustrade over the front entrance made of wood. In poor condition, it was removed in the 1990s and accidentally thrown out.)

93 High Street was built for William Safford, a shipping merchant who traded with Cuba and was noted as the first merchant in Portland to store provisions on ice at his warehouse. He later sold the warehouse and established the prosperous firm of Matthews & Safford of Cardenas, Cuba.

On November 6, 1858, The Portland Transcript mentioned Safford’s new home:
“…Although not so many dwelling-houses have been built here during the past season, as in some former years, yet much as been done for the architectural adornment of our city. Among private residences we may mention the elegant and substantial brick dwelling house erected by Wm. F. Safford, Esq. on High Street… The excellence of our schools, the beautiful situation of Portland, and its rapidly growing commercial importance, have induced quite a number of wealthy men to select it for a place of residence, and the tasteful expenditure of their wealth has done much to improve our city architecture.”

William Safford lived at 93 High Street with his wife and their seven children, along with his wife’s mother and two servants: a 36-year-old Chinese man named Lamert, and Catherine, an 18-year-old domestic servant from England. Safford retired in 1868 and the family moved to Cape Elizabeth, sometimes wintering in Cuba. He sold the Safford House in 1871. The Safford family is interred in Portland’s Western Cemetery in the Safford Hall Tomb.

In 1880, banker William H. Moulton purchased 93 High Street for $8,000. Moulton likely added much of the interior decoration, including the columns, tall wainscoting, and decorative plaster. He also likely re-oriented the staircase. (The marble mantels, another defining interior feature, are original to the 1858 house.)

Walnut wainscoting, balustrade, and pilaster in the Safford House front hall

Walnut wainscoting, balustrade, and pilaster in the Safford House front hall

St. Elizabeth’s Home at 87 High Street, ca. 1920 (courtesy Maine Historical Society)

St. Elizabeth’s Home at 87 High Street, ca. 1920 (courtesy Maine Historical Society)

Moulton and his wife had no children, and following their deaths, the building was sold to St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Asylum for $15,000. St. Elizabeth already owned the neighboring property at 87 High Street (now St. Elizabeth’s Child Development Center). They intended to use the Safford house “as an addition to St. Elizabeth’s Orphan Asylum”, but were unable to complete the required safety improvements to the structure, including the addition of automatic sprinklers and illuminated exit signs. The property was vacant for a time, and then used by other members of the Diocese.

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In 1938, Shaw Business College purchased the building and converted it from a residential dwelling. Succeeding owners included a church (Unity Church of Truth), a social service organization (Volunteers of America), and the Portland Society of Art (now Maine College of Art), whose former staff and students recall using the rear lot as a sculpture garden.

In 1983, the building was sold to Safford Associates, and historic preservation covenants were placed on the property. Safford Associates renovated the building, adding a rear elevator and restoring interior spaces used as classrooms by the Portland Society of Art.

Safford House first floor in 1984

Safford House first floor in 1984

In 2004, Greater Portland Landmarks sold its longtime home at 165 State Street and began to search for a new location for the organization in a historic building in need of preservation. The following year, Landmarks purchased the Safford House. Suffering from deferred maintenance, the building needed significant repairs to its building systems, roof, and exterior facades. Landmarks developed a preservation plan and implemented the most critical repairs in 2010 with the replacement of the roof and repairs to the cornice and frieze. Additional work completed on the multi-phase preservation plan includes restoration of the original windows, masonry repairs, and interior improvements.

Greater Portland Landmarks’ headquarters at the Safford House are open to the public, so stop by anytime to say hello!

Safford House first floor in 2019

Safford House first floor in 2019

Women's Suffrage in Portland

One hundred years ago, Maine became the 19th state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. To celebrate the centennial, meet some prominent Portland suffragists and see their homes:

Augusta Merrill Barstow Hunt
165 State Street

Augusta Hunt (1842-1932) was the first woman to cast a ballot in a Portland election. She and her husband, sugar refiner George Hunt, lived and raised their children in this house on State Street (now the Portland Magazine building, formerly the home of Greater Portland Landmarks!).

A women’s rights and suffrage activist and a social reformer, Augusta was president of the Portland chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union for 15 years. Under her leadership, the WCTU established a day nursery, free kindergarten, and prison reform for female offenders. She successfully advocated for laws that gave mothers equal rights with fathers in the guardianship of children and allowed the election of women to school boards.

Augusta also served as president of the Home for Aged Women and the Portland Woman’s Council, and she was one of the first women admitted to the Maine Historical Society. She is the great-great-grandmother of actress Helen Hunt.

Florence Brooks Whitehouse
108 Vaughan Street

Florence Brooks Whitehouse (1869-1945) was a feminist and suffragist who fought for women to be fully equal with men. Born in Augusta, she moved with her husband Robert Treat Whitehouse to 108 Vaughan Street in Portland in 1894. They had a loving and egalitarian marriage, and Robert, an attorney, was the president of the Men’s Equal Suffrage League of Maine.

Florence founded the Maine Branch of the National Woman’s Party, a radical suffrage group created by Alice Paul that drew on the militant methods used by British suffragists. She helped establish suffrage groups in other cities throughout Maine, and worked closely with organized labor to campaign for women’s right to vote.

Florence supported many other social and political causes including a mother’s pension, Social Security, labor laws, the Equal Rights Amendment, and international disarmament. She was also an artist and writer who wrote two romance novels and co-authored several plays with her husband.

Lillian M.N. Stevens
1282 Westbrook Street

Lillian Stevens (1843-1914) was a temperance worker and social reformer who helped launch the Maine chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She began a career as a schoolteacher at age 16 after her father died of consumption. At 22, she married salt and grain wholesaler Michael Stevens and moved into his family home in Stroudwater, at the corner of Westbrook and Congress Streets. Michael was her partner and ally, joining her in advocating for social reform and women’s suffrage.

Lillian was a skilled executive and speaker who became president of the National Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1898. Along with her temperance work, she was advocated for women’s suffrage and other humanitarian causes. She established the first “safe house” in the country for abused women and children, successfully lobbied for prison reform, and campaigned for animal welfare. 

The Little Water Girl statue at the Portland Public Library is a memorial to Lillian Stevens, representing the WTCU’s effort to establish public drinking fountains and provide water as an alternative to liquor.

 

The University of Southern Maine includes some of these sites on their Portland Women’s History Trail. Learn more about the Maine Suffrage Centennial, and other events and exhibits commemorating the anniversary, here.

15 Things To Do This October!

As the days grow darker and cooler it’s time to get out and enjoy fall in Maine! If creepy, haunted places aren’t your thing, maybe a sunny afternoon picking apples is right for you? Join us and our friends working to preserve what is special about Maine at one or all of these events!

1) Chilling Celtic Tales - October 4th-5th

Victoria Mansion,109 Danforth Street, Portland

Join storyteller Janet Lynch for an evening of slightly spooky tales, similar to what Victoria Mansion's Irish servants would have told around Samhain, the Celtic holiday of Halloween. Tour the Mansion and get a glimpse of some rarely seen spaces in the house. (Geared towards children ages 5 to 17.)

2) Wreck of the Otraska Walking Tour- October 5th

Cemetery Office, Evergreen Cemetery, Stevens Avenue, Portland

On a warm morning in October 1861 seven young men sailed forth from Portland for a day of fishing aboard the Otraska. A sudden squall surprised them and led to the sinking of the vessel and the deaths of all but one. Stroll through Evergreen as Friends of Evergreen Cemetery weave the tale of the Otraska, her crew, their lives and demise.

3) Fifth Maine Museum’s Harvest Fest - October 12th

Fifth Maine Museum, Peaks Island, Portland

Celebrate the end of the season with an evening of jazz and a warm meal including harvest vegetables and cider at this 1888 building built as a memorial and reunion hall by veterans in the Fifth Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which served from 1861 to 1864 and saw action in several notable Civil War battles. In 1956, the building was given to the Peaks Island community to serve as a museum devoted to the history of the regiment and island.

4) Shaker Village Harvest Fest - October 12th

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, 707 Shaker Road (off Route 26), New Gloucester

Fresh picked apples, live music, wagon rides and more. If you haven’t visited the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village, the only active and functioning Shaker Community in the world, then what are you waiting for? Tour the Shaker Barn and the Shaker Village Museum during the festival. And if you can’t make it to the festival on the 12th, then consider participating in the Friends of the Shakers Fall Workday on October 26th.

5) Apple picking at a historic farm.

What is more Maine than an afternoon in a sunny orchard picking apples? Picking apples on a foggy morning in a hillside orchard, followed by a hot cup of cider back at the barn! Support local growers that work hard to keep our agricultural landscapes intact. Choose an orchard from a recent Portland Press Herald list, choose your own, or visit my favorite - Notre Dame Orchards, Shaker Hill Road, Alfred. This orchard is part of the Alfred Shaker National Register Historic District, and if you go, stop at the delicious bakery too! Proceeds from the Shaker Hill Bakery support the York County Shelter programs.

6) Last Day for Observatory Tours! - October 14th

Portland Observatory, 138 Congress Street, Portland

Climb the mighty tower one last time this season. Enjoy the foliage across greater Portland from one of the highest points in the city! Don’t miss out on being part of our record setting year!

7) Walk Among the Shadows 2019 - October 17th - 20th & October 24th - 27th

Eastern Cemetery, 224 Congress Street, Portland

If you dare, visit with seven spirits who will arise and tell of the perils and promises of separation from Massachusetts and attaining Maine statehood. Spirits Alive is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of Portland’s historic Eastern Cemetery, established in 1668. The oldest historic landscape in the city, the cemetery is home to around 4,000 interred souls.

8) Stroll Haunted Yarmouth - October 18th - 19th & October 25th - 26th

Old Meeting House, 25 Hillside Street, Yarmouth, Maine

Royal River Community Players, Yarmouth Village Improvement Society and Yarmouth Historical Society present the second annual Stroll Haunted Yarmouth, a series of fictional stories (including one about a well-known bun cart?) based on historical facts surrounding Hillside Cemetery, the Old Meeting House, and the Reverend Thomas Green House.

9) Burning of Falmouth - October 18, 1775

No time to visit a farm or historic site? Read about the destruction of Portland, then known as Falmouth, on this day in 1775. Or watch this video by Preservation Award winning photo journalist Troy R. Bennett. The aftermath of the Burning of Falmouth was astounding. The entire town was burned, at least 300 buildings were destroyed, and almost half of the population, was left homeless just as winter began to set in.

A colonial Committee of Conference, consisting of Thomas Lynch, Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Harrison, happened to be with General George Washington when news of the Burning of Falmouth reached him. The Committee noted in their official report to the Continental Congress that every enlisted person from Falmouth begged leave to return home and find lodging and food for their families.  While it was, “too reasonable Request, to be refused,” the bombing was a frightening premonition of what could happen in the near future. Rumor was the British Navy anticipated bombarding coastal New England towns, which could lead to the resignations of thousands of soldiers. The Burning of Falmouth, along with the arrival of the King of England’s declaration that the colonies were in open rebellion, led directly to Congress establishing the Continental Navy in an effort to combat the British at sea during the Revolutionary War.

10)Tour the Tate House in Historic Stroudwater

Tate House Museum, 1267 Westbrook Street, Portland

Visit the historic home of Maine’s last Mast Agent and learn how New England forests fueled colonial industry, strengthened the British Royal Navy, and sparked rebellion.

11) Fright Night at the Grange - October 19

Freeport Harraseeket Grange No. 9, 13 Elm Street, Freeport

Gather all your ghouls and ghosts for a night of dancing at Freeport Harraseeket Grange No. 9. Put on your best costume and help support the Freeport, Pownal, and Durham Educational Foundation. Freeport Harraseeket Grange #9, established in 1874, was among the first subordinate Granges in the State of Maine and the nation. The grange is now housed in a barn-like former horse stall building in Freeport, Maine, that has been used since 1903.

12) Longfellow’s Haunted House - October 21st - 31st

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, 489 Congress Street, Portland

Based on Longfellow’s poem “Haunted Houses” this tour evokes the various family members that died in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House over its long history. Two tours will be offered this year; one for families and one for adults.

13) The Complete City Imagined Exhibit Opening - October 26th

University of New England Art Gallery, 716 Stevens Avenue, Portland

If you’re full of apple cider and you’ve had enough of Halloween, join our friends at the Portland Society for Architecture to celebrate a collection of work representing Portland's past and future possibilities. The exhibition will include displays of historic maps of Portland from the Osher Map Library, maps from "Mapping Portland: The Complete City," submissions from the PSA's design competition "The Complete City: Imagined," along with adjacent programming related to The Complete City. 

14) Identifying Kit & Catalog Houses from the Early 20th Century - October 29th

Safford House, 93 High Street, Portland

Join us to learn the history of kit homes in America and Maine and learn how to spot them on your own!

The American Dream of home ownership was fostered by reformers, developers, and building material companies in the early 20th century. This program will discuss the history of kit home manufacturing in this country and illustrate the variety of styles available from manufacturers and the various ways you can identify a kit home. 

The program will conclude with an hour long walking tour of the Oakdale Neighborhood where you’ll get to practice your skills in identifying kit homes that Landmarks believes it has identified in the neighborhood.

15) How to Uncover the Story of Your Historic Building - October 30th

Safford House, 93 High Street, Portland

Every home has a story if you know how to uncover it. Join Landmarks for this program where you will learn how to research the history of an historic home and share its story.  During the classroom portion of the class you will learn to identify architectural styles and to understand the historical background of residential buildings in Portland.

The program will conclude with a walking tour of the State Street neighborhood for hands-on practice in identifying building styles while exploring one of Portland’s oldest and most distinctive neighborhoods.

And if it’s a rainy October day, visit your local library (it’s probably in a historic building) and check out Wildfire Loose: The Week Maine Burned by Joyce Butler. It tells the harrowing story of 1947, when from October 13 to October 27, firefighters tried to fight 200 Maine fires, consuming a quarter of a million acres of forest, wiped out nine entire towns, and severely damage much of historic Bar Harbor. The Maine fires destroyed 851 homes and 397 seasonal cottages, leaving 2,500 people homeless. I read it when it was first published in 1979 and it started me on my journey to learn more about Maine history and its architectural past.

Happy October!

Julie Ann Larry

Forest Ave. Matters

Forest Ave. Matters

As part of our National Preservation Month (and beyond) we are using social media to highlighting the 15 buildings proposed by the City of Portland to be designated as locall significant buildings. The designation includes a number of auto-related commercial buildings as well as buildings significant to the development of the Woodfords Corner neighborhood like Odd Fellows Hall and the former Deering fire station, now occupied by Big Sky Bakery. Find us on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #Forestavehillmatters along with the national hashtag #thisplacematters. We hope that you will follow along! We will add each image from social media on this page as the month unfolds. Add your Forest Ave memories in the comments below!

Forest Avenue has always been a critical transportation

Munjoy Hill Matters

May is National Preservation Month which happens to coincide with the reveal of the city’s proposed historic district on Munjoy Hill. One way that we are celebrating this month is by sharing photos and histories of houses on Munjoy Hill on instagram and facebook using the hashtag #munjoyhillmatters along with the national hashtag #thisplacematters . We hope that you will follow along! We will add each image from social media on this page as the month unfolds.

Landmarks supports designation of a Munjoy Hill Local Historic District with boundaries focused on the Eastern Promenade and North Street. These resources tell the story of the Munjoy Hill neighborhood’s development over a broad period of time and retain significant levels of architectural integrity. Munjoy Hill's historic buildings are significant features of the neighborhood's streetscapes and help make the area a desirable and attractive place to live, work and play. It is necessary to preserve the character defining buildings that reflect the neighborhood's development over a broad period of time and the role the buildings' residents played in the social and cultural history of the neighborhood, before more of the Hill's historic identity is lost. Read more about Landmarks’ position here.

All contemporary photographs are from Greater Portland Landmarks or the City of Portland.

All 1924 images are from the City of Portland’s 1924 tax photos which can be found on The Maine Memory Network.

Landmarks' Next Executive Director

Landmarks' Next Executive Director

To mark the first day of national Preservation Month (May 1), Greater Portland Landmarks’ Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Sarah Hansen as the organization’s next Executive Director. Sarah will start her post on June 17th to allow her to overlap with the long time outgoing executive Director, Hilary Bassett, who retires on June 30th.  Sarah joins the organization at an exciting and critical time for strong historic preservation advocacy in greater Portland as it faces unprecedented development pressure.

 Jane Batzell, chair of the search committee said, “we are ecstatic that Sarah will be Landmark’s next leader. Throughout the interview process she shared an invigorating passion for preservation and community engagement that was infectious.”

The Trade Show Files: The Unique Offerings of Historic Homes with Town & Shore Associates

The Trade Show Files: The Unique Offerings of Historic Homes with Town & Shore Associates

The 2019 Old House Trade Show is just one week away, so we’re sitting down with a few REALTORS® participating in the show to get their perspectives on working with historic homes—and to learn what buyers and homeowners might expect in the process of buying or selling an older home. Below, read our conversation with Town & Shore Associates, LLC, a local real estate brokerage and sponsor of the Old House Trade Show.

The Trade Show Files: Considerations When Selling and Renovating Your Older Home with Tom Landry

The Trade Show Files: Considerations When Selling and Renovating Your Older Home with Tom Landry

With the 2019 Old House Trade Show rapidly approaching, we’re taking a moment to chat with a few REALTORS® participating in the show to get their perspectives on working with historic homes—and to learn about what buyers and homeowners might expect in the process of buying, selling, or renovating an older home. Read our conversation with Tom Landry below, of Benchmark Real Estate and CornerStone Building & Restoration. Both Benchmark and CornerStone are Preservation Sponsors at Landmarks, and the Benchmark team will be joining us as a Corner Sponsor for this year’s show.

The Founding Women of Portland's Preservation Movement

The Founding Women of Portland's Preservation Movement

By Daphne Howland

 Women have been a critical force not only in saving key buildings but also in changing the city’s approach to its historic fabric.

 The American historic preservation movement owes much to women’s volunteer efforts, and the Portland area is no different. The effort often recognized as the first major preservation movement was Ann Pamela Cunningham’s campaign to save George Washington’s Virginia farm, Mount Vernon.

 Today we accept the importance of keeping George Washington’s home as a national treasure, but that wasn’t true in the 19th century when the farm’s future was in doubt. Cunningham formed the Mount Vernon’s Ladies Association, which includes a regent and vice regent from each state and oversees the farm to this day, after receiving a note from her mother in 1853 that read, “If the men of America have seen fit to allow the home of its most respected hero to go to ruin, why can't the women of America band together to save it?”

 “Of course, what we need to remember about women in preservation is that women have been crucial to the movement since the beginning in this country,” says Earle Shettleworth. “In Portland, there’s a long tradition of women playing pivotal roles in the preservation of our past. Probably the first person we would cite would be Ann Longfellow Pierce.”

Edith Sills, right, Bowdoin College Archives image no. 4317

The Trade Show Files: A Realtor's Perspective with Erin of Gardner Real Estate Group

The Trade Show Files: A Realtor's Perspective with Erin of Gardner Real Estate Group

With the 2019 Old House Trade Show just weeks away, we sat down with REALTORS participating in the show to get their perspectives on working with historic homes—and to learn about what buyers and homeowners might expect in the process of buying or selling an older home. Read our conversation with Erin Oldham below, who represents Gardner Real Estate Group, a long time supporter of Landmarks and sponsor of this year’s Trade Show.

Landmarks: How is the sales process different when working with an older home?

Erin: From the listing side, there is a bit more preparation including researching the provenance and story of the home.  When I walk through a home for the first time, I am very focused on documenting the unique features of the home as well as the upgrades in the kitchen/bathroom and all of the systems.  Showings work a bit differently as well: I present the story of the home to the buyers and point out the special features.  It is worth having buyers understand that beyond just purchasing a home, they could become part of the story of the home.  I believe knowing the story enhances the value of the home and also introduces the buyer into the world where stewardship of a home matters and contributes to long-term value.