The Trade Show Files: Stephanie Brown of Bagala Window Works

One of the best parts of the Old House Trade Show is having the opportunity to chat with exhibitors about their memorable experiences with older homes. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss options for your home projects and find inspiration in the creative solutions offered by all of our exhibitors.

To start the conversation, we caught up with Stephanie Brown, a window technician at Bagala Window Works. An exhibitor at the upcoming 2019 Old House Trade Show, Bagala Window Works (BWW) is a local company and long-time supporter of Greater Portland Landmarks working to preserve the unique heritage of homes through time-tested techniques in window restoration. Stephanie discusses her work with older homes, her favorite window projects, and her perspective as a woman in a skilled trade profession traditionally held by men.  

Stephanie Brown is a window technician at Bagala Window Works

Stephanie Brown is a window technician at Bagala Window Works

Landmarks: What is your professional background? Did you envision yourself in a trade like window restoration? 

Stephanie: I started off in art school. I wanted to apply my creativity to something more historical in the physical world, but I had no idea what that would be. I did not envision myself in a specific trade, mostly because I was unaware of the opportunity. Through a series of fortunate events, I wound up in Asheville, NC with the opportunity to attend an occupational training program focused on historical surface restoration. This program offered training in the foundation of calculations, tools, equipment, color theory, safety, surface preparation, and an appreciation for the historical evolution of the trade. The advanced level covered architectural design styles, plaster repair, more complex techniques, and practical projects at historical properties. Upon leaving school, there were not any job opportunities in a historic setting so my first experience in the field was with a fire, water, and smoke damage restoration company. I was able to put some of my skills to use and certainly learned a lot. From there, I moved back to Maine and worked for myself doing specialty jobs when I could.  

Stephanie applies her artistic background to the practice of ‘faux bois,’ a French term meaning ‘fake wood.’ This is a painting technique that imitates wood with paints and glazes and can be used in the process of restoring historic windows.

Stephanie applies her artistic background to the practice of ‘faux bois,’ a French term meaning ‘fake wood.’ This is a painting technique that imitates wood with paints and glazes and can be used in the process of restoring historic windows.

A close up of Stephanie’s ‘faux bois.’ In this case, pine sash is painted to look like oak to match the existing trim.

A close up of Stephanie’s ‘faux bois.’ In this case, pine sash is painted to look like oak to match the existing trim.

Stephanie’s work helps preserve the original look of these historic windows.

Stephanie’s work helps preserve the original look of these historic windows.

Landmarks: How did you learn about your job? What first drew you to your position?

Stephanie: Through searching and always keeping an eye out for historical restoration job opportunities. Moving to southern Maine offered more opportunity in the field. There is not a definite place or title for what I do, so my position had to evolve over time.

Landmarks: What have been some of your favorite projects?

Stephanie: My favorite projects always involve a historic setting. It is a real privilege to work on these sites. I was able to work at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. With a team, I worked on restoring the wrought iron and wooden rails on the grand staircase and the winter garden. Another favorite was up on 6-8 levels of scaffolding at St. Mary’s Church in Lawrence, MA, working to preserve the exterior stained-glass windows. It is fulfilling to see so many residences and miscellaneous buildings in the Portland area that have been restored by Bagala Window Works.

Landmarks: What are some challenges working in a male dominated field?  

Stephanie: My family has a home in Maine that has seen seven generations. It still has a barn attached to the house and in that barn is a workshop. When I was a child, I spent time in that shop doing small woodworking projects with my grandfather. I recall my mother telling me that in her youth, she was not allowed in there because she was a girl. I went on thinking that things have clearly changed since my Mother’s time. It was not until my introduction to the field that I realized otherwise. I have faced many of the same challenges that women have faced in workplaces all over, but there is an added layer because of the physical aspect of the trade. The notion I have heard that sticks with me the most is that there are not many women like me, and I don’t believe that to be entirely true. There are not many women that are persuaded to follow a career path into the trades. But for women looking to enter any trade, I would say be prepared for anything. Definitely obtain as much training as possible. I have been disappointed by circumstances that seemed out of my control, but I’ve become a much stronger person through these experiences.

Landmarks: What do you enjoy most about working with older homes?  

Stephanie: I grew up in Maine, and for as long as I can recall I have been drawn to older homes. For me there is a great sense of gratification to be part of preserving history. From farmhouses to more grand estates, I see relevance in their conservation. It is rewarding to fix something broken and add value to a place that may have otherwise been lost.

Thank you so much for sharing, Stephanie!

You can learn more about Bagala Window Works at Greater Portland Landmarks’ 2019 Old House Trade Show on March 30 and 31st, where they will be included as an exhibitor and hosting a workshop on tips and techniques for window maintenance.

All images provided by Bagala Window Works.

Book Report: The Past and Future City by Stephanie Meeks

Book Report: The Past and Future City by Stephanie Meeks

I optimistically checked out a fat stack of preservation-related books at the University of Georgia library and lugged them up to Maine for self-assigned summer reading. The Past and Future City by Stephanie Meeks (Island Press, 2016 link: has been on my list for quite some time. The president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since 2010, Meeks echoes ideas that are buzzing in the preservation world and support the message of Max Page’s lecture. That preservation is much more than house museums, it’s an evolving field that should play an important role in addressing some of our most hot-button issues such as affordable housing and climate change. To do this, she outlines 10 steps communities can take to harness the power of their existing building stock and protect historic resources. Here are my Cliff Notes:

11 Things to do in Fall 2018

11 Things to do in Fall 2018

To use a term from Mary Berry of the Great British Bake Off, this fall is cram-jam full with history, architecture, and community events. Organizations all over the region are in a celebratory mood, from our own Preservation Awards, to an architecture-inspired costume party. This fall you can take a musical stroll, have a reason to say “Happy Terrcentential!”, and trick-or-treat at a Portland icon and so much more.

Catching Up with Landmarks' 2018 Graduate Interns

Catching Up with Landmarks' 2018 Graduate Interns

This summer we have the privilege of being joined by four graduate level interns for 10 weeks to survey off-peninsula Portland neighborhoods. They have brought with them their fresh enthusiasm for historic preservation and their knowledge about what is happening in the preservation world from academia to other parts of the country.  Our Director of Advocacy, Julie Larry, has been guiding them through the process and will present on their research this summer and fall. The second part of our Deering Highlands research will be presented on August 28. More details below. 

I interrupted their research this morning to ask them how their summer is going.  Here is what they had to say!  - Chloe Martin

The Transforming Triple-Decker

The Transforming Triple-Decker

 From factory workers and stenographers to electricians and developers, triple-decker buildings transformed the way working-class families lived in Portland at the turn of the 20th century and beyond.

Now,many of the remaining triple-deckers are being transformed into high-end condiminiums. What is the history of this distinctly urban architecture in Portland? 

Preservation Month 2018

Preservation Month 2018

Here are 8 Great ways to celebrate Preservation Month this May!


Be your own tour guide through a changing neighborhood.

We uploaded all 4 of the Munjoy Hill walking tours to our website.


Make a Preservation Plan for your older building.

Having an older building can be overwhelming but you don’t have to do everything all at once…

Are Historic Preservation and Affordable Housing Advocates on the Same Side?

Are Historic Preservation and Affordable Housing Advocates on the Same Side?

The short answer is YES.

Landmarks has been discussing how Historic Preservation and Affordable Housing fit together. Here are 4 resources that we found helpful that we want to share!

1) This is an article by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that takes a serious look at the link and disconnect between the two.

2) Directory of Advocacy, Julie Ann Larry, is attending a conference called "Preserving Affordability, Affording Preservation" and you can too!

African-American Associated Building on Munjoy Hill, Part 2

From the mid 19th century onward the neighborhood on Lafayette and Merrill Streets was home to a number of Portland’s black residents. using US Census records we know that some black residents were native to Maine, but many were from Canada, particularly from Nova Scotia. Others came to Portland from Guadaloupe, Jamaica, Cape Verde, West Indies, Portugal, and other states like North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Using city directories and US Census records we know that some men worked as seaman, waiters, janitors, stewards, cooks, clerks, hotel porters, house painters, and laborers. While many women in the neighborhood stayed home, others worked as laundresses, seamstresses, housekeepers, and elevator operators.

48 Lafayette Street

48 Lafayette St.jpg

David Augustus Dickson (1887-1979) came to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica, British West Indies in 1911 and became a naturalized citizen in 1916. His wife, Mary Daly (1890-1981), came to the US in 1914.  The couple lived on Lafayette Street for several years before purchasing the home at 48 Lafayette Street in 1927 from Cressey & Allen, David’s employers.

David worked as a shipper (1930), porter (1940) and janitor at Cressey & Allen’s retail music store on Congress Street for many years. He later worked as an elevator operator and janitor at Porteous, Mitchell and Braun Department Store (1941-1943) and as a janitor at Associated Hospital Service of Maine (1950s). Mary worked as a maid and seamstress. In 1950 she was named Maine State Mother of the Year.

The Dicksons raised five children. David and Mary  greatly valued education and all of their children went onto higher education. The four eldest, Leon, Audley, David, and Frederick, graduated from Bowdoin College. Leon, Audley and Frederick became medical doctors. Leon graduated from Howard Medical School, Audley graduated from Columbia University School of Optometry, and Frederick became a surgeon after attending the University of Rochester Medical School, but died young in 1957 at age 35. Their brother David received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard, served in World War II, and went onto spend 40 years in academia as a teacher and university president.

Their youngest and only daughter, Lois, was valedictorian of Portland High School in 1950 and class president of Radcliffe College. A few years after her graduation from Radcliffe College she became the vice-president and director of the Washington DC office of the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). While with the CEEB she designed and implemented the Pell Grant Program. She married Emmett J. Rice, an economist, and had two children E. John Rice Jr. and Susan E. Rice, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. National Security Advisor for President Obama.*

Although David and Mary Dickson moved to 51 Melrose Street in the early 1960s, the Dickson family continued to own the house at 48 Lafayette Street until 1984.

30 Lafayette St.jpg

30 Lafayette Street

The dwelling at 30 Lafayette Street appears to have been built for Samuel S. Libby, a blacksmith and machinist, in the late 1870s or early 1880s to replace an earlier dwelling. In 1929 the dwelling was purchased by Jennie McClean.

Jennie McClean (1872-1946) was the daughter of Joseph and Tempe Hill of Gardiner. According to Maine’s Visible Black History, Joseph and his son Robert ran a grocery store in Gardiner for many years. Jennie married Joseph McClean of Augusta in 1899. According to US Census records, Joseph (1871-1945) came to the United States in 1884/5 from Barbados, West Indies. At the time of their marriage Joseph was a cook in a hotel and Jennie worked as a bookkeeper. Jennie and Joseph had two children that survived childhood, Helen and Vivian. When the couple divorced after 1920, Jennie and the girls moved to Portland. According to city directories, Jennie worked as a dress maker. In 1929 she bought 30 Lafayette Street for $3600. Both daughters lived in the house with their mother for a time and worked as elevator operators.  Helen worked at Loring Short and Harmon’s book and stationary store at 474 Congress Street and Vivian worked across the street at 477 Congress Street in the Chapman Building.

24 Montreal Street

24 Montreal St.jpg

John W. Gaskill (1850-1904), was born in North Carolina the son of Sylvester and Rebecca Gaskill of New Bern. In 1889 John W. Gaskill (1850-1904) married his wife Charlotte (Lottie) Hill (1864-1922). According to street directories he worked as a mariner, cook, and steward. In the early 20th century he owned two restaurants, one on Commercial Wharf and the other at 232 Federal Street.  A few years earlier in 1900 he took out a mortgage for $650 and purchased land and a dwelling on Montreal Street from real estate developer Moses Gould. In 1901 John transferred the deed to his wife Charlotte (Lottie) Gaskill. Charlotte and John had two boys, Walter and John E., and a daughter Viola.

Walter H. Gaskill (1889-1966) served in World War I. Walter and his wife Geneva lived close to his childhood home for many years at 49 Lafayette Street. Geneva worked as an elevator operator in the Chapman Building at 477 Congress Street while Walter worked according to US Census Records and street directories variously as a waiter, an auto mechanic, and in a local laundry.

John E. Gaskill (1892-1991) for many years worked for Central Maine Power Company as a lineman. John and his wife Lulu, like his brother Walter, lived close to his childhood home for many years at 56 Lafayette Street.

Viola Gaskill (1894-1950) worked for many years as an elevator operator in the Chapman Building at 477 Congress Street. She married in 1918 to Manuel Santos, a ship’s steward from Cape Verde. For several years the young couple and their son lived with Viola’s mother on Montreal Street. After Lottie’s death the couple continued to live in the family home.

For more on the role Portland's black residents have contributed to the city, we recommend reading Maine's Visible Black History by H.H. Price and Gerald E. Talbot. It has been an invaluable part of our research on the lives of Munjoy Hill residents. 

*Special thanks to David White for his research on Lois Dickinson Rice.