Period Houses of Brunswick, Maine
A century-plus of architectural history in a morning's walk
Brunswick (population about 19,000) is located 26 miles down the coast from Portland. ("Down" in the Maine sense: in the direction that prevailing winds and currents move a sailing vessel most readily, which is to say more or less northeast.) Brunswick was settled early in the 18th Century, and incorporated as a town in 1739. Around the time of the American Revolution, the major streets and the tree-shaded village green which is still the center of town were laid out. Bowdoin College (alma mater of, among others, writers Hawthorne and Longfellow, Arctic explorers Peary and MacMillan, and President Franklin Pierce) was founded in 1794. By 1820, when Maine separated from Massachusetts and became a state in its own right, Brunswick had become a center of the timber and textile industries.
A great deal of money poured into Brunswick between roughly 1775 and 1900, and a good part of it was spent in building the many wonderful houses which still stand on the streets surrounding the Bowdoin campus and the downtown area. We snapped the photos below during a morning's walk within about a quarter-mile radius of the Green, on an unseasonably pleasant (for Maine in February) day. We hope you enjoy looking at these pictures as much as we did taking them. Please e-mail us if you have any questions or comments.
TIP: See our Glossary for explanations of technical terms used in this article.
|The Houses of Brunswick|
The photos are arranged, as closely as possible, in chronological order of the evolution of architectural styles. This may not be exactly the same as the order of the dates when individual houses were built. Styles didn't change overnight. The earliest houses of any given style may be have been built before survival examples of earlier styles; conversely, houses built during the waning of a style's popularity may postdate the leading-edge examples of the next succeeding style. Also, it's common to find "transitional" houses which combine design elements of two or more distinct styles. (You'll see some examples below.) When possible, I've included the dates of individual houses in the notes accompanying the photos.
|1. The Parker-Cleaveland House (1806), as is typical of Federal houses, has a facade that is symmetrical and five-ranked (five windows directly above four windows and a central entry door). It has a low-pitched hip roof and four prominent corner chimneys. Originally this house would have been heated entirely by fireplaces. (The fifth chimney is likely that of a kitchen in a rear ell, a typical arrangement of the period; or it may have been added sometime in the 20th century when central heating was installed.) The six-over-six double-hung windows with louvered shutters are typical of the Federal period. The entry-door composition is essentially Georgian/Federal transitional: a small fanlight has replaced the rectangular Georgian transom, but there are no sidelights.|
|2. This house built in 1811 has, like the Parker-Cleaveland House, a low-pitched hip roof and five-ranked facade. However, the Federal styling of the entry-door composition is more advanced, incorporating sidelights topped by a carved fan ornament beneath an arched molding with a "keystone" at the apex. Interestingly, the double-hung windows have twelve-over-twelve sashes, more typical of the Colonial (Georgian) period.|
|3. This example differs from House 2 by having a fully-developed Federal entry-door composition incorporating delicately detailed sidelights surmounted by a full-width fanlight. Also, it has an entry portico supported by two Tuscan columns.|
|4. The Elks lodgehall in Brunswick, formerly a private home, is prominently sited overlooking the village green. This house differs from House 3 in having (1) four columns supporting the portico, and (2) a modified Palladian window in the upstairs hall. (This is the three-part window above the entry door. The classical Palladian window has a semicircular light above the central sash.) A Palladian window in this position is common in Federal houses. The double-hung windows have typical Federal six-over-six sashes. The entry door has sidelights and a fanlight (which is hidden behind the "ELKS" banner).|
|5. Here is an example of the gabled-roof type of Federal house, having a five-ranked facade like the foregoing hip-roofed houses, but with two massive end chimneys passing through the roof ridge. The double-hung windows still have their louvered blinds, but the original sashes (probably six-over-six) have been replaced (fairly recently) with modern one-over-one sashes- perhaps insulating glass to reduce heat loss. Notice how the entry portico and door composition differ from the two previous examples. This portico has a flat roof with a deep entablature below the dentiled cornice, supported by splendid Greek Ionic columns. And the entry door is surrounded by strings of simple, rectangular lights. (The latter is more characteristic of the Greek Revival style, as we shall see.)|
|6. This neat little one-story brick house incorporates many of the same design elements as the larger House 5: five-ranked facade, gabled roof, end chimneys, and a series of rectangular lights surrounding the entry door. The double-hung windows have the typical Federal six-over-six sashes and louvered blinds. Note the granite lintels over the doors and windows, typical of brick construction in the 19th century.|
|7. This late Federal house exhibits the familiar low-slope-hipped roof configuration and five-ranked facade. It has two massive chimneys (as contrasted with the four corner chimneys of House 1), each of which probably serves four fireplaces (two upstairs and two down). The double-hung windows have louvered blinds, but the sashes are of a somewhat unusual three-over-three design with the central pane in each sash larger than the other two. (These windows may or may not be original.) Although, as in Houses 5 and 6, the entry-door composition is more Greek Revival than Federal, this is still fundamentally a Federal house.|