Archive for March, 2012

Happy Friday readers! Today’s Friday Fantasy is actually not a structure at all, but an architect. He is a lesser-known Maine architect, but one whose work I have long enjoyed.

John Calvin Steven had a career in architecture for almost 70 years, from the time that he was 18 nearly to his death. Because his career spanned so many years, Stevens designed over 1,000 buildings throughout the State of Maine.

Photo from Wikipedia

John worked primarily in the Shingle Style and Colonial Revival styles popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  He chose the Shingle Style for his personal home, and arguably did his finest work in that medium, with examples still found along the rocky Maine coast.  Still, he did also design many Colonial Revival buildings, as that style was also very popular at the peak of his career during the early 20th century.

Originally, Stevens wanted to study at MIT but he lacked the funds for that and instead interned at the office of Portland architect, Francis H. Fassett.  Fassett raised Stevens to the level of junior partner when his firm opened a new office in Boston. While there, he met William Ralph Emerson, who greatly influenced the development of Stevens’ personal style. Stevens later returned to Portland to open his own office in 1884.  During the early years of his career, he and partner Albert Cobb published Examples of American Domestic Architecture, a book on Shingle Style in the United States, with Stevens providing the illustrations. He came to be known as one of the greatest innovators of the Shingle Style in America, earning a place alongside such well-known architectural firms as McKim, Mead & White, and Peabody & Stearns.  His designs for impressive residences in seaside resorts surely popularized John’s work, and he went on to develop a successful and prolific career.   (Illustration from Wikipedia)

Though it’s very difficult to choose among the best, most innovative example of John Calvin Stevens’ Shingle Style designs (accepting that his later Colonial Revival style residences, churches, libraries are in a different class very worthy of discussion… but I’m a fan of the Shingle Style), I feel that the house he designed for himself in 1883 clearly stands out.  Like many of his Shingle Style homes (and much like examples often seen by other firms),  the John Calvin Stevens House in Portland draws on Classical architectural elements and New World Colonial traditions, while creating a harmonious, quintessentially natural home, both inside and out.  The flow and economy of space evident in the interior allows gracious, yet simple living, while the exterior is both pleasing to the eye and humbly unassuming, much like the rugged landscape one can find all along the Maine coast, and the weathered cottages of the first settlers.

Photos from Maine Historical Society and Wikipedia

Who wouldn’t want to live there!?  I also thought I’d add some photos of Psi Upsilon House (more recently known as Quinby House) at Bowdoin College, since it’s one of Ash’s favorite John Calvin Stevens Shingle Style designs.

Photos from Bowdoin College Library Special Collections

Hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of a lesser known architect. Have a great weekend!


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