A. B. Butler House
Backstory and Context
The A. B. Butler house is a particularly well-preserved “Italian Villa” style home in Portland, Maine that embodies many of the characteristics of the Second Empire architectural style. Having undergone almost no modifications, interior or exterior, since its construction, it is one of a small selection of original Second Empire style homes. Tucked away in one of Portland’s many residential neighborhoods, the A. B. Butler house stands out amid the newer buildings around it, a small slice of history surrounded by a bustling, metropolitan city on the rise.
The A. B. Butler house was designed and built in the year 1868 by architect Matthew Stead. Albert Berry Butler, a successful Portland merchant, was the commissioner of the house. Albert Berry Butler was a prominent and well-recognized citizen of Portland, who was widely respected in the business community of Southern Maine at the time. Born in the City of Hallowell, Maine, in 1832, Butler opened his first store in his city of birth at the age of just eighteen. He would go on to run the business continually for 56 years until the day of his death in 1907. During those five and a half decades, his business would migrate from Hallowell, to Bath, and finally to Portland, Maine, growing with each relocation. He sought out recognized architect Matthew Stead to build him a Portland home in 1868.
Matthew Stead constructed two buildings of particular note in Portland, the other building being the Merchant’s Exchange Building on Exchange Street. The Merchant’s Exchange Building has served the City of Portland in many ways, most recently as a popular clothing store (as of the publication of this document on the 13th of July, 2017,) and previously as one of the most upscale restaurants in the city known as “The Gaslight,” which was also recognized in historical documents about the area.
The A. B. Butler house is an exemplary representation of the Second Empire architectural style, which became incredibly popular in Portland around the time of the Civil War. This architectural style is characterized by its Second French Empire influences, mixing elements European Baroque style with mansard roofs and domes. The house itself is recognizable by its mansard roof, within which the entire second floor is contained, and its beautifully preserved gable windows.
Possibly the most notable of the house’s preserved historical features is the fresco work located in the entry hall. The frescoes spread across two of the walls, depicting two women in “classical dress” (according to the official NPS documentation of the home.) The frescoes are in nearly perfect condition, having been carefully cared for over the years.
Since the 1970s, the A. B. Butler house has undergone both
interior and exterior restoration for areas that have experienced wear. Additionally, the house has had minimal
changes made since its original construction.
Only minor modernization has been undertaken on the house.
Photo by Namiba of Wikimedia Commons