The John Calvin Stevens House, the namesake of famed Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, is located at 52 Bowdoin Street in Portland, Maine’s West End neighborhood. It is one of the earliest examples of the Shingle style of architecture, which was popularized and refined by John Calvin Stevens and some of his closest associates. The Shingle style is now heavily associated with the Maine Coast as a result of the popularity of the style in Maine. The House was internationally recognized at the time of its construction, as illustrations of the home were used in Stevens famous architecture book Examples of American Domestic Architecture. As a result of well-preserved styling, the house now stands out amid the modern neighborhood as a symbol of the great architectural legacy of the Maine coast.
John Calvin Stevens, born in the State of Massachusetts,
moved with his family to the City of Portland, Maine at the age of two. After graduating through the Portland public
school system, Stevens went on to apprentice as an architect under Francis H.
Fassett, another notable architect of the time.
In the early 1880s, Stevens travelled back to Massachusetts in the
employ of Fassett’s firm. Just two years
later, Stevens would leave Fassett’s firm to found his own in back in
During his time in Massachusetts, Stevens met Albert Winslow
Cobb, who would become his partner in business and would work with him to
publish Examples of American Domestic
Architecture in 1889. In the creation of Examples, Stevens provided the sketches and designs while Cobb
handled the writing of the text.
Included in Steven’s sketches was a detailed drawing of the house that
would later become known as the John Calvin Stevens House.
After the publishing of Examples
of American Domestic Architecture and the construction of the John Calvin
Stevens House, Stevens would go on to help shape much of the appearance of Portland
of the late 1800s. He designed numerous
business blocks as well as a number of the most iconic churches in
Portland. Some of his most notable
works, many of which have also been filed on the National Register of Historic
Places, include structures such as the Nathan Clifford School (now Nathan
Clifford Residences,) the State Street Church, the L. D. M. Sweat Memorial Art
Museum, and portions of the H. H. Hay Building (also known as the Charles Q.
Stevens’ work with residences, however, would prove to be
his greatest legacy, as it helped to spread the growing Shingle style which
would come to be iconic both of the region and the era. In the Shingle style, John Calvin Stevens
constructed the James Hopkins Smith House, the C. A. Brown House, the First
Baptist Church, and more unnamed buildings.
These buildings solidified Stevens name as one of the foremost creators
of the Shingle style.
The John Calvin Stevens House now stands as one of the most
well-preserved historical examples of the Shingle style, having been almost unaltered
since Stevens’ final addition to the house in 1905 (which consisted of a
library, bedroom, and attic extension.)
Of the changes made to the house after Stevens influence, most consist
of expanding rooms and/or changing their use.
The greatest deviance from his designs is in the addition of two
bathrooms to the house, and in the repainting of the siding shingles. In order to preserve the house, the roof was
also re-shingled with asphalt.
Aside from these comparatively minor changes, however, the
John Calvin Stevens House still maintains incredible accuracy to its original
designs, and the interior appears just as it was described in Examples of American Domestic Architecture.