The City of Portland, Maine’s Western Promenade is a testament to passionate historical preservation. Originally developed as a residential district in the late 1800s, the neighborhoods stand comparatively untouched next to the modernized city around them. Ranging from humble residences to lavish mansions, the Western Promenade Historic District features residences in a great number of architectural styles including famed architect John Calvin Stevens’ iconic Shingle Style.
For the vast majority of the early 1800s, Portland’s west
end was characterized by unused marsh and woodlands owned by J.B. Brown, a
prominent businessman and land developer.
Brown would, throughout the mid-1800s, sell parcels of land in the area
to the City for the development of the Western Promenade Park and to private parties
looking to build mansions following the construction of his own mansion on the
land in the late 1850s.
Starting in 1865, real development began in the Western
Promenade area. Brown’s business savvy
showed through in his hiring of two famed architects to design the
neighborhoods within the Western Promenade district. Francis H. Fassett was the first of these
architects. A Maine native born in the
Town of Bath, Fassett would go on to do extensive work in the Portland
area. Additionally, he apprenticed John
Calvin Stevens, whose architectural legacy would arguably overshadow even
Under the influence of these two outstanding architects, the
Western Promenade area rose up as an incredibly beautiful group of
neighborhoods. On each street, residences
were united by core features that made them identifiable as a neighborhood
while still having unique individuality.
Both Fassett and Stevens would construct their own homes in the Western
Promenade area, each one, interestingly, representing well their respective
specialties; Stevens’ home was built in the style he helped popularize, known
as the Shingle Style, while Fassett’s home was designed in a fusion of the
Mansard and Queen Anne Styles, both styles he mastered and employed widely during
The district was officially “completed” in the 1930s, still
nearly a decade before John Calvin Stevens would pass. The last major neighborhood to be completed
consisted of land that had belonged to J.B. Brown’s estate. Brown’s mansion was torn down in 1915 and a
Colonial Revival Style neighborhood rose up in its place.
While there have been modifications to the neighborhood due
to the pressures of the growing population of Portland, in comparison to the
city around, the Western Promenade has been incredibly well preserved. Due to the diverse styles of the
neighborhood, it acts as a living museum to Fasset and Stevens’ styles,
showcasing a broad representation of each of their skills in architecture and