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Home > Exhibits > Down East Doorways

Down East Doorways

These photographs, taken by George W. French for the Maine Development Commission between 1941 and 1949, were focused on some of the most elegant front doors in the State of Maine. The majority of these homes were constructed in the federal style of American architecture (1775-1830). Federal architecture usually featured two windows on either side of the door, with five windows across the second story of the facade. Nearly all of the mansions pictured were built by wealthy sea captains and merchants who were prominent in the coastal shipping trade.

While a few of these dwellings are still maintained as private homes, most are operated today as bed and breakfast establishments, country inns, or are open to the public as museums.

To order reproductions of any of these materials from our holdings contact the Maine State Archives at 207-287-5795.

photo of a doorway with intricate carvings around the door, location unknown

With its simple ionic columns contrasting with the intricate carvings around the door, this house is a splendid example of federal architecture (unknown location).

photo of a doorway in Fryeburg with ethced glass sidelights

Etched Glass Sidelights, Fryeburg - The sidelights add an interesting feature to this doorway; repeated again in the window above the door.

photo of a doorway in Parsonsfield with unusual semi-circular sidelights

Unusual Semi-Circular Sidelights, Parsonsfield - George French grew up in the Parsonsfield - Fryeburg area.

photo of an elaborately carved doorway in Wiscasset

Elaborately Carved Doorway, Wiscasset - During the years when most of these photographs were taken, people in coastal towns were concerned about German submarines known to be nearby.

photo of a doorway in Wiscasset

Symetrical Perfection, Wiscasset - Many coastal homes had "widow's walks" in the center of the roof, where women could look for return of vessels bearing loved ones. Seafaring was a dangerous trade, often men never returned.

photo of a doorway in Thomaston

Graceful Simplicity, Thomaston - These were the years when sailing ships plied the oceans of the world, and many of these houses were furnished with curios, Chinese dinner sets and other memorabilia from faraway places.

photo of an intricately carved trellis around this doorway in Damariscotta

Different Doorway Style, Damariscotta - The intricately carved trellis may be a later addition - unusual for what appears to be a typical federal-style home.

photo of identical doorways in this duplex in Wiscasset 

Unusual Doorway, Wiscasset - This dwelling was built as a duplex. The sea captain or merchant who built this place certainly did not need to charge the other inhabitants rent, unless he was particularly miserly.

photo of a Thomaston doorway with classical pillars in front

Graceful Residence, Thomaston - Simple classical pillars frame this doorway and rise straight to the roofline. Thomaston is well known for numerous sea captains' homes.

photo of a doorway in Wiscasset with a trellis surrounding it

Home in Wiscasset - The trellis that surrounds this doorway may be a later addition. The visible evidence suggests the house is a typical federal-style structure.

photo of the doorway of the Nickles-Sortwell house in Wiscaset

Nickels-Sortwell House, Wiscasset - Built in 1807 by Captain William Nickels. At the time it was built, labor was so cheap it only cost $14,000 to construct. Purchased later in the century by Alvin Sortwell as a summer home.

photo of a doorway and rocking chairs on the porch of this 1832 home in Blue Hill

1832 Home, Blue Hill

photo of the doorway of a house in North Parsonsfield

Doorway, North Parsonfield - During World War II, stars were provided to families of servicemen by the National Organization of Gold Star Mothers (see the small flag with three stars hanging in the lower window on the left). Active servicemen were indicated by blue stars; deceased members of the military by gold stars. The people in this home had three members of the family in the service.

photo of the doorway of the Sarah Orne Jewett house in South Berwick

The Sarah Orne Jewett House, South Berwick - Sarah Orne Jewett (1849 – 1909) was a noted novelist and short story writer, perhaps best-known for her novel The Country of the Pointed Firs. Her family had owned this house since 1819.

photo of another doorway with a circular protico in Wiscasset

Another Dwelling in Wiscasset - Although this house seems to have been in some disrepair at the time this photograph was taken, the doorway has some unusual features - the circular portico supported by four columns instead of the usual two.

photo of a doorway in Fryeburg with a window box above it

A Window Box Graces this Doorway, Fryeburg - Many of these houses had ells, stables, carriage houses and other outbuildings that are not shown in these photographs.

photo of the doorway of the Ruggles House in Columbia Falls

Ruggles House, Columbia Falls - Designed and built in 1818 for Thomas Ruggles by Aaron Sherman of Marshfield, Massachusetts. Renowned for the "Flying Staircase" in the front hall, the house also contains many original furnishings passed down through generations of the Ruggles family.