White Pine Monographs: The Architectural Charm of Maine’s Southern Coast

Historic Maine home

In April 1918, architect C. Howard Walker wrote a lovely feature story for Volume IV, issue 2 of the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, highlighting homes along Maine’s southern coast that were already old by that time. But it’s clear right away that this editorial is really a love letter to the state’s great history, New England’s mastery of colonial architecture, and the Eastern White Pine tree.

Maine Southern Colonial Homes

Colonial home door detail

Check out this passage:

“It is a strange anomaly that the white pine, with its home in a land of harsh winters, growing amidst the constant stress of wind and storm, should have a fiber straight as a ruled line, a surface soft and smooth as silk, and that its grain, instead of being gnarled and twisted, should be so even and fine that it will respond to the most delicate of carving. The logs, brought down over the snows to the streams, float down in road rafts to the more open reaches of the rivers, to the mill ponds where the streams are dammed, and there are sawn in lengths and widths, into scantling and plank and board, and sent to their destinations.”

“The Yankee skipper knows all of this. He has loaded his decks at the head of navigation and is now distributing his cargo. He knows every inch of the varied coast of Maine, the long fingers of land stretching out into the sea, the inlets, and bays, and islands, and reefs; and even in the fog he has little need of his chart, but the chart itself shows penetrating arms of the sea running deep into the land to meet the rivers, each of which ramifies into little bays and coves and back waters and into numerous almost land-locked harbors in which navies might ride…. the coast cities of Maine lie up these inlets, and in the cities and upon the banks of the bays and coves the merchants of Maine built their houses.”

Maine colonial architecture

These fine houses are detailed throughout the issue, with Walker, the son of a skipper himself, praising the way they were so well-suited to the landscape and the era, so pleasingly proportioned and beautifully crafted. Many of them were built between 1800 and 1810, when people had begun to recover from the economic impact of the Revolutionary War. That meant houses were becoming more ornamental, but in a practical and restrained New England kind of way. Some get a little criticism, too, like “balustrade over porch unnecessary, too high.”

Read more about these houses at our White Pine Monograph Library.

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