West End Walks. 4 Orchard Street

Update 6.24.16: Having found a new resource on architects practicing in Portland, I can now state the architect of this house was James P Thomas. Thomas was a grandson of the noted William Widgery Thomas and a graduate of Harvard University. Thomas played a big role in public and residential architecture in Portland during the turn of the 19th/20th centuries.

Having highlighted the entry in the first Portals post, I think it’s time to take a closer look at this house. A product of a booming era, the home has some wonderful architectural details combined with a bit of interesting history.


The 1920s were a tumultuous era. From a financial boom to the start of the Depression and filtered through Prohibition, it was an era of growth and regression. In architecture, we saw Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau reach new heights whilst the more ‘traditional’ Colonial Revival was still keeping pace with changing moors. 4 Orchard gives a taste of all 3 styles.

4 Orchard Street in 1924

The windows are more Federal in their size and the incredibly fine mullions but the arrangement and wall to window ratio is solidly Colonial Revival as is the overall massing of the building.
Stucco and a lack of trim at the corners and windows show the aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts movement as does the use of terra cotta chimney pots.


But it’s on the Fletcher Street side that we see the Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts come together for a lively combination.


I like the way the first-floor windows are pushed out towards the corners. No doubt a large fireplace, or two, inside. The curved vents on the third floor recall another Federal detail seen in many areas of coastal New England.
The fenestration of this side speaks of a ‘modern’ view in design. Although there is symmetry in the arrangement of windows on each floor, the overall composition shows the openings dictated by use over aesthetics. Add in the extension on the left and all pretense of symmetry is removed.
Those windows on the right are very well proportioned and speak again of use. I like the ornamental tree in the center of the main gable. As we walk down Fletcher Street to view the rear of the house, we are given a treat from the Art Nouveau.


Who would have guessed? The wrought iron. The gothic arched windows. Copper roof, flashing, and overall attention to detail are wonderful. Someone really had fun designing this home.


That someone may have been one Sherwood Picking. The 1924 tax records list Mr. Picking as the owner of our subject home. He purchased the land from George and Edward Fletcher in 1922. No building is listed.

Sherwood Picking was born in 1890. The son of a career Navy man and father of a career Navy man, he was a career Navy man. He graduated from Annapolis in 1911 His was the last generation of naval officers to learn sailing as well as leadership and tactics. He sailed from the Solomon Islands to Florida in the late ’30s.
Picking also wrote an extremely thorough history of the battle between the brigs Enterprise and Boxer off Monhegan in September of 1813. This history would be published uncompleted after Sherwood Picking’s death in a plane crash in Scotland on September 1, 1941. He was en route to London to become assistant naval attache for the US embassy. He was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Falmouth Maine.
Picking’s widow, Elizabeth, would remain in the home until September of 1947.

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