Glimpses. 164 Danforth Street

Built ca: 1826.20160916_170228.pngAnother example of the neighborhood’s outstanding collection of brick Federal-style housing

With a low hipped roof on a symmetrical 3 bay by 3-floor form, it’s classic late-period Federal. The Portland Historic Resources Inventory puts the date of construction as 1827. Built for one Zebulon Babson.


The entry is pretty much what one would expect for the period. A very simple paneled door flanked by lights with a fan above. Attached columns carry the outside arch of the fan. They stand on paneled plinths that are attached as well. The front columns are freestanding and are odd, to say the least. The capitals look the same as the attached columns as does the entasis. At the midpoint, they get a bit wonky. It would seem that the original columns suffered some sort of failure requiring their lower sections to be removed. Whoever performed the repairs substituted a set of what appear to be porch columns to fill the gap. The 1924 tax photo does seem to show longer columns setting on plinths connected to a fence of some type. Also visible in the 1924 photo is a finely scaled balustrade above the entrance. This as well as the fence are long gone.

Zebulon Babson was born in Massachusetts in 1789. His early years are something of a mystery. What is certain is he married Mary Parsons in Gloucester in 1817. He purchased a plot of land between Congress and Cumberland Streets from Jacob Quincy in 1821. They were living on this lot and had 2 children, Harriet and Mary in 1823. Zebulon sold groceries from the head of Long Wharf.  By 1827 they had moved to Hancock Street and had 2 more children, Washington and Sarah.

Babson purchased the land for our subject from Joseph Holt Ingraham in 1825. At this same time, he purchased a pew in the First Baptist Church then located on Federal Street.

First Baptist Church in the 1840s as sketched by Charles Goodhue. Mr. Goodhue Remembers Portland. Maine Historic Preservation 1981. Author’s collection

The city directory of 1844 says Babson and his son were both working out of the house on Danforth. Zebulon was listed as a trader while Washington was not shown as having any avocation. He may have been working with his father but this is uncertain. Zebulon sold our subject to William Widgery Thomas in 1847 and moved to Brown Street. A final, sad, note on Zeb Babson. Mary, his wife of 47 years, died of consumption in late August of 1865. Zeb died a mere 11 weeks later. His cause of death was ‘casualty’. No other info is noted.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4 thoughts on “Glimpses. 164 Danforth Street

      1. Bill Honan

        Yes all rotted. Babson’s ancester Elizabeth , a widow, came from England in the 1620’s to Gloucester (Pigeon Cove now Rockport.) with her son. All U.S. Babsons go back to her. Zeb had a store in our side yard, he was forced to sell to Thomas in 1847 for $2750., the store was torn down in early 1900’s as part of the sale by Thomas (Elias). Width of the lot has changed, Zeb made 3 separate purchases starting with 40′.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.