Glimpses. 481 Cumberland Avenue

Built ca: 1880 for James H Hall


Hall was employed by A.R. Aldrich & Co and living at 20 Hanover Street in 1870. Aldrich was a dairy & produce dealer located on Commercial Street. In April of 1880 Hall purchased the lot at 481 Cumberland from Francis & James Fessenden. The brothers were attorneys and sons of the noted statesman, William Pitt Fessenden.

Although there is no attribution that I can find, I believe the design for the home came from the office of Francis Fassett. The overall massing, central open gable on a hipped roof, and detailing are characteristics of his work. The style, materials, and color choices for the porch and entry are so similar to those on the Malcolm Hammond house at 24 Mellen Street, a known work from Fassett’s office, that it has to have been from the same hand.

The entry is inviting as it draws you up and towards the door. At the same time, the movement of the eye from the stairs into the pediment of the porch then to the second-story windows, and on into the well detailed and scaled third story pediment is a very natural feeling. The structures at the base of the upper pediment are to keep birds from perching there. Functional but inelegant.


A study in the craft of bricklaying.

As I have noted before, Portland was blessed with designers and masons who really brought out the best of brick. 481 Cumberland is a good example. The basement windows are capped by compressed arches that are integral to the water table. The walls are unadorned for the most part. The windows are cut into the body of the building without the slightest hint of trim or even a molding. The windows rest on brownstone sills which, on the second story, are part of the band molding.

An interesting feature of the band molding is the course of brick laid with the headers only showing then having alternative headers pushed back into the wall creating a void. This creates a rhythm of solid and void across the wall while emphasizing the projection of the stretcher course of bricks above.

Finally, at the top of the wall is a double course of projecting brick creating a frieze above. In the frieze is a row of bricks set to create a “U” form that mimics a greek key. This band, along with the second projecting course of brick is eliminated in the central bay of the facade.

481 Cumberland Avenue in 1924

481 Cumberland Avenue in 1924

Mary Ellen Gibson is the owner of record in 1924. Deed records would seem to indicate that she was James Hall’s daughter and that he was still alive and residing in the house in that year. The property was sold by Hall’s heirs on a deed dated August 29, 1929. Find A Grave lists a James Henry Hall in Evergreen Cemetery showing January 10, 1928, as a date of death.

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