West End Walks. 143 Pine Street. A home for an architect.

Built in 1863 by Thomas Cummings father and son.

The elder Cummings was an architect in Portland.

The Mansard or Mansart style is somewhat misunderstood. Often thought to be the product of the never ending battle with the tax man, not likely, it’s history is more proletarian. With roots in the late 16th century, decades before Francois Mansart was born, the double pitch roof form rose from a simple desire to better utilize the space under the roof line normally given over to storage or ‘dead space’.

The style came to the US around the middle of the 19th century as interest in the work of Baron Haussmann in Paris was gaining attention.

Here we have a brick block that is vertical in nature. The proportions emphasize height over width and most of the design elements are arranged in vertical groups. Details are for the most part restrained and limited to doors and windows and at the roof line.

The architrave, cornice and intersections of the roofs are worthy of note. The top 2 courses of brick on the wall are set out from the plain of the wall by about an inch creating a narrow architrave. This picks up shadows from the elaborate dentil line above to create a rhythm of surface and void that changes with the light. Above the architrave is a heavy rope molding. This rope is repeated at the intersections of the roofs.

The house has a small ell on the rear. This has a porch with very delicate columns. The tall window in the second floor corner is a bit of an oddity. My guess is it was changed when the house was converted to condominiums and a ‘second egress’ was required.

The entry is restrained with details limited to the arched windows above the doors and the heavy foliated brackets below the entry roof.

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The bay windows are very straight forward. Large central panels with very discreet curves at the upper corners. Very fine band moldings mark the spring points of the arch tops. The dentils are quite heavy and far too numerous.

20170205_112727.jpgThe windows have the heaviest dealing by far. The sills are thick brick slabs supported by stepped brick brackets. Very fine frames outline the windows up to lightly arched tops. Above these are hefty hooded moldings of brick. The forms are vaguely French. I suspect the surfaces were originally covered in mastic which would have given them a more unified feel. The styling of these window treatments, the styling of the brackets at the entry and overall composition of the home lead me to believe Cummings designed and built the home for James McGlinchy at 158 Danforth.

The Cunninghams bought the subject property from the Storer family in 1833. One wonders what they did with the property in the intervening 3 decades before building this house. Perhaps they built rental property. A review of the Portland City Directory of 1851 does not list anyone living above #21 Pine although this is not definitive as Portland’s street numbering systems varied in method and thoroughness for most of the 19th century.

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The Cummings family lost both father and son in the decade of the 80s. Thomas the younger died in 1880 & the elder in 1888. By this time they were no longer living on Pine Street having sold the home to Patrick Keating in 1875. The house would remain in the family until 1925 when Robert Braun, Neal Allen & Horace Crosby purchased it.

This trio would retain the property until 1945. After that time, it changed hands 8 times before the property was converted to condominiums in 1981. There are currently 6 units in the building. Most likely 2 per floor. The current owner of both ground floor units is the executive director of the National Association of Episcopalian Schools.

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