Built in 1906-07 for Herbert & Sally Payson. Design by John Calvin and John Henry Stevens.
A large brick Colonial Revival in the West End Historic District.
They both came from “good stock”. Herbert Payson was the son of Henry, a successful banker, and stockbroker, and the grandson of Edward, long-time minister for the Second Parish, commonly called the Payson Memorial, Church.
Sally Carroll Brown Payson was the daughter of John Marshall and granddaughter of John Bundy Brown. Two names needing little introduction to regular readers and Portland history buffs. Sally grew up in her father’s house on Vaughan Street. We looked at that house in 2013. After John Bundy died, the area of his estate known as “Bramhall” was subdivided. Sally, like her cousin Helen, acquired a lot on Bowdoin Street to build a house for her growing family.
And like her cousin, Sally and Herbert called on Portland’s premier architectural team of John Calvin and John Howard Stevens to create a home suitable for their status and family size. Unlike the Holt’s at 55 Bowdoin, just across the service road, which mixed Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts elements, Stevens created a powerful statement of Georgian Revival architecture for the Paysons.
Georgian Revival was and still is, a subset of the Colonial Revival movement. Drawing its inspirations from the more formal buildings in the late colonial or Georgian era. The original form was noted for strict symmetry with a substantial level of ornamental detail. The revival saw a little less symmetry and, in most cases, an increase in the amount and detail of the ornament.
Johns Calvin and Howard tended to work in a more conservative mode which fit the city’s overall mindset. Details were reduced in both quantity and intensity with designs relying more on solidity and massing for impact. The image above of the western end of 71 Bowdoin illustrates this quite well. The details are simple. One arched top window on the second floor in the ‘antique’ mode and a very modern compressed arch above the triple windows of the third floor are all there is to break the pattern set on the main facade. The scale and massiveness of the wall, with its textured Flemish bond, does the heavy lifting as far as visual impact is concerned.
Herbert and Sally were married in 1893. By the time they moved into our subject in 1907 they had 5 children and would have one more in 1908. The 1910 census found them on Bowdoin Street with their 2 older girls and 4 younger boys along with a German governess. They also had 2 Irish and 1 English female servants living with them.
The first 15 years of the 20th century saw the remaining lots on Bowdoin sold and built on. All of the houses on the street from Vaughan Street to the Western Promenade, but for one, would be designed by John Calvin Stevens. From the Chaplin/Small double and Dennett houses of the 1880s, both directly across the street from our subject, through Stevens’ ‘first house’ at #52 Bowdoin from 1884 through the Richard Webb house of 1907 at #29 and ending with the aforementioned Holt house we can see almost 30 years of Stevens development as an architect and the city’s changing tastes.
In 1934, Herbert and Sally created a company they called Thornhurst Farm Inc. It would serve as a holding company for the family’s real estate. The name Thornhurst Farms from the summer property her father had built on the Falmouth Foreside. Sally had inherited a share of the property when John Marshall Brown passed away in 1907. In 1935, they transferred ownership of our subject house to Thornhurst. They lived on at Bowdoin Street until Herbert Payson died in 1940. Sally seems to have stayed on a few years more as Thornhurst remained the owners of record until it was sold to Hilda Palmer in 1945. Sally died in 1948. She and Hebert were buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Falmouth.
Hilda Libby Ives Palmer was born in Cape Elizabeth on May 29, 1909. Her father was Howard R Ives, a partner in Verrill, Hale, Booth & Ives, a local law firm and her mother was Hilda Libby, an ordained minister and the daughter of a former mayor of Portland. Hilda grew up on Carroll Street and at ‘Cragmoor’, the family’s summer home on the Cape Elizabeth shore. She attended local schools including Waynflete, where she taught before marrying John Palmer in June of 1930. John’s family ran a clothing and footwear store on Congress Street in the Brown Memorial block.
John and Hilda traveled to Europe after their marriage, sailing from Liverpool to Montreal on the White Star Line’s “Laurentic”, then taking the train to Portland on their return. They had 3 daughters and 1 son during the decade of the ’30s. The Palmers owned the property until August of 1959 when they sold and moved to Yarmouth. John died in 1980 and Hilda in 2001.
The house is still a one-family home and is in very good condition. The owners are a former candidate for Governor of Maine and her husband.