Towering granite columns and a yellow brick exterior frame the palatial West Mansion on Portland’s Western Promenade, but the home’s most striking feature is the price – it’s the most expensive single-family property in Greater Portland.
The 103-year-old Georgian Revival at 181 Western Promenade, owned by Gary Elliott and his wife, Dorene Shughrue, is listed for sale by Keller Williams Realty at $2,995,000. The mansion has been on the market for about a month, said John Hatcher, the Realtor representing the sellers.
With its two-story portico held up by Ionic columns, Renaissance-inspired balustrade and distinctive red roof, the mansion is an imposing structure that begs passers-by to stop and gawk. And the interior details are just as impressive.
The 13,674-square-foot mansion boasts 24 rooms, including nine bedrooms and 5½ baths, 10 working fireplaces, a library with leaded-glass bookshelves, an updated kitchen, a billiards room and a three-car garage.
The centerpiece of the home is a dramatic three-story winding staircase crafted with tiger maple. A second-story balcony, which faces west, offers commanding views of Maine mountains with New Hampshire’s White Mountains in the distance. The light fixtures are by Tiffany. Elliott said the stained-glass window in the entryway is rumored to be Tiffany as well, but has never been confirmed.
The Elliotts bought the mansion in 2009 for $1.8 million, according to city tax assessor’s records. The estimated annual taxes on the property are $25,957, and the monthly estimated mortgage payment is $16,077. The assessed value, last calculated in 2007 for property tax purposes, was $1,337,300.
Elliott, a biotech consultant, said the mansion is “one of a kind in Portland.”
Elliott said he was drawn to the home because he’s an old soul at heart, but now that their children are grown, it was just him and his wife living in the West Mansion.
“I don’t see myself as an owner so much as a custodian taking care of the home until I can pass it along to another family,” he said.
GRANDEUR, HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
Multimillion-dollar homes are an anomaly in Greater Portland.
The median price for single-family homes in the city of Portland was $223,500, according to a 2013 survey from the Maine Real Estate Information System. In Cumberland County, the annual survey found the median home price to be $230,000.
The neighborhood along the Western Promenade, however, is dotted with historic homes, including some designed by famed architect John Calvin Stevens, and stands out as one of the most expensive areas in Portland.
Hatcher said he has recently sold homes at 151 Vaughn St. for $957,500; 29 Bowdoin St. for $1.6 million; and 155 Western Promenade for $1.35 million. But he said no other homes in the area have the historical significance or grandeur of the West Mansion.
If the mansion was built with the same materials today, Hatcher said it would probably cost around $10 million. But in 1911, it was constructed for $100,000 – still an exorbitant amount of money at that time.
The home was designed in 1910 by Portland-born architect Fredrick A. Tompson and was built the following year for George Fletcher West, a utilities magnate and former Portland city councilor. The West family lived in the home for 30 years, until West’s death in 1943.
Tompson also designed the YMCA building on Congress Square, which was later demolished to expand the Portland Museum of Art, and the Masonic Temple at 415 Congress St. He is best known for his residential architecture, and designed several other homes on the Western Promenade.
MID-CENTURY PERIOD OF NEGLECT
Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, has studied the mansion since the 1960s and said the home’s location, scale and attention to detail set it apart.
The house is elaborate and “no expense seems to be spared on the interior,” Shettleworth said, noting the dramatic staircase and beautiful woodwork.
The mansion is filled with details original to the house, including stained-glass windows, delicately carved crown molding and wainscoting, an old Portland-made safe, painted wallpaper and intricate ceilings.
There’s a conservatory with leaded-glass windows and an Asian-inspired room with wallpaper made from the linings of Chinese tea boxes framed with a faux bamboo finish.
In 2003, the West Mansion was the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s designer show house, in which each room was elaborately decorated by a different interior designer and visitors paid $20 to tour the home. For the show house, the kitchen was updated with granite countertops, white cabinets and camouflaged appliances. Central air conditioning also was installed.
In the past century, the mansion has also hosted various events and weddings. The current owners have primarily used the property as a private residence.
Pictures and letters archived by Greater Portland Landmarks show the mansion fell into disarray in the period between West’s death and the 1980s. One owner illegally rented out the rooms and used the mansion as a boarding house until the city asked him to stop, documents show. The original shutters were taken off the building, the white granite columns grew dingy and gray, and the landscape was overgrown.
Shettleworth said the mansion “looked a bit like something from ‘Gone with the Wind’ ” during this time.
RESTORED TO ITS FORMER GLORY
When Maine philanthropists Albert and Judith Glickman bought the home in the 1980s, they worked with local architect George Therrien to restore the mansion to its original glory. Under the Glickmans’ ownership, the landscaping was tamed, the granite was power-washed and the shutters were put back in place, eventually qualifying the mansion for a historic marker.
The restoration, Shettleworth said, indicates the revival that the city of Portland has also undergone.
Since the Glickmans listed the property in 1989 for $1.2 million – it sold for $629,300 – the home has changed hands five times, according to city records.
A few clients have visited the home during the latest purchase opportunity, Hatcher said, but there has not been an offer yet.
Chelsea Diana can be contacted at 791-6337 or at: