April 3, 2011

Open House: Midwestern accent

Amid the cottages and colonials of South Portland's Meetinghouse Hill sits a Prairie-inspired gem.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND - When asked if she has a favorite room in her house -- a classic 1923 Craftsman/Prairie-influenced home filled with original features -- Jennifer Goldman answers in a snap.

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The home’s exterior.

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The main living space in Jennifer Goldman and Sara Lewis’ Pillsbury Street home in South Portland is open and flows into the sunroom, dining room and kitchen. The house has elements of both the Prairie and Craftsman styles.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


LOCATION: Pillsbury Street, near Willard Beach, South Portland

STYLE: Prairie/Craftsman influences, with a definite Prairie-style look to the exterior.

OWNER: Sara Lewis and Jennifer Goldman. Lewis is a portfolio manager at Spinnaker Trust in Portland; Goldman is an account executive for the American Red Cross.

HISTORY: Built in 1923 for Carlos Hill. The house stayed in the Hill family until 2000, and had only one other owner before Lewis and Goldman bought it in 2006.

WHAT MAKES IT STAND OUT: The Prairie-style look on the outside -- rare in Maine -- exemplified by a low-sloping hipped roof with a wide overhang, two full stories and large banks of four or five windows hung in a row; a classic sunroom on one side of home; the interior is full of original features, including dark-stained woodwork and original hanging light fixtures and sconces.

SURPRISING FEATURES: The sunroom has two sets of French doors, one leading to the living room and one to the dining room; although the house has been rewired, several old light-switch knobs remain in use; the fireplace has two Arts and Crafts-style designs built into the brick.


"OPEN HOUSE" is a monthly series in Home & Garden profiling eye-catching, historic or innovative homes around Maine.

TO SUBMIT a home for this series, contact Ray Routhier at rrouthier@pressherald.com or at 791-6454.

"The sunroom is our favorite," said Goldman, who bought the 1923 house on Pillsbury Street with her partner, Sara Lewis, in 2006. "Definitely."

The sunroom combines many of the features that make the house unique. There's a dark-stained beadboard ceiling and original hardwood floors. There's a bank of four huge, dark-stained windows hung side by side, with extra-wide frames on each. There are also banks of windows on both ends of the room, flooding it with light.

Then there are two sets of French doors -- again, with dark-stained wood -- leading into the rest of the house. One set leads into the living room and another, just a few feet away on the same wall, leads to the dining room. These doors help bring light and air into the rest of the house, creating the kind of flow many Craftsman-era houses are known for.

The rest of the house flows well, too. From the living room -- with its bank of five windows looking onto the street -- a person can stand in one spot and see into the entrance hall, the kitchen, the dining room and the sunroom.

Goldman used to live in another Craftsman-style home in the same part of South Portland, and she and Lewis both appreciate older homes. So this one, with its wealth of original details and quality features, didn't take much selling.

"As soon Sara walked in, she said, 'I'll take it,' " said Goldman.

Besides the woodwork and windows, another original feature that stands out is the lighting. Throughout the house, there are original hanging light fixtures with frosted glass shades, and original sconces. There are also some original push-knob light switches, although the house has been rewired.

The kitchen has original cabinets and metal drawer handles, but the owners at some point would like to make some updates. Much of the storage is low, and one has to kneel down to access it.

One of the reasons so many parts of the home are original is that the family of Carlos Hill -- who the house was built for in 1923 -- owned the house until 2000. The home only had one other owner before Lewis and Goldman bought it in 2006.

Goldman and Lewis have several historic documents regarding the house, including the original bill of sale and Hill's marriage license. So they know, for instance, that the Hills were also married in 1923. The house was awarded a plaque designating it as historic from Greater Portland Landmarks about 10 years ago.



While the interior is filled with Craftsman-style details -- as other houses in the Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood of South Portland are -- the exterior is fairly rare in Maine for its decidedly Prairie-style appearance.

The Prairie influence can be seen in the low-pitched hipped roof and broad overhang, the two full stories, and the banks of four or five windows in several places. Leafing through a book of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes, one can see similar elements in his Prairie designs and this home.

Goldman and Lewis have furnished the house with pieces that match its era and style. The sunroom has dark leather chairs, while the dining room has a Mission-style table and chairs and a vintage china cabinet.

The interior wall colors are in keeping with the period, and the homeowners found them in the Sherwin-Williams Arts & Crafts color catalog. The living room is muted green, the dining room is a vibrant rust and the sunroom is a slightly burnt orange.

Upstairs, there's a bedroom with a little nook that was probably originally intended as a nursery attached to the master bedroom. It's now used as an office. The smallest of the bedrooms is a guest room the owners call the "treehouse" room. The bed's foot and head boards have wrought-iron tree branches, and the curtains and art in the room carry out a tree and leaf theme.

Plus, when the leaves are off the trees outside, the room has a view down Pillsbury Street to the ocean at Willard Beach.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:



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Additional Photos

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The sunroom, the owners’ favorite space.

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At certain times of the year, the “treehouse” room has views of the ocean off Willard Beach.

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The house retains many original features, including the woodwork in this stairwell.

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Old push-button light switches.

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An antique light fixture.


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