Maine, a Guide down East

By Workers of the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Maine | Go to book overview

ARCHITECTURE

MAINE architecture has reflected the conservative, substantial, and practical characteristics of Maine people from the time the first roof was raised in the State to the present day. Climatic conditions and the abundance of superior-quality wood, sole basis of construction until about the nineteenth century, led to the evolution of architectural types in Maine common to the New England States as a whole. Maine architecture of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (and, to a considerable degree, that of today, since many of the architectural traditions of those centuries have been upheld) was highly satisfactory from an esthetic as well as a practical point of view. Eminently suited to its time and its place, the State's architecture expressed a people and a way of living, it 'belonged' to its particular background and landscape. Even though their designs were derived elsewhere, were adaptations of existing forms, the better architectural examples were more than imitations; they had a definite indigenous quality peculiar to themselves. A sane and humanized relation to the environment characterized the development of Maine's architecture from period to period.

It is assumed that the earliest Maine dwellings were huts of branches, rushes, turf, and thatch, often built into a hillside, such as were found farther south in the early seventeenth century. Such dwellings were familiar to England in that period, due largely to the scarcity of wood for building purposes. Contrary to popular belief, the log house or cabin, which is still found here occasionally, was not native to Maine or New England. The type was unknown in England, and was presumably introduced to America towards the middle of the seventeenth century. English half-timbered methods of construction were employed in Maine, but proved unsatisfactory due to extremes in temperature and excessive snows and rains.

In respect to the two major standards of structural beauty and practicality, early Maine architecture admirably fulfilled both requirements. As elsewhere in New England, native architecture, particularly that between 1760 and 1820, influenced later architecture throughout the country, although it had little effect upon any other than domestic design. Architectural types prevailing in the State until well into the nineteenth

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