John Calvin Stevens

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
John Calvin Stevens
John Calvin Stevens.jpg
Born (1855-10-08)October 8, 1855
Boston, Massachusetts
Died January 25, 1940(1940-01-25) (aged 84)
Portland, Maine
Nationality American
Awards Congressional Record of Recognition (2009)
Buildings State Street Church, Portland, ME
Richard Webb House, Portland, ME
Municipal Building, Skowhegan, ME
L. D. M. Sweat Galleries, Portland, ME
Saco Museum, Saco, ME
Forest Avenue Post Office, Portland, ME

John Calvin Stevens (October 8, 1855 – January 25, 1940) was an American architect who worked in two related styles — the Shingle Style, in which he was a major innovator, and the Colonial Revival style, in the first half of the 20th century. He designed more than 1,000 buildings in the state of Maine.

Early Life[edit]

John Calvin Stevens was the son of Maria Wingate and Leander Stevens, a cabinet maker and builder of fancy carriages.[1] He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but at the age of two his family moved to Portland, Maine.[2]

Stevens wanted to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but lacked the money to attend. Instead, he apprenticed in the Portland office of architect Francis H. Fassett, who in 1880 made him a junior partner to open the firm's new Boston office. Another architect working in the same building was William Ralph Emerson, whose historicist aesthetic in the Queen Anne Style had a profound effect on him.

John Calvin Stevens house, Portland, ME (1883-84). Illustration from Examples of American Domestic Architecture (1889).
Plans and interior details.

In 1877, he married Martha Louise Waldron, who bore him four children. Stevens opened his own office at Portland in 1884.


In 1888 he formed a partnership with Albert Winslow Cobb, who wrote the text and Stevens provided the illustrations for an early study of the Shingle Style: Examples of American Domestic Architecture (1889). Some sources list the firm as Cobb & Stevens, and others as Stevens & Cobb, but the partnership was dissolved in 1891. His son, John Howard Stevens, became an architect and joined the father's firm in 1898. The son became a full partner in 1904, and the firm was renamed Stevens Architects.[3]

His most-acclaimed early house — the James Hopkins Smith house in Falmouth Foreside, Maine (1886) — was featured in George William Sheldon's influential Artistic Country Seats (1886–87):

"The architect of Mr. Smith's house ... has struck out for himself, with due regard for the spirit and meaning of classic works, but without subservience to their details. Effect has been sought by strength of mass and simplicity of form. ...[I]t is natural, in the highest and best sense of the word."[4]

In the comprehensive survey The Shingle Style (1955), Vincent Scully described the Smith house as "the pièce de résistance in Sheldon," "a more sweeping and coherent version of Stevens' own house," and "Stevens' masterpiece in this kind of design." The architectural historian also praised "his powerful alterations for the Poland Springs House, a summer hotel."[5]

Houses designed by Stevens can be found along the Maine coast, as well as in Portland (particularly the city's elegant West End) and its suburbs. He also designed public libraries, municipal buildings, grand hotels and churches as well as nine buildings for the campus of Hebron Academy, which included the Psi Upsilon Fraternity House on the Bowdoin College campus.

In one of his rare commissions outside of Maine, he created a master plan for and designed, a chapel and at least six barracks buildings at the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers ("Southern Branch") in Hampton, Virginia.

Other Aspects[edit]

Stevens was also a landscape painter who belonged to the "Brushians," a Portland art group which went on weekend outings, and exhibited his work with the Boston Art Club, the Portland Society of Art and others. An oil painting by Stevens, Delano Park, Cape Elizabeth (1904), is in the collection of Blaine House, the Maine governor's official residence.[6]

He was also an avid art collector. He donated, Afternoon Fog by Winslow Homer, adjudged in 1914 as the most valuable work of art in the collection of the L. D. M. Sweat Memorial Art Museum, today's Portland Museum of Art.[7]

In 1889, Stevens was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.[8]

He died in 1940, and is buried in Portland's Evergreen Cemetery.

In recognition of his over 300 buildings on the Portland peninsula, with dozens more in the surrounding neighborhoods and islands, the city declared October 8, 2009 to be John Calvin Stevens Day. The ceremony included a Congressional Record of Recognition presented by the office of Senator Olympia Snowe.[9]

Selected buildings[edit]

State Street Congregational Church, Portland, ME (1892-93). Stevens wrapped the existing wooden church in sandstone, and added the Gothic tower and facade.
Brown Memorial Library, Clinton, ME (1903).
Brooks Leavitt house, Wilton, ME (c.1925).
Bay of Naples Inn, Naples, ME (1899, demolished 1964).
Building 70, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers ("Southern Branch"), Hampton, VA (1908).




Other buildings[edit]


  1. ^ Stevens Genealogy
  2. ^ Stephen Abbott, John Calvin Stevens, the Early Years, Maine Home & Design 2007
  3. ^ Kevin Murphy & Kim Brian Lovejoy, Colonial Revival Maine, Princeton Architectural Press 2004
  4. ^ George William Sheldon, Artistic Country Seats I (New York, 1886-87), pp. 177-80, plate 41.
  5. ^ Vincent J. Scully, Jr., The Shingle Style (Yale University Press, 1955), p. 118.
  6. ^ Friends of the Blaine House,
  7. ^ Portland Society of Art, Maine, American Art Directory, Vol. 11, R. R. Bowker, 1914
  8. ^ "John Calvin Stevens," in Harrie B. Coe, Maine: A History, Volume 1 (Clearfield, 1928), p. 35.
  9. ^ The Forecaster, 'An indelible mark': Portland to honor the legacy of John Calvin Stevens
  10. ^ Congregational Church
  11. ^ Sanford Baptist Church from Maine Memory Network.
  12. ^ Henry Sweetser Burrage & Albert Roscoe Stubbs, Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine, Volume 3, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York 1909
  13. ^ First Baptist
  14. ^ State St. Church from Maine Memory Network.
  15. ^ Freeport Baptist Church from Maine Memory Network.
  16. ^ Hancock Point Chapel from Flickr.
  17. ^ Williston-West Church
  18. ^ Zadoc Long Free Library
  19. ^ Rumford Fall Library from Maine Memory Network.
  20. ^ Knight Library from Maine Memory Network.
  21. ^ Davis Memorial Library
  22. ^ History of Winthrop, Maine 1771-1925, p. 111.
  23. ^ Plan for Paris Public Library from Maine Memory Network.
  24. ^ Elevation for Paris Public Library from Maine Memory Network.
  25. ^ Bethel Library
  26. ^ Wright cottage from Maine Memory Network.
  27. ^ Stevens house from Maine Memory Network.
  28. ^ Winslow Homer studio
  29. ^ Winslow Homer house
  30. ^ J.H. Smith house from Maine Memory Network.
  31. ^ Thornhurst from Maine Memory Network.
  32. ^ Belfield from Maine Memory Network.
  33. ^ Belfield from Maine Memory Network.
  34. ^ Deering house from Maine Memory Network.
  35. ^ Endcliffe from Maine Memory Network.
  36. ^ Johnson house from Hallowell Phototour.
  37. ^ Oak Bank
  38. ^ Psi Upsilon
  39. ^ Hill house
  40. ^ Cox house
  41. ^ Webb house from Maine Memory Network.
  42. ^ Files house from Maine Memory Network.
  43. ^ Oxford House Inn
  44. ^ Elmhurst from Fotki.
  45. ^ Spring house from Maine Memory Network.
  46. ^ Stone House from USM.
  47. ^ Gazebo
  48. ^ Poland Spring House diningroom from Maine Memory Network.
  49. ^ Biddeford City Hall
  50. ^ City Theater
  51. ^ Tides Inn-by-the-Sea
  52. ^ Southern Branch from NPS.
  53. ^ Nathan Clifford Elementary
  54. ^ Skowhegan Municipal Building
  55. ^ Camden Yacht Club
  56. ^ Pike Hall
  57. ^ Saco Museum
  58. ^ Forest Avenue Post Office from Maine Memory Network.
  59. ^ Uptown Theatre from Maine Memory Network.

Further reading[edit]

  • John Calvin Stevens, domestic architecture, 1890-1930, by John Calvin Stevens II, and Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. Scarborough, Me. : Harp Publications, 1990. ISBN 0-9626389-1-9.
  • John Calvin Stevens on the Portland Peninsula 1880 -1940, A listing of his work by Address, Client, and Chronology, by Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Director, Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

External links[edit]