House Tour

Past Perfect

A young family puts their stamp on a 19th-century blacksmith’s Portland home.

TEXT BY JEN DEROSE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
STYLED BY JANICE DUNWOOODY
the former home of blacksmith Thomas Delano and John Calvin Stevens's architectural firm in Portland Maine

ABOVE Ginger cat Roger Dodger presides over Claire and Mike Hammen’s Portland living room, formerly home to John Calvin Stevens’s architectural firm. Mike discovered the fireplace paneling — painted Benjamin Moore’s Trout Gray — beneath a layer of plaster.

Sitting in the kitchen of his 1800 Federal home in Portland with his wife, Claire, Mike Hammen holds up a hammered metal fishing hook nearly the size of his palm. “It’s my favorite thing we’ve found,” he says of the ancient fastener he unearthed while removing 1950s-era bookshelves in the study. “It’s so representative of Portland and its blacksmith back in that time.

That blacksmith was Thomas Delano, who commissioned the home and its carriage house and lived there with his wife and four children. Known for his brawn, he is the subject of many legends, one of which has him moving a 1,200-pound anchor from a wharf to a ship for a crew of struggling mariners in exchange for a pair of shoes. When the sailors didn’t make good on their promise, Delano tossed the anchor back onto the dock.

After his death, the home passed on to a customs collector and U.S. district judge, before becoming the headquarters of John Calvin Stevens’s architectural firm, then run by his son and grandson, in the 1960s. (The Hammens have a copy of the firm’s blueprints showing “JCS’s” desk in the living room, where, on this evening, their 7-year-old son, Foster, is watching a cartoon.)

When the couple purchased the house 14 years ago (“after looking at it once in November with the heat turned off,” Claire recalls), they had their work cut out for them. They re-shingled the roof and re-landscaped the yard, ripped out old carpeting and refinished the floors, and removed layers of wallpaper and oil paint. “If you pulled a piece of wallpaper a little too hard, plaster would come crumbling down,” Mike says — a scourge that led to a decade-long relationship with Limington plaster restorer Peter Lord Plaster & Paint.

ABOVE Cabinetry by Cumberland’s Cape Shore Woodworking, painted Benjamin Moore’s Bracken Slate, and a French table from R. Jorgensen Antiques in Wells distinguish the kitchen, designed with help from Boston architect Claës Andreasen. A bit of lathe was left exposed as a reminder of the home’s good bones.

1800 Federal Home in Portland Maine
Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper in the entry way
grandfather clock in the living room of the 1800 Federal home in Portland Maine
graphic-tile backsplash in the kitchen

FROM LEFT 1) A circa 1921 portico features a celestial mural. 2) Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper enlivens the entry. 3) In the living room, a mid-century-style Jonathan Louis sofa is a clean counterpoint to an antique table and grandfather clock from Mike’s dad. 4) A graphic-tile backsplash from Distinctive Tile & Design crowns the kitchen’s AGA stove.

Perched on a quiet downtown street, with a carriage stone out front and glimpses of the Portland Museum of Art through its six-over-six windows, the home has an elegant simplicity with its painted, wide-plank floors that shine with age; ivory walls juxtaposed with paneled woodwork in muted historic colors; spare brass chandeliers; and a clear division of rooms. The current trend may be to open things up, but the Hammens were adamant about leaving the home’s four-over-four floor plan, and period features, intact. “If you mess with that, then you mess with the historical integrity of the place,” Mike says.

They were willing, however, to take creative license in areas where historic authenticity had long since been stripped away. “This is an old house,” Claire says, “not a museum.” In the kitchen, which had undergone a 1960s renovation that yielded an awkward layout (and no ventilation system), they installed paneled cabinetry crafted by Cumberland’s Cape Shore Woodworking, soapstone countertops, and a geometric-tile backsplash above a rustic AGA stove. In the guest bath, made over in the 1950s with baby-blue tile and scenic wallpaper, they painted the existing claw-foot tub glossy black and added a corner shower with industrial, steel-and-glass doors and quatrefoil-patterned, black-and-white floor tile inspired by a design they saw in France.

Americana wooden whale over the restored fireplace

ABOVE The Hammens purchased the kitchen’s Americana wooden whale from Rick Poore, of 18th Century Restorations in Standish, an antiques dealer/master carpenter who helped restore the fireplace millwork.

Here they are following in the footsteps of past residents who have made their own bold marks on the home. Take the gable-roof portico, a likely 1921 addition, adorned with a 1970s or ’80s hand-painted ceiling mural of a blue sky strewn with cumulous clouds. Along one edge, a small gargoyle peeks out, keeping watch — and delighting passersby. “We’ll often see people out on the sidewalk pointing at it,” Mike says. “It brings so much joy, it had to stay.”

antique bureau
master bedroom
guest bathroom
artifacts found the 1800 Federal home in Portland Maine
bookshelves connect main home with ell

ABOVE 1) A second-hand lamp from South Portland’s The Lamp Repair Shop tops an antique bureau in the master bedroom, finished in California Paints’ Hitching Post on the woodwork. 2) The room also features Japanese woodblock prints from Portland’s Lovell Hall, an antique blanket chest, and Roger Dodger. 3) Mike ordered the guest bath’s “London phone booth” shower doors online. Portland’s Old Port Specialty Tile Co. and Distinctive Tile & Design supplied the marble shower tile and patterned floor tile, respectively, and Sam Williams, also of Portland, took care of the install. 4) Artifacts found in the walls and attic include: tin photos, a metal button, a fishing hook, an 1805 promissory note issued in schillings, and a pencil. 5) Bookshelves separate the main home and ell, added around 1870 to connect the carriage house. 

Past Perfect

A young family puts their stamp on a 19th-century blacksmith’s Portland home.

the former home of blacksmith Thomas Delano and John Calvin Stevens's architectural firm in Portland Maine

ABOVE Ginger cat Roger Dodger presides over Claire and Mike Hammen’s Portland living room, formerly home to John Calvin Stevens’s architectural firm. Mike discovered the fireplace paneling — painted Benjamin Moore’s Trout Gray — beneath a layer of plaster.

TEXT BY JEN DEROSE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
STYLED BY JANICE DUNWOOODY

Sitting in the kitchen of his 1800 Federal home in Portland with his wife, Claire, Mike Hammen holds up a hammered metal fishing hook nearly the size of his palm. “It’s my favorite thing we’ve found,” he says of the ancient fastener he unearthed while removing 1950s-era bookshelves in the study. “It’s so representative of Portland and its blacksmith back in that time.

ABOVE Cabinetry by Cumberland’s Cape Shore Woodworking, painted Benjamin Moore’s Bracken Slate, and a French table from R. Jorgensen Antiques in Wells distinguish the kitchen, designed with help from Boston architect Claës Andreasen. A bit of lathe was left exposed as a reminder of the home’s good bones.

That blacksmith was Thomas Delano, who commissioned the home and its carriage house and lived there with his wife and four children. Known for his brawn, he is the subject of many legends, one of which has him moving a 1,200-pound anchor from a wharf to a ship for a crew of struggling mariners in exchange for a pair of shoes. When the sailors didn’t make good on their promise, Delano tossed the anchor back onto the dock.

After his death, the home passed on to a customs collector and U.S. district judge, before becoming the headquarters of John Calvin Stevens’s architectural firm, then run by his son and grandson, in the 1960s. (The Hammens have a copy of the firm’s blueprints showing “JCS’s” desk in the living room, where, on this evening, their 7-year-old son, Foster, is watching a cartoon.)

ABOVE 1) A circa 1921 portico features a celestial mural. 2)Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper enlivens the entry. 3) In the living room, a mid-century-style Jonathan Louis sofa is a clean counterpoint to an antique table and grandfather clock from Mike’s dad. 4) A graphic-tile backsplash from Distinctive Tile & Design crowns the kitchen’s AGA stove.

When the couple purchased the house 14 years ago (“after looking at it once in November with the heat turned off,” Claire recalls), they had their work cut out for them. They re-shingled the roof and re-landscaped the yard, ripped out old carpeting and refinished the floors, and removed layers of wallpaper and oil paint. “If you pulled a piece of wallpaper a little too hard, plaster would come crumbling down,” Mike says — a scourge that led to a decade-long relationship with Limington plaster restorer Peter Lord Plaster & Paint.

Perched on a quiet downtown street, with a carriage stone out front and glimpses of the Portland Museum of Art through its six-over-six windows, the home has an elegant simplicity with its painted, wide-plank floors that shine with age; ivory walls juxtaposed with paneled woodwork in muted historic colors; spare brass chandeliers; and a clear division of rooms. The current trend may be to open things up, but the Hammens were adamant about leaving the home’s four-over-four floor plan, and period features, intact. “If you mess with that, then you mess with the historical integrity of the place,” Mike says.

Americana wooden whale over the restored fireplace

ABOVE The Hammens purchased the kitchen’s Americana wooden whale from Rick Poore, of 18th Century Restorations in Standish, an antiques dealer/master carpenter who helped restore the fireplace millwork.

They were willing, however, to take creative license in areas where historic authenticity had long since been stripped away. “This is an old house,” Claire says, “not a museum.” In the kitchen, which had undergone a 1960s renovation that yielded an awkward layout (and no ventilation system), they installed paneled cabinetry crafted by Cumberland’s Cape Shore Woodworking, soapstone countertops, and a geometric-tile backsplash above a rustic AGA stove. In the guest bath, made over in the 1950s with baby-blue tile and scenic wallpaper, they painted the existing claw-foot tub glossy black and added a corner shower with industrial, steel-and-glass doors and quatrefoil-patterned, black-and-white floor tile inspired by a design they saw in France.

Here they are following in the footsteps of past residents who have made their own bold marks on the home. Take the gable-roof portico, a likely 1921 addition, adorned with a 1970s or ’80s hand-painted ceiling mural of a blue sky strewn with cumulous clouds. Along one edge, a small gargoyle peeks out, keeping watch — and delighting passersby. “We’ll often see people out on the sidewalk pointing at it,” Mike says. “It brings so much joy, it had to stay.”

ABOVE 1) A second-hand lamp from South Portland’s The Lamp Repair Shop tops an antique bureau in the master bedroom, finished in California Paints’ Hitching Post on the woodwork. 2)The room also features Japanese woodblock prints from Portland’s Lovell Hall, an antique blanket chest, and Roger Dodger. 3) Mike ordered the guest bath’s “London phone booth” shower doors online. Portland’s Old Port Specialty Tile Co. and Distinctive Tile & Design supplied the marble shower tile and patterned floor tile, respectively, and Sam Williams, also of Portland, took care of the install. 4) Artifacts found in the walls and attic include: tin photos, a metal button, a fishing hook, an 1805 promissory note issued in schillings, and a pencil. 5) Bookshelves separate the main home and ell, added around 1870 to connect the carriage house. 


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