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95 5 From Down East to San Francisco Bay By his own account, Gridley Bryant was a man of extraordinary energy. Not content to work in the Boston area, he made extensive use of the new railroad lines built throughout New England to establish a regional practice . As with his work in the Boston area, securing commissions for prominent public projects was important as a means of enhancing his reputation in a given locality. Yet in his day as in our own, public projects tend to take a great deal of time and effort if they are to be carried to a successful conclusion . With elected officials as clients, there is inevitably opposition on behalf of citizens who resist spending money on architecture beyond the bare necessities. Many of the projects Bryant designed in Maine are particularly well documented, and his work in that state constitutes a significant part of his practice. It was not uncommon for Boston architects to secure major commissions “Down East.” Charles Bulfinch supplied the design for Maine’s new state house in 1829, and Richard Upjohn designed some of his most important early projects in Maine. Bryant stands out among his fellow Bostonians , however, for the number of major projects he took on, especially in the 1850s. His work in Maine, as far as is known, began in Eastport with the Boynton School in 1848 and the United States Custom House in 1849. Though remote from much of the state, Eastport, on the far northeast coast, was easily accessible by steamer. His fame in connection with the Charles Street Jail probably led directly to the commission for the Maine State Reformatory in Cape Elizabeth, now part of the city of South Portland . That building (an illustration of which was featured in at least two local newspapers), as well as Bryant’s skills at self-promotion, began to give the architect a statewide reputation.1 96 Chapter Five As noted in a previous chapter, the design for the reform school in Cape Elizabeth combines features of the Deer Island Almshouse and the firm’s jails. Constructed of brick, the building, with its Tudor Revival window and door arches, has a pronounced picturesque character (fig. 5.1). Indeed, a Portland newspaper at the time commented that the building (still prominently visible outside Portland) could be “viewed with fine effect from the western promenade in the western part of our city.”2 Not a few citizens must have expressed surprise, if not outrage, at the state’s construction of such a grand structure to house wayward boys who, it was commonly believed , lacked only proper discipline. Bryant understood that a certain percentage of people would never be won over to public expenditures for architectural aesthetics. For many citizens, however, it was important that these buildings reflect well on their community as evidence of their progressive spirit. Simultaneously with the state reformatory, Bryant secured the commission to design the Fryeburg Academy in western Maine (fig. 5.2). This Figure 5.1. Maine State Reformatory, Cape Elizabeth (now South Portland), Maine, 1851–53, Gridley J. F. Bryant, architect. Constructed as a reformatory for boys, Bryant’s distinctive architectural landmark was clearly visible from the Western Promenade, Portland’s wealthiest neighborhood. (Courtesy Maine Historic Preservation Commission) From Down East to San Francisco Bay 97 small school is similar in its exterior architectural details to the reform school. Both employed stone Tudor arches over the windows and doors as the dominant architectural motif. Yet the Fryeburg school is a much smaller structure and exhibits a freely interpreted use of masonry for stylistic features. The basic design is a square box with three bays on each elevation , a hipped roof, and a cupola for the bell. As with his other institutional buildings, Bryant introduced very large double-tier windows separated by paneled spandrels to permit ample light and ventilation. In addition to the window and door arches, decorative effect was provided in the roof of the main structure and the enclosed entrance vestibule. Both included brick corbelling of a refined and rather delicate character. At the corners, stone Figure 5.2. Fryeburg Academy, Fryeburg, Maine, 1852–53, Gridley J. F. Bryant, architect. Located in the western part of the state, this school is perhaps Bryant’s most fanciful in its ornamental treatment for an institutional structure. (Courtesy Maine Historic Preservation Commission) 98 Chapter Five quoins terminating in a stone entablature combined with the corbelling to frame each elevation. As an early photograph of...


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