Sylvan Site: A Model Development

Images from the Maine Historical Society

Starting life as a mill worker in Princeton, Maine, Frederick Wheeler Hinckley eventually became a noted trial attorney in Portland with an unusual hobby -- designing houses.

Hinckley began by building his own home, Clyfdale Villa on Sawyer Street in South Portland, for his bride, Blanche Richards, in 1907. The Southern colonial style house included 21 acres of grounds.

When the Million Dollar Bridge was completed in 1917, Hinckley saw an opportunity. The bridge drastically improved travel between Portland and South Portland, as did the rise of the automobile and the street trolleys. He purchased 85 more acres of land near Clyfdale Villa and began working on plans for a model housing development.

Hinckley designed all the homes himself, purchased all the building materials, and supervised construction. Houses varied in size and price, although all were of quality materials and workmanship. Hinckley intended to include garages, lot of closets, modern bathrooms, and other amenities.

Plumbing, heating, and electric manufacturers used the homes to show off their products. Hinckley also worked to build the best roads and to provide landscaping along sidewalks. He put in sewers that he donated to South Portland.

The homes are a testament to one man's vision of how people might live in the years between the two world wars.

The photographs were taken by Walter R. Fenley of Portland and were then hand tinted.

Source: Barbara Duff, "Sylvan Site: Frederick Wheeler Hinckley's Model Community," Landmarks Observer, July-August 1983

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