Few architects  had more impact on a region’s built environment than Fred Savage, who practiced 100 years ago and more on Mt. Desert Island, and whose houses practically define the architecture of Northeast Harbor.   In the 1880’s, he worked as a draftsman for Peabody & Stearns before setting up his own practice back home on Mt. Desert, and his early shingle style houses, large and small,  demonstrate that he learned the lessons of that office well.

The H.A.C. Taylor house at Newport
Peabody & Stearns were not the only firm who inspired him.  Savage clearly admired the work of McKim, Mead & White, arguably the most influential firm of their era.   In 1885, they designed one of the seminal houses of the era, the first great formal Colonial Revival house, for H.A.C. Taylor in Newport Rhode Island. Drawing inspiration from many early American sources, yet copying no house, it was a sensation, and was to inspire a generation of similar houses. Pictured below is just one random example, the home of a Mr. Parker  in Detroit, designed by Rogers & McFarlane, published in American Architect in 1897

One of my favorites among the offspring of the Taylor house is ‘The Yellow House’ also known as ‘Rock End Colonial’, in Northeast Harbor.  It is a bijou version of the Taylor house, designed by Savage in 1892 for his brother Herman as a rental cottage in the grounds of the family’s Rock End hotel.  Its precise and formal form, a decorated square on a raised foundation and high pitched roof contrasts effectively with the shingled cottages that surround it.

‘The Yellow House’
 Savage referenced many details of the Taylor house in ‘The Yellow House’, including the broken arch pediment of the central dormer of the garden front, , and the ‘Salem’ portico of the entrance, but made them finished work his  own, with a Palladian window in the highly decorated dormer opening onto the balcony of the portico.  The white trim contrasting with yellow clapboards perfectly reference a traditional old Maine color schemes, as on the Kavanaugh house below.

Kavanaugh House at Damariscotta, Maine, an early 19th century Federal, with many of the sorts of elements  (and traditional New England color scheme) that inspired the later revivalist houses above
In later years, the ‘The Yellow House’ achieved footnote in architectural history, when it was owned by portraitist Betsy Flagg (Mrs. John) Melcher, who occupied it for many summers with her mother, Mrs. Ernest Flagg, widow of the famed Beaux Arts architect whose own portfolio included the Singer Building, one of the early great skyscrapers.

Betsy Flagg Melcher’s portrait of her summer neighbor Brooke Astor, recently sold at the  Astor  auction at Sotheby’s

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