Nominate your favorite Maine businesses for Best of Maine!

The New Owners of Portland’s Edward Cox House Can’t Believe Their Good Fortune

Designed for a banker by John Calvin Stevens, the West End home maintains many of its original features.

in the living room, West Elm swivel chairs that can face the baby grand or a puzzle on the reclaimed-wood coffee table
By Sarah Stebbins
Photos by Erin Little
From our March 2024 issue

Around 1905, banker Edward Cox hired famed architect John Calvin Stevens to design a state-of-the-art Portland home for his family and, presumably, his fortune. Brass-plated intercoms with buttons for “billiard room,” “third hall,” “stable,” and other spots facilitated communication between the owners and their staff. Beneath the dining-room table, a brass foot pedal wired to a bell in the kitchen could be employed to summon a servant. And in the basement, a steel bank vault safeguarded . . . “gold bars?” surmises current owner Keith Rosenberg. He and his wife, Lauren, were charmed by the century-old home’s eccentricities and architectural pedigree when they first visited, in 2017. But it was the Edward Cox House’s long history of sheltering families that really resonated. The Rosenbergs purchased it from a couple who raised three boys there; another set of owners had six children. “The foot pedal survived all those kids,” Keith says. “Then ours broke it.”

Living Room

The family’s primary gathering spot (pictured at top) is multifunctional, with West Elm swivel chairs that can face the baby grand or a puzzle on the reclaimed-wood coffee table. The opposite end of the room houses a play area. “Fun, whimsical, colorful is the theme of our art,” says Lauren, who juxtaposed a Lisa Congdon painting with industrial elements, including a console she and Keith fashioned from salvaged wood and plumbing pipe and a reproduction Serge Mouille ceiling fixture.

exterior of the Edward Cox House, in Portland's West End

Exterior

Stevens designed the West End home in the Colonial Revival style, with a columned porch framing a broad door with a leaded-glass sidelight. Lauren, an architect from New York, admits she hadn’t heard of the architectural luminary before touring the house. Now, she gets the hype. “There are very smart things,” she says, like facing living areas that feel connected yet distinct, and interior windows that illuminate the main staircase.

a fitted with a window seat whose cushion was redone in Rifle Paper Co. fabric by Yarmouth’s Pistol Pete’s Upholstery in the Edward Cox House’s pyramidal dormer

Playroom

The couple’s kids, ages 5, 6, and 8, gather in the home’s pyramidal dormer, fitted with a window seat whose cushion was redone in Rifle Paper Co. fabric by Yarmouth’s Pistol Pete’s Upholstery. Before the Rosenbergs bought the house, the prior owners invited them to spend a few hours alone there. “Keith ran around, yelling, and we ran through scenarios like, if we have a big sleepover upstairs, what will we hear?” Lauren says. This expansive third-floor space, outfitted with a pull-out sectional and basketball arcade game, was deemed the future sleepover spot.

paintings by Soos Roxana Gabriela and Woody Jackson brighten the oak-paneled dining room

Dining Room

Vibrant paintings by Soos Roxana Gabriela and Woody Jackson (creator of the Ben & Jerry’s cows) brighten the oak-paneled dining room. Oak flooring gives way to humbler maple in the former servants’ quarters on the other side of the doorway. Staff occupied a kitchen, scullery, and butler’s pantry on the first floor and a warren of bedrooms and workrooms above.

original painted-leather wallcovering and built-in bench with inset seascapes and a horsehair-stuffed leather cushion in the billiard room

Billiard Room

With its original painted-leather wallcovering and built-in bench with inset seascapes and a horsehair-stuffed leather cushion, this basement hangout feels like a portal to the Victorian era. The dentils on the fireplace reference the dining-room mantel. In an adjacent corridor, a paneled-wood door conceals original homeowner Edward Cox’s bank vault, secured with bolts and a combination lock on a gilded-steel door embellished with a stenciled border.

an Elvis painting from Portland vintage shop The Merchant Company sits on on the living-room mantel

The King

Keith unearthed this $30 Elvis painting at Portland vintage shop The Merchant Company, and propped it on the living-room mantel when Lauren wasn’t around. “It’s the worst painting,” he says with a laugh. “Nothing is to scale. And why does one leg have two shadows and the other has one? But it’s a conversation piece.” Lauren would love to knock The King off his pedestal, but concedes, “it’s not a battle worth fighting.”

the den is furnished with furnished with a West Elm sofa and vintage rug

Den

When swapping out lighting, Lauren aims to honor the home’s original period or “do something completely different and fun,” as was the case with the den’s ethereal Artemide ceiling fixture with flower-like, frosted-glass shades. The Rosenbergs’ 8-year-old daughter often holes up in this cozy room — furnished with a West Elm sofa and vintage rug and seldom used by the rest of the family — and calls her grandmothers. “That definitely makes having the space worth it,” Lauren says.

April 2024, Down East Magazine

Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.