Dawn Hagin and Adam Policky put their creative stamp on an historic West Bayside home.
In 1866, Portland went up in flames. It was the Fourth of July. The fire started in a boathouse on Commercial Street before spreading across town, eventually dying out on the East End. Ten thousand people were displaced and 1,800 buildings were burned to the ground. Fortunately, the house Dawn Hagin and Adam Policky live in now was not one of them.
Built in 1843, the house in West Bayside survived not only the fire, but also the kind of change that comes with the passing of two centuries. The neighborhood—wedged between the bustling downtown and a former industrial zone—is one of the peninsula’s last frontiers in terms of new development. Within just a few blocks you’ll find a host of Portland’s social services, as well as Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s.
Dawn is originally from the Chicago area, Adam is from Nebraska, and they met in California. In the mid-2000s, they started coming to New England frequently for work, most of the time flying in and out of Portland. They found themselves adding on a few days before and after each business trip and began to fall in love with the town. “It felt like the vibe of San Francisco mixed with the look of Boston,” says Dawn. They also appreciated that the city’s food scene was exploding. In 2009, they decided to make the move.
When the couple began looking for a home in 2010, they first started down the condo path. “We looked at several places on Munjoy Hill, but we had a dog that couldn’t go up stairs very easily so we finally decided that wasn’t going to work,” says Adam. Eventually, the two came across a modest house with a sizable backyard in West Bayside—a neighborhood not many people were buying into at the time. “We were amazed at the outdoor space,” recalls Dawn. “And we loved the location in the middle of everything. We are just a few blocks from the heart of the Old Port and almost equidistant to both the Eastern and Western Promenades. We can walk absolutely everywhere.”
In 2012, the couple, along with partners, started a New England-based hotel business, Lark Hotels, which anchored them to the area. With their creative backgrounds (Dawn leads marketing, advertising, and public relations for Lark; Adam is the company’s director of digital technology, as well as a photographer and lighting designer), they were also inspired by the historic bones of the house. After doing some research, they learned that it had once been owned by a mason, a fact confirmed by the bricks they kept finding in the backyard.
Despite its thoroughly urban location, the house feels like a private oasis. Rather than a front door facing the street, the main entry is tucked away on the driveway side, which opens to a foyer and the home’s original stairway. Upstairs are three bedrooms and a bathroom. To the left of the stairway on the first floor is a den with a fireplace. To the right is the main living and dining area, which the couple combined into a great room for entertaining. A 1946 addition on the back houses a newly renovated kitchen. “When we bought the place, everything was falling in back here,” says Adam. “The floor was sagging, the ceiling was sagging. We took the opportunity to blow it all out.” The couple added new flooring in the kitchen (an Italian tile that resembles wood), radiant heating, concrete and zinc countertops, and new cabinetry built by Adam.
Having collaborated on playful, personality- filled boutique hotels in New England and California—like the lodge-inspired Field Guide in Stowe, Vermont, and the rustic, retro Summercamp on Martha’s Vineyard—it’s no surprise that Dawn and Adam have spent the last six years adding their own personal touches to the historic house. Adam has done most of the work himself in collaboration with Dawn: renovating the kitchen, taking down the ceiling in the main living area to expose original wooden beams, removing a wall to uncover the original cook stove and built-ins, and creating several statement light fixtures throughout the house. The couple’s current project? An expanded bar area, just in time for their annual Obscure Cocktail Party. “The first couple
years it was like 10 of us, but now it’s grown to be this big thing,” says Dawn, who used to produce a food blog called Appetite Portland. Everyone shows up with a cocktail to share and a friend helps pair each of them with a cheese. “We tell everyone to bike or walk. It gets pretty wild.”
In the backyard that sold them on the house, Adam created a pergola strung with lights, similar to one he built for the patio at Whitehall in Camden, another Lark property. Underneath sits a table made from an old door the couple found in the basement. The setting is a quiet urban oasis, protected and private. One side of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland borders the end of the patio, and the couple says its wall is the perfect place to grow tomatoes, thanks to the heat the bricks give off. “We keep toying with the idea of having someone do a cool mural on it,” says Adam.
On a typical day, Dawn and Adam spend a lot of time in their kitchen. “Adam is an amazing cook, and we wind down from work by getting the music cranking, mixing a cocktail, and making dinner together,” says Dawn. (More accurately, Adam makes dinner while Dawn hangs out on a stool and chops vegetables or makes salad dressing.) In the summer, the two eat in the backyard; in the winter, they relax in the front den near the fire and play chess or cards, or read.
In a neighborhood on the brink of change, Dawn and Adam were early adopters. “It’s quieter than the Old Port and just enough removed,” says Dawn. “We love how Portland keeps evolving and adding cool things, like ‘Yeast’ Bayside and Thompson’s Point. As a small city, Portland may only have a few of everything, but what we have is exceptional.”