Wednesday, October 30, 2002

History lost in now stalled project

Published in the Current and the American Journal

Nearly complete on the outside, but utterly abandoned, a new version of an historic house sits on Shore Road behind orange fencing and signs warning against trespassing. Its view is a commanding one of the ocean, but from the road it looks lost and alone.

Work has stopped on the house, after nearly a year of demolition and reconstruction, because the owners are taking care of family business out of state, according to project architect and builder Marcel Nadeau of Anastos and Nadeau of Yarmouth.

Nadeau said the owners, Darrell and Patricia Mayeux of South Portland, did not tell him if or when work would resume, and added that he thought they might try to sell the home.

The house was not a John Calvin Stevens house, as some in town had thought, but was designed by another prominent Portland-area architect in
the late 1890s and early 1900s, and was almost entirely original as recently as 1998.

The house, at 878 Shore Road, was designed by Austin W. Pease and built by Mrs. George F. Thurston sometime before 1910, according to Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. In 1910, a pen sketch of the ocean side of the house was published in the journal of the Portland Board of Trade, Shettleworth said.

Pease also designed a house, at 20 Summit Road, which made it onto an expanded list of historic structures that failed to gain Town Council approval in December 2001. At that time, the council also did away with an existing list of structures subject to a 45-day waiting period before any demolition could occur.

The Mayeux house was not on either of those lists, but still interested Shettleworth.

Photos taken when the house was on the market in 1998, Shettleworth said, indicate that it was “largely unaltered” over the past 100 years, both inside and out. He said that before renovations and remodeling began, “the present owners had an early 20th century shingle-style summer cottage.”

The past year’s work, he said, was best described as “extensive modeling and enlargement.”

“What they did was to radically alter the appearance of the house,” Shettleworth said. Some of the features have been preserved, he said, while others are no longer there.

Two bay windows next to the main entrance are still in the remodeled house, but the “eyebrow dormer” window originally on the third floor was removed to make way for an expanded gambrel, which is both taller and includes more windows than the Pease version, Shettleworth said.

He said the interior photos from 1998 indicate the inside was probably very close to the original as well, and he does not know what has happened to the inside during renovations.

The garage and octagonal turret were added recently, he said, and were not part of the Pease design.

Shettleworth said this type of project worries him. “Those of us concerned about historic preservation in Maine discourage owners from doing this
level of alteration” to largely intact buildings of that age, he said. Even if the new home looks like the old one, there are small changes that make it less than it was. “It’s not the original house,” he said.

Project architect Nadeau said he did not know that the house had any historic value.

The owners did not return multiple phone calls from the Current.