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Posts Tagged ‘history’

In 1924, the Portland Assessors Department took photos of every residential property in the city. Alongside the photos there were notes taken of many details of the dwellings. I went to City Hall today to look up the record for 58 Turner Street and it revealed some unexpected info and this amazing photograph!

Two Cats in the Yard c. 1924.

Two Cats in the Yard c. 1924.

Equally amazing to us are the giant bay window (long gone, but whose footprint still defines the living room wall) and the huge shed dormer on the roof! Did someone live up there? As to what other interesting details we found:

1. The property had two addresses: one for each front door. The door in the picture with the ornate overhang (to the left) [Ed note: Does anyone know the architectural term for this?] was #58 and the other door (now smack in the middle of the kitchen/dining room) was #60 Turner street. Given that each side had a stairway to the second floor, we are now officially assuming that this was a duplex or apartment house of some kind.

2. When we first saw the house, we knew there must have been a third window upstairs, to the left of Sadie’s two windows. During demo, we found evidence of one, but here it is, clearly pictured (above the #60 door)!

3. The house had shutters! And the guess we made with our window lights (2-over-1) was pretty close! In this picture the house has 2-over-2 glass. (Glad we didn’t go with 6-over-1 or 6-over-6).

4. Again, the theory that we might have a foot or two of land rears its head. If you look at this sketch on the back of the page, you see a tiny strip of land on the side of the house:

See that strip on the right-hand side? Do we or do we not have more land?!

See that strip on the right-hand side? Do we or do we not have more land?!

4. The house was assessed at $1,330, and listed as being in “Fair” condition, even at only 50 years old.

5. The owner in 1924 was Nicholas Peterson (my first name), the census taker’s name was Johnson (my last name) and the date of survey was April 15th (my sister’s birthday). Another owner at one time had the last name of Blaisdell (the street I grew up on in Minneapolis).

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Agnes Kerr's poetry book. (Thanks to Maine Historical Society)

Agnes Kerr's poetry book. (Thanks to Maine Historical Society)

We joined the Maine Historical Society today and I spent the afternoon in the research library, with gloved hands, looking through the Kerr Collection: two file boxes full of photos, letters, deeds, wills, receipts and IOUs from the Kerr and Dailey families dated from the late 1800’s to the 1950’s. I fixed on the Kerr collection because the librarian, at my request, had looked up Munjoy Hill on her reference computer and found that the Kerrs were Hill residents and I might find some interesting period photos.

Well, it turns out that the Kerrs actually lived on Turner Street (#38) and not only were there some great photos of our hood, but (the elder) Agnes Kerr also kept a book of poetry with all kinds of nautical reveries. The following is an ode to the neighborhood, some stanzas omitted due to poor cameraphone quality:

I Sat On Munjoy’s Pleasant Height

Agnes Kerr (or Mary Dailey Kerr, I need to double-check)

_______

I sat on Mnujoy’s pleasant height
One Sabbath afternoon.
Twas August, and the short twilight
Would close in very soon.

Below me lay the city,
And stretched both far and wide
A pleasant space of country,
And the bay with its falling tide.

How beautiful the city looks,
Both far and near today,
How pleasant all the shady nooks,
As the sun sets o’er the bay.

Now glistens the tide in the sunset glow,
How gently and warmly the south winds blow,
How quiet and calm doth the city look
With its every tree and every nook.

List, to the barking dogs,
Below here in the street,
Driving home the cows and hogs
Out of the quiet street.

Hark! the Angelus is ringing,
Evening’s drawing nigh.
Birds their homeward flights are winging,
Above the city high.

Slowly the sun sinks in the sky,
The winds now sink to rest.
A gentle breeze is stirring high,
And ruddy in the west.

_______

I can think of only one place Kerr could have been perched when she wrote these lines: a tiny park, about four blocks from her house, at the crest of Munjoy Hill called Standpipe Park. There is a small lookout which presides over Back Bay and offers sweeping views of downtown Portland.

38 Turner Street, the Kerr House, today.

38 Turner Street, the Kerr House, today.

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Wilf Carter

Wilf Carter

Click to play \”Little Old Log Shack\” by Wilf Carter

I had my “Classic Country” genre on shuffle the other day (a pleasure only to be enjoyed when Reeve is not at home) when this song came on and made me feel a bit better about the house. Not sure why, but I guess if Wilf Carter would happily trade electricity and, presumably, ¬†bamboo floors and concrete countertops, for moonlight and coyotes then we should be able to as well.

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The Horseman Strikes Gold!

medal_brand_ready_roofing

The Horeseman found this nugget while tearing up the kitchen floor. It is “floor paper” which was laid under the planks and this label (about 10″ by 12″) is of the C.M. Rice Paper Company in Portland, Maine which, upon Googling, still exists here today on Exchange Street in the Old Port. This discovery helps to date the first addition of the house to the late 1800’s (this label commemorated (weirdly) the company’s first 38 years: 1854-1892.

I wonder if the new addition included a bathroom, assuming Munjoy Hill received indoor plumbing around 1900, 25 years after our house was built.

Bigger version of the label is here and a giant version is here.

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