Let's get the sad, bad news over with first. One of Maine's most romantic ruins, the picturesque, melting Victorian on Route 1 in Searsport, is being slowly dismantled by its owner.
Along with many other intrigued passersby, I've photographed this house a few times in recent years. Here's a photo from this past June:
I was surprised to find a link to A Proper Bostonian in this article in the Bangor Daily News.
Here's another story from WABI-TV.
I never walked around to the back of the house or even got very close to it (tall grass, ticks, possible snakes, vestigial sense of propriety, twelve years of Catholic school). The back of the house collapsed after the hard winter of 2014–15, making it more dangerous for explorers. I would have liked to have seen it.
It didn't stop this intrepid Maine artist and blogger, whose posts about the house include her recent photos of the interior. (Now I will forever wish I had less propriety and Catholic schooling. But her adventure proved the code-enforcement officer's point.) She also talked to the owner and wrote about the early history as well as the more recent history of the house.
Here is a photo of the house in its heyday, looking perfectly groomed:
Photo by Harriet Hichborn. Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum, Searsport, Maine.
The Museum has an extensive and interesting online photo database and
the Harriet Hichborn Collection will be added to it soon
Details about its history are hazy. It was built sometime in 1830s or '40s by Joseph Park, a sea captain (Searsport was full of sea captains). Captain Park and his wife Susan raised a family there and he became a farmer. He died in 1884. The current owner, a Mr. Brown, of Belfast, bought the house in the 1990s, planning to tear it down and start a flea market and antiques business. When eBay came along, he changed his mind about the viability of such a business. He abandoned his plan and the property.
While the house's destruction was inevitable, I still hoped it would never happen, or that it would collapse from exposure to the elements, without human intervention. It's sad, but at least Mr. Brown is being meticulous and respectful about removing its valuable woodwork and other details.
Naturally, my husband and I were dying to see the house on our drive home — perhaps for the last time. I had my iPhone at hand to film it as we drove through Searsport in a light drizzle, with eyes peeled for the house and the truck in front. Route 1 is a busy road so you can't slow down as much as you'd like to.
We never saw the house. We found ourselves passing through Belfast, having missed it. We assumed it has been dismantled completely during our week in Southwest Harbor. We decided we had no interest in turning around to see an empty lot or pile of wreckage. We mourned.
Along with many other fans of the house, I refer to it as "haunted," but I don't mean it literally. It simply looks the part. It may or may not have ghosts; it's not an interesting question to me. In my reckoning, any spot can be "haunted" or not. It's naive to assume that ghosts are tied to a particular location. Why would that be? It strikes me that spirits are free to roam as they please, making the job of a "ghost-hunter" frustrating indeed. That's my theory anyhow, based on a few fleeting but memorable encounters. I also imagine that anyone who loved that house in its elegant prime might not want to witness its decay, especially without any occupants around to amuse them. (I can't help feeling sometimes that I'm entertaining our resident ghosts whether I want to or not. Apparently they like cats, too.) But what do I know? The Parks and those who lived there after them may still find their house even more mesmerizing and lovable than I do.
Yesterday I had the idea to contact the used-car shop across the street from the house, just to make sure it was gone. I looked up their info and called, and a friendly voice told me it was still there, looking pretty much like its usual, wrecked old self.
How could we both have missed it when we were looking so hard? Damn! I can't wait to go back.
Or can I? Will it be there when we return in early October? I am already anxious about it.