West End Walks. Neal Street Remuddling

Remuddle, v. (portmanteau from “remodel” and “muddle”), to remodel a building or room in a way that obscures or destroys key aspects of the original design.

141 Neal Street.

Appears to be a single-family home on a pretty standard in town lot. The Portland Historic Resources Inventory (HRI) of 1976 lists it as being built for one Edwin A. Boothbay in 1891. The HRI states the style was Queen Anne.
The 1924 Portland Tax photo for the property shows a pretty standard Queen Anne with clapboard siding and shingled bands at the floor lines. Ownership is shown as Irwin & Gladys Austin but those names are crossed out and Edith M. Mitchell has been written in. Condition is said to be ‘fair’.
it appears that the second floor was being rented out as the tax record notes “6 rooms let”. As there are currently 2 electrical meters on the sidewall, it may still be a 2 family.

171 Neal Street in 1924

Sometime in the ’70s or ’80s, it all went awry.

Let’s start at the top. The dormers are gone as is the chimney. The window and all the details of the gable facing the street have been removed as well. What once was a vibrant, textured surface that mixed shadow and light is reduced to a flat, featureless plane.



On the second floor, things are no better. All the windows have been replaced. No doubt as an energy-saving measure. This is to be expected as it was common practice in the ’70s & ’80s. As was also quite common for the period, the replacement windows are wholly inappropriate for the style. They are too small and have those nasty triple track storms. The windows on the front should not be grouped. They leave too much blank wall around them. Thankfully, today there are extremely efficient windows that look correct available.

What happened to the bay?!

The worst part by far is the vinyl siding. Yes, it ‘looks like traditional clapboards’.
If you squint.
And don’t look too closely.
Vinyl siding hit the market in the ’70s & is still popular today. It’s inexpensive and easy to install and requires little maintenance. If properly installed, it can be a viable alternative to wooden claps. This siding was not properly installed.
Every square inch of trim has been covered up. The sills of the windows have been cut off at the edge of the window instead of extending beyond slightly. All of this reduces the windows to nothing more than holes punched in the surface.
As we transition to the first floor, a jarring example of poor quality workmanship can be seen in the siding.

141 Neal Street detailWhen they transitioned from one color siding to the other, why they did this at all we will address soon enough, the did not match the layouts of the two types thus creating an extra horizontal line where there should be none. The differing sizes of corner moldings is just another poke in the eye with a sharp stick.


Here we are at the first floor. The siding here is gray. Why is it gray and white above? My best guess is they tried to work off the original colors. A look at the 1924 picture above shows what may have been a gray body with white trim. Perhaps they took these colors as the 2 body colors. It’s a guess but I think it is as good as any.

What happened to the bay?! They completely obliterated it and put in a T-111 covered BOX with board and batten siding! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!!

As with the windows, the trim around the door is gone. Sacrificed in the name of low maintenance.  The door, roof, and stairs all appear to be original. They all appear to be the same color as they were in 1924. They are in pretty sad condition.


One final observation. Vinyl siding on the front and sides with shingles on the rear and ell?

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