Built ca 1867 by Leonard Bond Chapman
Leonard Chapman was the unofficial historian of Stroudwater and Deering in the late 19th century. To our benefit, he was also an avid photographer who documented his hometown and the changes taking place there in detail. He was born to Henry and Hannah Bond Chapman in 1834. Leonard grew up in the family house, extant, at what is now 1824 Congress Street. In 1860, he married Ruby Frost Merrill. His profession is a bit vague. Beckett listed him as a joiner in 1870 but the census for that year and other documents state that he was a nurseryman and gardener.
We don’t see much of the Second Empire style in the area. 90 Capisic Street is a local landmark for the style and for its classic ‘haunted house’ look. It’s a 2 storey block with a third under the deeply flared mansard. There is a 1 1/2 storey ell at the rear. The ‘tower’ is actually a part of the main block but it projects slightly and has a separate, even more, flared, roof form and an attractive balustrade at its peak. Details are minimal and mostly confined to the window casings, porch, tower, and architrave.
Leonard Bond Chapman was an amateur historian and collector. He amassed a large archive of documents over his lifetime which he regularly mined for publication in local papers, he edited the Deering News from 1890 to 1905, and in several books. When he died in 1915, the Portland Argus printed a long obituary which included the following:
“He seemed to feel that it was his mission in life to make as secure as possible the past record of his native city, and well indeed did he labor to that end”
Leonard and Ruby had one child, Albion Leonard. Ruby died in 1910 & Leonard, as noted, in 1915. They were buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
The property passed to Albion on Leonard’s death. Albion was born in 1863, He had married Anna Furbish in 1890. They were living on Pleasant Avenue in 1910 & 1920 making it unlikely they ever physically lived at 90 Capisic Street. They sold it to Walter Hay in 1917.
Keen observers will note that the dormer windows have changed from round to square tops since 1924. Also, notice the balustrade was on the main block as well. The barn has seen significant changes as we shall see further on.
2.3.2021: Thanks to reader, and Chapman descendant, David Chapman, we can digitally reunite Leonard and Ruby Chapman.
It seems appropriate that a house noted for its haunted look would be owned for many years by an undertaker. And that’s just what Walter Hay was. He was born in Tangier NS in 1873. Tangier is a small town on the east coast about 50 miles from Dartmouth. It was a gold mining locale for over 100 years with nearly 28,000 troy ounces being extracted. Walter left Tangier and immigrated to the US in 1889. He was followed in 1891 by a local girl named Cora Murdock. They married in 1897. The 1900 census finds them boarding, along with 7 others, in the home of a music dealer named P Herbert Odell and his wife Emma on Greenwich Park in Boston. Cora would have been pregnant at that time as their son Lloyd was born the same year but is not on the census document. Sometime after 1910, when they were living on Sherman Street, they adopted a young girl named Mary. She is listed on the 1920 census as a 12-year-old daughter. She is not on the 1910 census.
As noted above, the barn has undergone significant alterations in its life. The carriage door and its fan above are gone. The 1890 photo hints that the fan may have been glass originally but that’s not completely clear. By 1924, it was a wooden fan. When the facade was revised for two overhead doors, the framing needed to allow the openings would have required the removal of most of the fan. An understandable course of action but much of the facade’s character and scale has been lost or altered in the process.
Sometime prior to 1910, I have yet to find a complete history of the firm, Walter Hay and Barrack Peabody founded the firm of Hay and Peabody Undertakers. They would remain in business for about 100 years. Most of that time they were located in the former Bolster house at 749 Congress Street.
In 1912 Walter made an unsuccessful run for mayor of Portland. I do not see where he had much to do with politics beyond that but I suspect he did. When Walter died in February of 1943, the house passed to Cora. She sold it to Mary Frates in June of 1944. Where Cora spent the last 8 years but it was probably with Lloyd’s family in Cape Elizabeth. She died in 1952 and was buried with Walter in Evergreen Cemetery.
Robert Frates and Mary Thornton were married in 1932. Both were born in Portland just after the turn of the century. Robert was the grandson of a Portuguese immigrant and a local girl and Mary was the daughter of Irish immigrants. In 1938, Robert leased the storefront in the Woodfords Corner Odd Fellows Hall for 3 years. The lease says he was going to open a delicatessen selling “breads, cakes, bakery products, jellies, canned goods and other groceries”. The business looks to have succeeded as the lease was renewed in November of 1940. On the census of 1940, Robert listed his trade as the proprietor of a wholesale bakery who earned $2495.00 in the previous year. Robert and Mary had one son, Robert A, and resided at 90 Capisic Street until 1952 when they moved into a new house they built next door on a property they had subdivided off our subject property.
The original lot for 90 Capisic Street ran all the way from the corner of Frost Street to a line about 150′ northwest of the house. In the post-WWII era, much of the land would be subdivided off leaving the street line being the only original boundary remaining. The current lot is a mere half-acre.
Leonard Bond Chapman photo of the installation of water mains in front of his home in 1911.
Leonard Bond Chapman photo of the installation of water mains on Capisic Street in 1911. The house in the background is across the street from our subject. It is currently abandoned and owned by the city of Portland.
The Frakes sold to Alfred and Frances Waxler in 1952. Albert was born in Haverhill MA in 1923. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1947 and moved to Portland after serving in the Army for 4 years. Frances was from Lowell. Al Waxler would become involved in real estate and auto dealerships in the Greater Portland area for the next 35 years. The Waxlers lived in 90 Capisic until 1961. They sold to a family named Kelley who lived in the house until 1964 when the Codiero family purchased it. They remained at 90 Capisic Street until they sold to the current owners in 2004. The house is currently listed as a two-family.
Hi, would you consider writing about 99 Capisic St? It’s not very visible from the street anymore, but if you go “back in time” in Google Street view you might be able to see it.
Hi Nick. It’s interesting you should ask about this house as I had just looked at my notes and photos for it the other day. It’s been on my list for some time now and I very much appreciate the suggestion as it will get me going on writing the story.
When we were young, Miss Emerson lived there. Supposedly her dad was a sea captain and left the house to her. She was a wonderfully nice old spinster. A small white haired woman. She worked downtown, probably at the phone company, and would walk to work everyday down Capisic Street. There used to be a huge barn next to the house, which burned down after she passed. There were lilies of the valley behind there, which I had never seen before. Lilacs surrounded the property, we used to go right through them as there were tunnels. After she passed away and the house first went up for sale, I was told that the second floors were all rotten – I assume from a bad roof – and she never noticed as she only used the downstairs.
As the current owner of 90 Capisic, thank you for telling a great story. Bob Frates still lives next door at the home built by or for his parents.
Thank You very much.
My parents, Alfred and Frances Lerman Waxler, lived in the house from the end of 1952 till March 1961. My mother was actually a long time Portland girl, and my father, who graduated Lowell High School in Massachusetts, moved to Maine when he attended Bowdoin. I have many wonderful memories of growing up in that home. When my parents bought the house it was actually a single family and my father converted the downstairs to an apartment. The house originally had slate sinks – 1 in the downstairs kitchen and one in the basement. No one but our family would know that the black stone fireplace front (marble?) in the second floor living room was not original to that house but actually came from a house designed by John Calvin Stevens at 167 Congress Street where my parents lived before they bought Capisic Street.
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Thanx for the memories! It’s interesting you should mention 167 Congress Street as that was an early subject of mine. Stevens had a hand in the design and the Cunningham brothers were the builders.
As the current residents of the LB Chapman home, it is a delight to read all of this history! Thank you so much for sharing. We revel in the beauty of this home with all of its special architectural features such as the spiral staircase! My partner, Nicholas Herold, and have owned the house since mid-2019. We presently rent out parts of the house on Airbnb and are both real estate agents in town.
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We stayed at the Airbnb in the Dickens Room. Our stay was delightful and would lice to come back!
Hello – Leonard is my 2nd great-granduncle and Ruby is my 2nd great-grandaunt. If you are interested in a picture of Ruby, please email me at email@example.com
very distantly related and this has always been a home that I admired…nice to read of some of the history…thanks to all who contributed…f chapman
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