41/99 Capisic Street


Built ca 1845-50

The ambiguity of the name reflects the many changes Portland has made to it’s street numbering system.

A particularly hard one to date. On initial review, the deed history implies the house was built during the Civil War. When Samuel Deane of Poland purchased the property from John Prout in 1860, no buildings were mentioned in the deed. Every deed after that does include ‘buildings thereon’. Going backwards, we have to get to 1849 when Samuel Jordan purchased the property and that deed mentions buildings.

In 1924 the city assessor said it was 50 years old. That would be around 1874 and the house is certainly older than that. The current city tax record gives a build date of 1845. Given how little faith I have in assessors to get these build dates right, I may surprise some of my more faithful readers by going with the current assessor’s date.

Stylistically it’s from the earlier era. With it’s closed pediment and heavy entablature, it’s very much in the Greek Revival mode which was starting to wane by the late 1840’s. There are a few details to show the builder had some aspirations, the finely scaled dentil line at the top of the entablature, the intricate molding of the pediment and lovely window trims being the most notable. Overall, it’s a simple home for what was at the time a rural neighborhood.

The deed of June 6, 1860 says Samuel was a resident of Poland but census records put him in Portland in 1850, 60, 70 & 80. Deane was a carpenter, in 1870 he called himself a ‘Master Carpenter. Deane may have built our subject on the site of a previous structure but I’m not inclined to believe so.

41/99 Capisic Street in 1924. Mainememory.net

The tax photo is significant as it gives us a very detailed view of how the home and site once were. The house’s form and detailing are more discernible and the entablature is even more emphatic than now. The dark color really works to define space and balance solid with void & rectangle with triangle. The siting of the home, high above the street on the crest of the lot adds a large chunk of drama to the presentation.

The paint on the northeast side is in surprisingly good condition

In late 1865, Deane sold the property to Charles A Hartshorn. Hartshorn was an employee of the Portland and Ogdensburg Railroad although in what capacity I cannot determine. Interestingly, Beckett’s city directory for 1858 listed both Deane and Hartshorn living on Sumner Court on Munjoy Hill. Charles sold the property to Eliza Woodman in 1867.

Enlargement of 1924 tax photo from mainememory.net

The barns give us an insight into the use of 41/99 Capisic. They ran in a tight line perpendicular to the main block of the house. The first section, directly attached to the house was probably the ‘back house’. It would have had a privy and summer kitchen and would have been the location for much of the day-to-day chores of the home.
Next to that was the barn. It was fairly wide and two stories tall. The roof was capped by a low cupola with finial. The position of the door at dead center of the building implies, to me, that the barn was intended for a carriage and horse. A ‘working’ barn would have had an off set door to allow for more cattle area. There are no remnants of any of the barn structures on site today.

Eliza Jane York was born in Cape Elizabeth in 1829. Her father, Joseph, was a ship captain. She married Charles G Woodman in 1854. Charles had grown up in the area of our subject house. His father, Daniel, was a coppersmith. Charles would try his hand at farming, clerking and, according to the 1880 census, a ‘horse jockey’.

Eliza and Charles took a mortgage for $3300.00 from George Whitney in 1875. Whitney was a farmer who lived in Oxford. In 1881, Eliza assigned the mortgage to one Lorenzo Drown, a civil war vet and public school teacher, of Portland. 2 days later, the mortgage was foreclosed on by Whitney who then transferred the ownership back to Drown. Drown held on to the property until January of 1885 when he sold it to Samuel Washburn who immediately sold it to Carrie Emerson.

Mary Caroline, Carrie, Weymouth had married Joseph Emerson in 1871. Joseph was a furniture salesman. They had four children before Joseph’s untimely death in 1892 at the age of 44. Carrie died in 1928. She had been supported for many years by her brother Levy who was an attorney in Portland. When Carrie died she had no will. The next 30+ years would see ownership of the property in a void.

Jump forward to 1965. The remaining heirs of Joseph and Carrie Emerson, by this time all 4 of their children were dead, determined to sell the property on Capisic Street. A local real estate company owned by Charlotte Cheney purchased it. The deed ran to 3 pages with most of that laying out the history of who died when and what heirs they left. Cheney Real Estate transferred the home to Charlotte herself a few months later.

Charlotte owned the property until 1975 when she sold it to Vincent Devlin. Devlin attempted over the years to restore the house with, as can be seen, little luck. Devlin is still the owner of record. He passed away in 2016. The city has placed 2 liens for unpaid property taxes since that time.

Leonard Bond Chapman photo of the installation of water mains on Capisic Street in 1911. Mainememory.net

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