Built ca: 1858 by David Robinson Jr.
A Greek Revival double-house in the Gorham’s Corner neighborhood.
If you think you’ve seen this one before, you’re close.
54 Maple Street is an almost complete copy/replica of 12-14 Winter Street, seen above. The biggest differences between them being the entries and we will get to them, the windows which are shallower on the Maple Street house, and an overall lower quality masonry job. Our subject this time is about the same age. It, by benefit of having both its dormers, shows us how the Winter Street pair looked originally as 12 has had its dormer replaced with a skylight. Another notable difference is 12-14 Winter Street was built by the bank president, large property owner, and Nativist curmudgeon William W Thomas whereas 54 Maple was built by an insurance agent and dry goods merchant who didn’t include any Nativist language in his deeds, named David Robinson Jr. David and his family had been renting from his father-in-law Nathan Nutter on Pleasant Street prior to purchasing the land for our subject from said, Mr. Nutter. The 1860 census shows Nathan & family living next door on Maple Street so perhaps he and David built our subject together.
The house is 44’ x 30’. It has 2 stories to the street with a full third floor in the garret. There is a 26’ x 16’ ell on the rear. The entire structure is brick. It sets on a granite foundation that, due to its sloping site, is partly above ground and is made of some large and handsomely cut pieces. The facade has two recessed bays marking the primary living section of each side of the house. The entries are recessed into the center section of the facade. They are deep and nicely paneled. The doors are most likely not original. The sidelights and transoms may have some original fabric but it’s not easy to discern from the vantage of the street. Overall, they are very inviting and especially welcome in foul weather.
The first part of our subject to be sold was the right side so we will start with that half’s history. In July of 1862, Horace Bearce of Auburn purchased the property from Mr. Robinson who gave his place of residence as Boston so we can take it that he and his family had moved since the 1860 census was taken. The purchase price was $1000. Bearce was a farmer in Winthrop Maine according to every census taken up to his death in 1909. As noted, when Bearce purchased the home he gave his residence as Auburn. When he sold it in 1867, he gave his residence as Boston. He sold our subject to Marcian Seavey for $3700.
The property had been valued by the city at $2000 the year before with Bearce owing $58.24 on the valuation, so selling it for such a premium would have been something of a ‘coup’ but it should be noted that the sale took place after the Great Fire whereas the tax assessment was before the fire. The loss of over 1000 houses in the fire pushed values of existing stock quite high in the first couple of years afterwards.
If for nothing else, Horace Bearce should be remembered for his lovely gravestone in the East Winthrop Cemetery.
Marcian Seavey was born in Bradford Maine in 1804. His early years are unclear. According to the 1840 census he was living in Portland but he does not appear in the 1844 city directory. 1844 is the year he married Eliza Ruggles in Portland. Marcian does appear in the 1851 directory. He was a trader living on Green, now Forest Avenue. He and Eliza moved to Tennessee sometime in the 1850s. A letter mailed to Marican in July of 1861 was sent care of the president of the State Female College of Tennessee. This letter is worthy of note in that it was mailed after Tennessee had seceded from the Union. It was delivered express “across-the-lines” which makes it rare. It sold at auction for $10,000.
Eliza died of unknown causes in 1860. By late June of 1862, Marcian was back in Portland, living on Cumberland Avenue. He sold homeopathic medicines and published the Farmer and Artisan Magazine from Samuel Colesworthy’s Bookstore on Exchange Street. In 1864, he took Sarah Winslow of Deering as his second wife.
Marcian was a man of his time. He was a Mason and Templar. Active in politics, he was a supporter of Lincoln and the Republican party. In 1870, his name was among many listed in the Daily Press calling for the nomination of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain for Senator from Maine. Seavey served on a couple of state agriculture boards as well as being involved, briefly, in the production of an agricultural publication called The Farmer. He was also an early member of the New Jerusalem Society in Portland. More commonly known as the Swedenborgian Church. He attended the society’s 1873 annual convention in Cincinnati Ohio.
In 1872, Portland began a multi-year plan to upgrade and expand the sewer system on the peninsula. From Munjoy Hill to the West End and Oxford Street to Danforth, much effort and money were invested. As part of work on Danforth Street, the sewer expanded up Maple and into Pleasant Street. That work was estimated to cost some $1352 of which $902 was to be paid via tax assessments. As can be seen in the notification above from the October 26, 1874, Portland Daily Press, Marcian Seavey was billed $14.35 for his 2210 sq/ft of space. Curiously, Joseph McAlevy, who lived in the other half of our subject, was assessed on 2960 sq/ft. The difference is possibly due to Marcian’s side being deeper in the slope rendering the basement less useable or an unfinished third floor.
By the time our subject was sold in 1885, Marcian and Sarah Seavey had moved to Lincoln Street in the Woodfords Corner neighborhood of Deering. It was there that Marcian died on February 26 of 1886. The purchasers were an Irish-born shoemaker named William Goode and his wife Mary Anglin Goode.
Mary Anglin was born in Portland in 1844. She was the daughter of Timothy and Mary Looney Anglin, natives of Cork City, Ireland. She married William H. Goode, a native of County Cork, in 1872. Mary’s brother John E. Anglin (1850-1905) became the second-youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor during the Civil War at age 14. Mary and William had no children of their own although they did raise a niece of William’s as well as housing various members of their extended families.
Mary Goode died in 1907 and William in 1912. Before his death, William passed the home to his sister Catherine Griffin who was a dressmaker and had been living with the Goodes along with her son Thomas Jr. Catherine had married Thomas D Griffin in 1882. He died of consumption in 1889. They had a daughter Mary who died in 1893 at the age of 8. Catherine sold our subject to Margaret A Joyce in 1922. She died the following year and her son Thomas died in 1926.
Margaret Joyce was born in Ireland in 1880. She married Martin Thomas Joyce in 1886, the same year she came to the US. Thomas worked as a plasterer’s tender. He died in 1943. On Margaret’s death in 1946, it was passed to her daughter Theresa Joyce. Theresa passed it to her brother, Thomas Joyce, in 1962. In 1970, Thomas sold it to Mary Kelly.
The left side of our subject was purchased by Isaac Emery in May of 1864. Emery was a merchant who lived nearby on Pleasant Street. He owned it for only 4 months before selling to a ship captain named Joseph McAlevy. Joseph was born in County Down, Ireland in 1833. He had come to the US via New York in 1849. Joseph & Annie McAlevy had 2 children when they moved into and two more in the time they lived on Maple Street.
Joseph was in Cuba at the time of the Great Fire. Newspaper reports listed him among about two dozen brokers, ship captains, and others who made donations towards relief while in Manzanitas in September. These donations were collected and advanced by a Cuban cigar manufacturer named Isidoro J Ojeda and totaled $152.65.
Joseph was a very active mariner. He spent most of his time on vessels owned by the Blanchard family of Yarmouth. Here is just some of his activity for 1867 through 1870 as noted in the Marine News sections of the local newspapers.
March 16, 1867, the barque Woodside, Joseph McAlevy master, arrived in Swansea, on the Welsch coast, after a trip from Antwerp Belgium. Woodside was a Blanchard-built and owned ship. On June 15 of the same year, Woodside is in Livorno Italy having sailed from Boston. Sometime in late 1867, Joseph moved to the new brig Proteus, owned by Charles H Chase. Chase was a ship owner and broker who lived on Munjoy Hill. McAlvey made at least 3 voyages to Cuba on the Proteus.
By August of 1868, Joseph is captaining the Barque Priscilla, built and owned by the Blanchards. On the 20th of that month, she cleared Portland for Buenos Aires. She arrived on November 13th after a trip of 79 days. She must not have stayed long as on January 10 of 1869, Priscilla entered the English port of Plymouth having lost her sail, stanchions, and bulwarks and having a ‘leaky topsides’. She was en route from Cardiff, Wales to Valparaiso, Chile. She was refitted and in August Priscilla sailed from Cuba for Antwerp. In December she reappeared in Valparaiso.
Joseph McAlevy sold our subject to a housewright from Scarborough named John Sweetser for $5000 in April of 1875. He and his family moved to Harpswell. Sweetser mortgaged the property at the time of purchase for $2000. The note carried an interest rate of 7.5% and required semi-annual payments over 5 years. Sweetser defaulted on the note and Portland Savings Bank took foreclosed in 1881. For whatever reason, the bank held the property until 1896 when it was finally sold to Mary Curran. Mary transferred the home to Patrick Barret, who had married Annie Curran in 1895, late the same year. Mary and Annie may have been sisters. Patrick transferred ownership to Annie in August of 1897. Census records indicate that Patrick and Annie didn’t live in our subject but rented it out with each floor being a separate unit.
In 1897, Patrick received a permit to convert a 2 story barn at the back of the property into a dwelling. At a meeting of the city alderman on June 15th, it was noted that the permit had been issued “in error” and other permits were likewise questionable. Also observed was that he had in fact torn down the barn and was building a new structure that “wasn’t sheathed in iron and didn’t have a gravel roof as he had claimed”. Patrick was ordered to stop work at the time. Although there doesn’t seem to be any follow-up in the news and the Richards Atlas of 1914 does not show it, Patrick most likely did finish his house as it was documented in the 1924 Tax roles.
In 1942, Annie transferred ownership of our subject to their daughter, Margaret Anne Vanier. Margaret had married a clerk named John H Vanier in 1919. They had a daughter, Mary, in 1920. The Vaniers lived in a double-decker house on Margaret Street in South Portland that Patrick and Annie had built after John and Margaret married. Patrick and Annie had moved there soon after completion. Margaret sold Maple Street in May of 1955. It would see 2 different owners in the next 7 months before being purchased in January of 1956 by Thomas Joyce who’s family already owned the right-hand side of the building. Thus, some 90 years later, bringing ownership of the entire building under one owner again. There would be several different owners over the next 5 decades including a period of time as a dormitory for the Maine College of Art.
54 Maple is currently listed as commercial space and is owned by a real estate investment firm. Condition is good overall but for an obvious structural issue.
A special note of thanks to Matt Barker and the folks and the Maine Irish Heritage Center for their assistance with this article. The center is a fabulous resource and Matt is a font of knowledge. Cúirtéis duit