Glimpses. 104 Neal Street

Built in 1892/93 by George E Philbrook

A fascinatingly detailed Colonial Revival in the West End

104 Neal Street is not a ‘grand’ house by any means. Here in the West End, it could be seen as small. Viewed from the sidewalk without looking up, (Who does that?), one is struck by the feeling that something is missing and we will get to that yet. When you do look up, things change.

George Philbrook in the 1889 city directory. Maine State Virtual Library

Like his father, Jeremiah, George Philbrook was a builder. They both listed their vocations as ‘carpenter’ on various census records and were described as such in the local news. But, the city directory record shown above states they were “contractors and builders” which is a big bucket that certainly includes masonry.

George bought the property, a block measuring 30′ wide by 100′ deep, from JB Brown in May of 1892. It was his first appearance in the registry of deeds. It was not his first building. In November of 1891, he filed for, and received, a permit for a building “on the corner of Neal & West” according to the Portland Daily Press for November 21. I am thinking this is the brick double-house at 56-58 West Street. Many of the features on our subject are seen on this house as well.

I do not know if the Philbrooks did their own masonry or sub-contracted the work out, there is some resemblance to the work of the Cunningham brothers but the basket-weave is not something I have seen in their works. The afore-mentioned basket-weave creates a nicely scaled frieze. I especially like the ‘saw-tooth’ dentils line that turns out under the return of the eave to create a very credible capital. The eaves are well corbeled. There was certainly some pride in the workmanship here on Neal Street.

104 Neal Street measures 26′ on the street and is 42 feet in the main block which is 2 stories with a third in the garret. There is single-story wood framed ell on the rear that is roughly 22′ deep and 23′ wide. There is parking at the rear of the lot that is accessed via a ROW through the driveway at 66 West Street.

104 Neal Street on the 1914 Richards Atlas. Portland Public Library Digital Commons

George Philbrook married Sarah Brown of Etna Maine in 188. They had 2 children, John Neal & Philip Edwin, before moving into our subject after it’s completion in 1892. The family lived here until 1897 when they moved to Newton MA for a few years. During their time here, things were mostly quiet but for an event that happened in September of 1897 which involved a young man and a ‘forged’ check.

The 1924 tax photo, seen below, shows a porch on the front of the house that is no longer there. This is something of a shame as it takes the unifying detail away. Without the horizontal lines of the porch tying the elements together, things are somewhat adrift now. The removal was a practical decision undoubtably. The tax photo shows snow piled on the roof of the porch which would have had to be removed to reduce the risk of damage. An annoyance to be sure but the removal of the porch definitely brings the ‘remuddling’ badge.

104 Neal Street in 1924. Maine Memory Network

Phebe Ulrick and Marshall Rich were married in Portland in 1855. Phebe had grown up in Portland where she was born to a ropemaker in 1835. Marshall Rich was born to a shoemaker in North Yarmouth in 1830. Marshall followed his father’s trade. They had 8 children including twins. 3 children died in infancy.

Marshall Rich from the December 26 1902 Portland Evening Express.


In 1864, Marshall became the secretary of the Portland Board of Trade as well as the managing director of the Merchants Exchange. They were prestigious positions in the city’s business community. The family lived here until 1902 when Phebe died of uterine cancer in March. Marshall died of a sudden heart attack on boxing day of the same year. Their daughter Edith, who worked as a customs broker, lived here until 1913 when she sold it to Bessie Donahue.

The removal of the porch did allow for an owner or resident to add a touch of whimsey to the from of the house. I suspect the space originally held a support for the porch.

Elizabeth, Bessie, Hayes was born to Irish immigrants in Portland in 1855. She married Thomas Donahue, born in County Galway in 1847, in 1874. The 1874 city directory listed Thomas as a laborer who was living with the Deehans on Danforth Street. By 1880, the family, then with 3 children were living on Cotton Street and Thomas was working as a clothing cutter. By 1900, Thomas was a clothing dealer and they were living at 1 Deering Street. In 1904 Thomas died of stomach cancer as the age of 57.

Bessie Donahue lived at 104 Neal Street until her death in 1923. The property passed to her daughters, Elizabeth & Mollie. They sold it to Ben Barker in 1930. Ben was a principle in Turner Barker Insurance. Ben passed it to his daughter Lillian in 1933. Lillian had married a railroad car inspector named Henry Garrett in 1913. They had 4 children. The Barker family owned the property until 1972 when her estate sold it.

Turner Barker Insurance advertisement from 1910 Portland City Directory. Author’s collection.

104 Neal Street is a single-family home. The condition is very good. The owners are a Portland Parks employee and a Real Estate agent.

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