42 Munjoy Street

Built in 1852 by James E Davis

A remuddled Greek Revival in the Munjoy Hill Historic District

Perhaps ‘simplified’ would be a kinder term. Costs no doubt drove the decision but it was pretty dramatic regardless. Oddly enough, we may see more of the original look now than before.

James Davis was in his late 20s when he purchased a lot on the newly opened Munjoy Street from William Hoit in 1851. Both Davis and Hoit were joiners. Hoit lived nearby on St Lawrence Street and Davis on Mountfort near Eastern Cemetery. James Davis had taken several mortgages from Hoit beginning in 1847. The purchase of our subject, for $190.00, took place in October of 1851. On August 12, 1853, James Davis died. No cause of death is listed. His widow Harriet and their son Frederick may have lived here after his death but they’re not listed in city directories for the period. In 1861, Harriet, who had remarried by this time, sold 42 Munjoy to a mariner named Charles L Milliken. In an interesting coincidence, the 1858 city directory listed Charles Milliken at the same address as the 1850 city directory did for James Davis.

James Davis built a pretty standard Greek Revival building for Portland in the early 1850s. At least from what I can determine from the street.  The house is 19′ wide on the street with the main block measuring 54′ deep. The entrance is on the southeast side. A few ells and a bay vary the southeast facade while the northeast side is straight for most of it’s 67′ overall depth. It has a full story with a second in the garret. We will look at the details further on.

Charles L Milliken was born in Surrey in 1816. He married Paulina Prince of in Portland in 1846. Paulina was born in 1817 but her family history is blank. They had 2 children. Charles was a steamboat captain according to the 1873 city directory but for what line and of what vessel is something I have not been able to determine. Paulina died of unknown causes in April of 1873. In November of 1876, Charles Milliken sold 42 Munjoy Street to a real estate dealer named Frank Patterson. In December of the same year, Patterson sold it to Eliza A Gurney.

42 Munjoy Street in 1924. Maine Memory Network

The 1924 tax photo above asks as many questions as it answers. The most obvious is “what possessed someone to do this?”. It would seem that, at some point, the owners decided to modernize the look. Perhaps brackets were on sale somewhere and the owner couldn’t resist. The lintels over the windows were enlarged as were the capitals of the corner pilasters. The porch roof was likely added at the same time as it isn’t related to the original fabric. The height of the first floor windows and the paneled pilasters & window trim are the only visible items that are probably original.

Enlargement of 1924 tax photo

Eliza Griffin & Charles Gurney were married in Portland in 1850. Charles was born on a farm in Freeport in 1827. Eliza to a fishing family on Long Island in Casco Bay in 1830. They had a son, Charles C, in 1857 and a stillborn son in 1865. Charles worked as a baker and, on occasion, sold patent medicine. By 1885, Charles was running his own bakery on Fore Street. Eliza died of a ‘tumor’ in November of 1887. 42 Munjoy Street was transferred to Charles in March of 1888. in 1895, Charles sold it to a traveling salesman for Milliken, Tomlinson named Richmond Wescott.

Milliken, Tomlinson ad in the 1903 city directory

Richmond Wescott was from Bethel ME and came to Portland around 1865. He married Flora Cushman in 1868 and they had 3 children. Richmond worked for Milliken, Tomlinson and its predecessor W & CR Milliken for some 35 years before his death from pneumonia at the age of 56 in 1905. Flora moved to Lawn Avenue and rented our subject until 1910 when she sold it to Levi Bernstein.

At some point after 1924, the exterior was revised again. The siding is vinyl and in pretty good shape. The tax photo for 2009 shows the current materials so it happened prior to that. Along with new siding, all of the brackets were removed as were the corner pilasters. The loss of the pilasters is enough to earn the remuddling badge. The enlarged cornices over the windows were retained. One other, less obvious, change was the replacement of the single window in the basement, probably a coal chute, with 2 windows aligned with the first floor units.

Clarence Willis was a millman at Smith & Rumery Building Materials on Fore Street. He lived at 42 Munjoy from 1910 to 1913. Some of the other tenants were:

  • Arthur Johnson who worked in a laundry business on the corner of Congress and Pearl Streets.
  • Edward Towne, a receiving clerk at Loring, Short & Harmon.
  • James & Mary McCrea along with their daughters Ethel, & Louise . James was a steamfitter for Arthur Fels Heating & Ventilation on Union Street. Ethel & Louise were clerks at Woolworths.
  • Earl & Helen Boyle. Earl was a clerk for Twitchell & Champlin.
  • Bertrim Pearson. Bertrim was a teamster for The Maine Dairy Company of Fore Street.
  • Joseph Anderson. Joseph was a cutter for Lakeside Printing on Middle Street.

In 1918, Levi Bernstein sold 42 Munjoy Street to a real estate broker/investor originally from Poland named Morris Sheriff or Maurice Sharif. He sold it in August of 1920 to Jacob Enemark who ran a shoe shop on Congress Street. In June of 1921, he sold it, along with a couple of other properties in Portland, to an insurance agent from South Portland named Frank W Sparrow. Frank was the son of Warren Sparrow. 6 months later, Sparrow sold it to Frank Hay. Hay sold it in July of 1922 to an Italian émigré named Maria Siciliano.

Maria and Arnold (Arnoldo) Siciliano came from Naples Italy in 1904. They were both born in 1881 and were naturalized in Schenectady NY in 1910. They were living in Lynn MA when their son Bartolo was born in 1914. The 1920 census found the family, along with Arnolds brother and his family, living on Middle Street. Arnold started as a clerk in a drug store but by 1926 was running it himself. The Sicilianos also owned a home on Newbury Street that was lost to urban renewal. Maria sold 42 Munjoy Street to Angelina DiBiase in 1926. Angelina and Angelo DiBiase were from Lettomanoppello in Abruzzo and had come to the US in 1904. They had 7 children. Angelo worked as a construction laborer. In 1933 Angelina sold our subject to the City Mutual Association.

Clipping from Daily Kennebec Journal July 21 1926. Newspapers.com

A few days after purchasing 42 Munjoy Street, the City Mutual Association took a mortgage for $2700 on the property to be paid in monthly installments of $28.90 with the Cumberland Loan & Building Company. 13 months later, in June of 1934, the City Mutual Association defaulted and the mortgage was foreclosed on. In 1938 Carl and Ruth Wigant purchased the property. The Wigants were born in Sweden in 1896 and came to the US in 1913 & 1914 respectively. They had a son and a daughter after arriving in Maine. Carl was an electrician at the JJ Nissen bakery on Washington Avenue and Ruth was a cashier at Kresge’s on Congress Street.

Carl & Ruth Wigant. August 6, 1940 Portland Evening Express. Newspapers.com

Carl Wigant died in April of 1955 at the age of 59. Ruth continued to live at 42 Munjoy, in the rear unit, until 1977 when she sold it to Thomas & Suzanne Byrnes who were living in the front unit.

42 Munjoy Street is listed as a 2-family home. The condition is very good.

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