Apparently being a beautiful, well-built, old Bangor broad simply is not what it used to be.
That was my thought one morning this week as I stood at the end of the driveway at 51 Thomas Hill Road and watched crows fly back and forth and screech their way from the lovely old mansion at the top of the hill.
In the 1980s the house at the top of the hill was featured in Down East magazine, was a stop on a tour sponsored by the Bangor Historical Society and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It still is featured on the national register, even though the grass in the yard is waist-deep and the red clay tennis court, a rare site in New England, is nothing but an overgrown weed plot.
The fact that it is on the National Register of Historic Places seems to mean little. That it is arguably one of Bangor’s most beautiful homes seems to mean even less.
That the members of Bangor’s Historic Preservation Commission are irritated at the steady demise of the old home but their hands seem to be tied.
That the staff of Code Enforcement Office has spent a solid year trying to figure out how to salvage the city’s grand lady that stands at the top of the city but they continue to be frustrated as well.
I have no idea how that all gets fixed, but if you have an extra minute or two perhaps you might drive up by the standpipe and take a look at it.
Here is some of its history. The house used to be known as the Joseph W. Low house, and if you peek into the barn there still is an old wooden sign that bears his name.
In 1956, Dr. Charles McEvoy and his wife, Mary “Whit” McEvoy, bought the house. It was then considered to be the white elephant of Bangor and they paid $17,000 for it. In 2002 it went on the market with an asking price of $625,000.
Low was a wealthy native of Frankfort with interests in timberland and he bought the property, the highest point in Bangor, with the intention of developing it as a residential district.
That never happened, but he ended up employing famed Boston architect Harvey Graves to design a home at the top of the hill.
Graves, a Bowdoinham native, also designed the Union Street Methodist Church and the Free Will Baptist Church that is now the Essex Street Baptist Church.
The octagonal cupola with plate-glass sash at the top of the Thomas Hill home can be reached only by a trapdoor by way of a winding staircase.
Low sold the house in 1877 to Samuel R. Prentiss, who made several changes to it, including adding “William de Morgan tiles” that depict Aesop’s fables around the numerous fireplaces in the home.
The home is also known as having one of the first glassed-in sun parlors in the state.
There are seven bedrooms, a dining room, library, a sun parlor, a kitchen (never modernized), big and little living rooms and a three-story barn.
There are 52 storm windows and screens, which back in 2002 people proudly noted were all numbered and charted by Dr. McEvoy to keep track of them.
The children who grew up in the house during the 1960s and 1970s talked to the Bangor Daily News in 2004 about the special names they had for some of the rooms in their special house.
“Nobody’s room,” for example, was the room next to their parents’ bedroom where the children would sleep when they were sick. The “curved wall room” was the first bedroom in the ell from the main house, and the “big living room” and the “little living room” were what the original owner probably called the parlor and the sitting room.
According to city records, somebody by the name of Jeffrey A. Pilatich of Las Vegas bought the home in 2004 for $400,000. But the building has since been foreclosed upon, according to Jeremy Martin of Bangor’s Department of Code Enforcement.
For the last year the city has been unable to reach the owners and neither has the bank that foreclosed on the property, Martin said. My attempts to contact the owner this week by phone or through the Internet also failed.
Martin, who is also the staff person for Bangor’s Historic Preservation Commission, says the city is still trying to find out how best to salvage the city gem.
“There is very little we can do right now, but [the city has] our legal department looking into it,” said Martin. “People do call us with concern about the state of the property, but the bank in New York which foreclosed on it says they cannot give us any rights until they get in touch with the Pilatiches or their attorneys. All of our correspondence to the Pilatiches has been returned. I can tell you that people in the area, as well as the commission, are very concerned about the condition of this beautiful and historical building, but we simply don’t know right now what we can do to try to preserve it,” he said.