ROCKLAND, Maine — Demolition started this week on a little-known Rockland neighborhood.
Catalano Construction was leveling the 13 homes and several sheds that have lined Philbrick Avenue for more than 82 years.
The homes were all built by Eugene Philbrick, the grandfather of the current owner, Madeline Philbrick of Rockland. The decision was made last month to demolish the homes because of their deteriorated condition.
Rick Catalano said he expects the work to take two weeks to complete. Two of the houses had been leveled by noon Thursday.
Catalano said he was familiar with the neighborhood because one of his best friends used to rent one of the cottage-style homes. But he noted that many local people are not familiar with the dead-end street that runs off the Camden Street section of Route 1.
“It’s always been a quiet little neighborhood. It’s tucked away so you wouldn’t drive on it unless you knew it was here,” Catalano said.
Madeline Philbrick lived on the street for a few years in the late 1920s, attending a small school nearby on Camden Street.
“Those were good days. It was a dead-end street and children could play in the street. You were close to everything,” Philbrick recalled.
Her grandfather had lived in Somerville but traveled to Rockland around 1900 in a horse and buggy. He rose to become a top executive at one of the lime companies that operated on the city’s waterfront. He built the family home in 1900 at the end of Philbrick Avenue.
“He would come home from working at the lime company, eat dinner, get a flashlight and build the houses on Philbrick Avenue,” she said.
There are 12 cottage-style homes that were built from 1905 through 1930 that range in size from 600 to 800 square feet.
She said the housing was affordable and that her father and grandfather charged low rents to the tenants.
The cottage-style homes have been vacated gradually over the past 10 years. The homes had failing septic systems and when they became vacant they were no longer rented.
Philbrick said the city had received a federal grant in the 1970s to extend the sewer line all the way up Philbrick Avenue but the city ended up spending the funds on other unrelated projects. Rockland tried again for about 20 years to get state or federal grants to extend the sewer line up the street from Route 1 but was not successful.
By coincidence, MaineWater company also was working this week to extend a water line from Camden Street to the end of Philbrick Avenue.
Philbrick said that the former family home at the end, a two-story house, also will be demolished, although it may not be during this current demolition project since there are tenants still in it.
She said she plans to sell all of the property, more than four acres, noting that the land located near the Pen Bay Acres residential neighborhood is valuable. Pen Bay Acres started being developed in the 1950s, but before that the land had been blueberry fields where she and neighbor children went to pick berries and play, Philbrick recalled.