SEARSPORT, Maine — The old, abandoned house on U.S. Route 1 in Searsport that a town official called “the most photographed house in the state of Maine” is slowly being taken down this summer by its owner.
Randy Hall, the Searsport code enforcement officer who made the comment about the derelict house’s popularity among photographers, said Tuesday that earlier this spring he sent out letters to the owners of several derelict buildings in town saying that the structures needed to go.
“They’re just dangerous buildings,” he said, adding that the Route 1 house owned by Doug Brown of Belfast is the best-known of the bunch. “With people stopping and taking pictures there all the time, I’m afraid some kids are going to get hurt.”
Hall said he hammered out a “gentleman’s agreement” with Brown, who wanted to salvage the boards and anything else he can out of the house, which the town condemned several years ago. Last winter, the back of the house fell down, though that damage is not visible from the road, and the property’s distinctive cupola may be the structural component that is holding it together, Hall said.
Efforts this week to speak with Brown were not successful.
The swaybacked house, which Hall estimates was built in the mid-1800s, looks as if it is one storm — or even one loud sneeze — away from utter collapse.
But its state of disrepair is a far cry from the way it looked even 60 years ago, according to Charlene Knox Farris, Searsport town historian. She said the home was originally built by Capt. Joseph Loomis Park, one of Searsport’s many sea captains.
“The house was beautiful when I was a little girl. It had a turret with a big window,” she told the Bangor Daily News in a 2014 interview. “It was beautiful. That was in the 1950s. It was a fairy tale house.”
At that time, Knox Farris said she was sorry to see the building falling down.
“Of all the houses in this town, that’s the one this little girl picked out as her favorite,” she said. “It makes me sad to see it, because I remember how beautiful it was.”
Even today, many people still find beauty, or at least a scenic value, in the dilapidated house.
“People are constantly pulling in and taking pictures,” an employee of Greg’s Auto Sales on Route 1, who didn’t want to give her name, said Monday. “We’ve seen multiple, multiple people taking pictures.”
She said that she and other employees first noticed Brown getting to work on it a couple weeks ago — a task that is happening with painstaking care.
“Board by board, and every nail in every board,” she said.
Hall said that Brown’s careful efforts are OK by him.
“I’d rather see things cleaned up than go through the process” of forcing someone to demolish their property quickly, he said. “This way, everybody wins.”