Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Discoveries - and a History Lesson!


As I mentioned in a previous post, when we bought the house, there wasn't much inside that was very exciting.  Just old studs and cracked floor boards.  And then one day I looked up and found this!!!  A signed stud that says Soule Willard.  Just two blocks from Willard Beach.  Well, I couldn't wait to learn more! Why would we have something signed Willard in the house?  I knew the Willard family had owned the property down at the water, but were they linked to our house too?

When we looked at the City Assessors website, it shows that our house was built in 1920 ....hmmmmm ....that seems like a very round number.  Is that the case?  Or could it be earlier?  I decided to do a little research.


I checked the newly posted photo archives that are available on the South Portland Historical Society website.  I couldn't find any original photos of our house from a street view, but there is this 1927 aerial photo, that clearly shows the house.
Next, I reached out to Kathryn dePhilippo at the South Portland Historical Society.  She was incredibly helpful and suggested I do a deed search.  I discovered we are the 15th owners of the house!  Wow!  And sure enough, the property was originally owned by Henry Willard - of our Willard Beach neighborhood.  He subdivided the property after his family did this 1890 survey (in those days, South Portland was part of Cape Elizabeth) and the 1903 plot plan.  

Isn't it funny that he named Henry (shown as 'Proposed') and Willard Streets after himself???




But there's a mystery that Kathryn and I couldn't quite figure out.  It appears that in 1905 Willard sold the property to a photographer - Frank L. Norris.  And in 1906, Norris sold the property with a house to Charles Soule.  So the house was built in 1905/6 - but by Willard?  Soule?  Norris?  We're not sure!  And why does the stud on the 2nd floor say Soule - Willard?  No idea!  But it clearly ties back to the ownership of the Willard family.

BTW - Charles Soule worked for the Armstrong Haskell Company on Exchange Street in Portland.  Today that's the building with the Bliss retail store.

I'm so glad we didn't tear this house down, even though it's costing us a fortune to save it.  I love that it ties back to the origins of the community and was part of the original Willard family land.  Don't you love the history that goes with it?

And the stud with the Willard signature on it?  I haven't quite figured out how we will incorporate it into this house.  But it needs to be showcased!  Stay tuned - I'm sure we'll come up with something to highlight it!



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3 comments:

  1. Love this! Perhaps it was a stud used in a project Soule commissioned and the lumber yard added "Willard" as a reminder that the material would be delivered near Willard Beach?

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    Replies
    1. That's what I was thinking too, Kelly. When we built our house, the lumber that was delivered had our last name and our street name written on one piece of lumber in each bundle. Not the most exciting explanation, but probably the most realistic.

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    2. That's a great theory!!! In 1905, they probably wouldn't use paper for delivery.....writing on a stud makes lots of sense! Thanks!

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