The heavily trafficked Route 1 corridor through Kennebunk is not the place you’d expect to find an abject dump. But there it is, the old Kennebunk Machine Shop at 72 Portland Rd. (as this stretch of Route 1 is called), standing on the roadside like a ragged hitchhiker sticking out a sore thumb.
Most of the paint peeled off this squat structure’s cinderblock walls and blew away years ago. Some of the square window panes are spiderwebbed with cracks, and the mortar between the blocks is also cracking. Some punk who likes Agnostic Front and U.K. Subs used spray paint and stencils to advertise those bands on the side and rear of the building.
Even from the street you can see through the windows that the place is crowded nearly floor-to-ceiling with piles of dusty junk — wood and wicker furniture, trash bags full of clothes, cardboard boxes and plastic totes containing God-knows-what.
This future five-alarm fire doesn’t scare away the locals and tourists, who line up in the warmer months for the lobster rolls and fried seafood dished out by The Ocean Roll, an antique food truck parked in the old shop’s dusty driveway. There’s a portable toilet around back for customers, and a wooden platform nearby with wooden picnic tables and, this time of year, one of those tall metal towers with propane-fed flames for warmth. One wonders which Kennebunk Fire Department official thought this was a wise arrangement.
Rich Keating of JJ Keating Auctioneers, located next door to this dump, said his family has owned the building since the 1960s and uses it for storage. The antique appraisal and auction business was started by his father, James J. Keating, who died in 1993. A large farmhouse in front of the antique business is similarly stuffed with combustible stuff.
Many people have inquired about buying the derelict shop, but Keating said he and his brother, James Keating III, don’t plan to sell it until they retire. I’m guessing they aren’t desperate for cash — James the Third is listed as chairman of Kennebunk Savings Bank’s board of trustees in its 2014 financial report — and the town tax assessor values the machine shop property at just $117,500.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection had to take action in 2013 after a man driving by the place noticed two tanks leaking kerosene into the ground. The inspector’s report indicates that Rich Keating tried to give the state the runaround for a couple weeks, but the tanks and the contaminated soil around them were removed less than a month later.
In a slightly troubling aside, the inspector notes that excavation of oily dirt beneath one tank had to be halted when buried electrical lines were unearthed. As a lone light shining down upon stacks of crap at night indicates, the building still has electric power.
— Patrick Banks