U.S. Route 1 is the longest north-south road in the nation. It runs for 2,369 miles, from Fort Kent to Key West. The route is littered with remnants of the bygone era of road-tripping, before superhighways like I-95 superseded mere highways: roadside eateries and attractions, ice cream stands and fleabag motels.
Another artifact of those days are “traveller’s cabins,” tiny houses rented to tourists who eschewed Howard Johnson’s fancy hotels in favor of more rustic accommodations. One such example, Roseland’s Cabins, was located in Freeport, just south of the Brunswick town line. When I-295 diverted traffic away from Route 1 half a century ago, business dried up. Two of the cabins were moved across the road and combined to make the little ramshackle house at 1612 Route 1.
Geneva Maines grew up in that house, but these days she lives in Raymond. Documents on file at the town office indicate the property’s dumpy condition has been a problem for at least six years.
Freeport codes officer Frederick Reeder wrote to Maines in the summer of 2010 to point out the presence of “more than three unregistered or uninspected motor vehicles” on the property. He alluded to “issues we have had over the years,” at least one of which had to be resolved in court. (Reeder did not respond to my request for clarification.)
A second letter that summer noted that power had been disconnected and smoke detectors removed from the home. Reeder observed that “the kitchen sink had been replaced but the [kitchen] counter appeared to be just placed in place, and there was no plumbing hooked up to the sink.” Maines’ son had been living there despite the house’s condition, but she told Reeder he was in the process of moving and the old place was to be used for storage. Reeder made it clear in his letter that the structure was not fit for “habitation of any kind” and must be “cleaned up to prevent rodent infestation.”
Fast forward three years, to the spring of 2013, and we find another letter from Reeder on file. On a trip up to Brunswick he’d noticed the “area” around the house (an overgrown weed jungle unworthy of the word “yard”) “was strewn with all sorts of building material and debris.” He threatened to slap a stop-work order on the site if it wasn’t cleaned up.
Fast forward to today. The lumber and fixtures and junk around the house have not been cleaned up. Its interior has been gutted and various doors, shutters and sheets of plywood are stored inside. Reached by phone, Maines told me she recently had knee surgery, so she hasn’t had time to fix the place up. She added that she’s considered tearing the old cabins down and having a new residence built there, but the property is currently on the market. Asking price: $72,600.
If you decide to check out this fixer-upper/tear-down, don’t make the mistake I made when I visited. After turning off Route 1 onto a narrow dirt road that leads to a building behind this dump, I drove a short distance off the road so my rental car wouldn’t be blocking it if the neighbors arrived. I was stuck in deep mud for over an hour, getting the runaround from the rental agency, until some locals showed up and pushed me out.
Maines later complained about the ruts I’d left, though my rescuers said I wasn’t the first unwary visitor to get stuck in that mud, which reaches a depth of about three feet in the spring. Such are the dangers of muckraking journalism, I suppose.
— Patrick Banks