Portland’s West End lost its agrarian character well over a century ago, yet splinters of the neighborhood’s pastoral heritage live on — barely — at 1 Joy Place, a neglected lane off Brackett Street next to Fresh Approach market. There stands a 133-year-old, blue-grey barn with a sunken roof, a slumping posture, and an uncertain future.
“That barn has obviously been a blight on the landscape for a while,” said West End City Councilor Dave Marshall, who lives a couple blocks away from the structure. Marshall said he’s received complaints from neighbors who say their fire insurance rates have risen due to their proximity to the old barn.
And then there’s the colony of feral cats who call the barn home.
“They’re not exactly friendly,” said Brackett Street resident Brian Chick. “They like to get into my shed and feed on what is in there…. I’ve given up on any gardening until that situation is taken care of.”
Help may be on the way. Officials with the city’s inspections and historic preservation offices have been trying for the past year to get owner Albert Bresette to address the building’s needs. City spokesperson Nicole Clegg said code inspectors went through the property last year, declared the barn and two nearby structures unsafe, and posted them against occupancy.
Bresette “needed to submit a structural stability report, and it doesn’t look like he’s done that,” Clegg said. She added that the city was preparing another letter to the owner reiterating his responsibility to weatherproof the structure, ensure that it’s watertight, comply with historic preservation regulations and hire an engineer to conduct a structural stability report. Once that letter is received, Clegg said Bresette will have 30 days to notify the city of how he plans to respond to their request.
Bresette declined to be interviewed. “I wish you wouldn’t write about my house,” he said. (Bresette actually lives on Campbell Road, off Riverside Street in Portland). He said The Bollard would hear from his attorney if we did so.
We called his attorney, Westbrook lawyer Andrew Broaddus, who said he was not authorized by Bresette to comment.
If Bresette continues to leave the Brackett Street property in its current condition, Clegg said the city may take legal action. “It’s our option of last resort,” she said. “We like to resolve these things amicably.”
Meanwhile, neighbors are trying to look on the bright side. Chick said the status quo is more tolerable than, say, a condo tower. “What’s there isn’t exactly the most horrible thing in the world,”
— Patrick Banks