“My tiny two room apt was beautifully wallpapered with very expensive paper. The front apt was very large, and it was likewise very nice. The hallways were a war zone, or disaster areas, we all had to pass thru to get to our apts.”
So wrote this month’s dump tipster, Jacqueline, recalling the days she lived at 130 Eastern Promenade.
“I had a brass cow bell hanging out my kitchen window at the end of heavy duty string down the side of the building, to know when my manfriend x sgt from the army was calling on me,” she shared via e-mail. “He rang the bell [and] I went down to let him in. The radiators talked, you might say, they whistled with steam or went pssst like a cat, or they clanged with some rhythm … the place was being fixed up.”
Decades later, and after four years of vacancy, this once-grand, three-story building is on the verge of another life.
Pigeons live here these days, nesting in holes under the eaves above the uppermost balcony overlooking Casco Bay, splattering the lone plastic chair on the porch with their droppings. Paint is peeling off the stately columns of its façade and along window trim between wood shingles of various shades of gray.
The front door is ajar, and inside the entryway the names on the dozen mailboxes are gone. The electric meters have all been removed save one, and its wheel isn’t spinning anymore. A soggy copy of the Portland Press Herald from the day after last Valentine’s Day sits wrapped in a yellow plastic bag by the back entrance.
According to previous owner Beverly Tirrell, 130 Eastern Prom, built in 1903, was known as the Longfellow Inn during the first part of the 20th century. Old postcards of the building show the façade much as it is now — only the triple-masted ships in Portland Harbor confirm that the image is of another era. During World War II, ship builders rented rooms in the building. It’s said that workers on the night shifts slept there during the day, and then daytime workers occupied their beds at night.
By the time Tirrell and her husband bought the building in 1979, it had been converted into apartments. The Tirrells renovated the property and turned a large Victorian dining room on its south side into two additional units. Twenty years later, the couple sold it to James Salisbury, who managed to get three times what he bought it for when he sold it in 2007 to Casco Bay Ventures for over a million dollars.
Casco Bay Ventures (CBV) only owned 130 Eastern Prom for two years, during which time the company was involved in an exhausting legal battle with neighbors over plans to expand the structure and convert it into nine units. The company wanted to nearly double the building’s size, according to one neighbor. A representative from CBV could not be reached for comment.
Nicolino and Patricia Ciccomancini, who own a multi-unit apartment building that abuts the property, objected to CBV’s proposal on grounds that the site is too small for the proposed renovations. After much back-and-forth between city planning and zoning boards, the couple took the real estate company to court. The Ciccomancinis declined to comment on the case.
As the lawsuit dragged on, the building sat empty. According to Shannon Richards — whose company, Fish House Realty, currently owns 130 Eastern Prom — Casco Bay Ventures allowed its tenants’ leases to expire and did not re-rent the apartments in the interim.
Richards first noticed the building while walking her dog on the Prom. She said her company made CBV an offer while the Ciccomancinis’ suit was still pending, and though the court ultimately found in CBV’s favor, the company was “burned on the whole thing” and willing to sell.
Fish House Realty closed on the property last fall. Richards said Fish House specializes in high-end renovations and is planning to convert 130 Eastern Prom into three units. She expects the project will be finished by the middle of next year.
Meanwhile, somewhere far out beyond the bay, the dull echo of a cowbell’s ring reverberates…
— Emily Guerin