The structure at 300 Allen Ave. was Portland Magazine’s December 2000 House of the Month. The article described the now 163-year-old Cape as “gracious … [a] clean, uncluttered cottage … lovely with its white clapboards and large green shutters, safe from time and perched in front of a spacious acre filled with walnut, apple, blackberry, willow, pine and oak trees.”
Well, maybe not so “safe from time” after all.
Weeds now claw at the house’s exterior, with its flaky paint and weathered siding. One side is marred by graffiti and the green shutters are nowhere to be found. Neither is the Portland Stone Foundry bake oven mentioned in the article. The “magnificent serpentine stairway” still winds up to the second floor, but — like the rest of the interior — it’s peeling and coated with dust. A large red “V” nailed near the front door is posted to alert firemen that there is no one inside to rescue.
The last person to live at 300 Allen Ave. passed away a decade ago. The late Sara Cowan taught Latin at Deering High School and was an avid gardener, neighbor Bernice Knox recalled. Since her death, Cowan’s orderly garden and orchards, “a popular urban stopping place for Canada geese,” have become a jungle. But the flowers still bloom, and neighbor Marion Puglisi has seen numerous passersby stop to dig up Cowan’s lilies.
The property has changed hands a number of times since Cowan’s death, but no one has ever moved in. Its current owner is an entity called Harlequin LLC with a Westbrook address, according to Portland tax records. It was first sold for $124,900 in 2001 and is currently being offered for $495,000 — more than three times its tax-assessed value of $142,800.
Puglisi wondered whether the high asking price explains why the house has been on the market for so long. But the property’s broker, Michael Rogers, said the recession has been more of a factor. Rogers said there are negotiations underway with a buyer who wants to replace the dilapidated Cape with a medical building and turn its overgrown gardens and orchard into a parking lot (too bad for the geese).
As for the house itself, Rogers said, “the owner has received numerous inquiries from people who would like to move it.” He declined to offer more details about the Cape’s prospective buyer or its relocation until the sale was complete. In the meantime, get those lilies while they last.
— Emily Guerin