In the heart of Portland’s Deering Highlands neighborhood stands a home shrouded in tarps and mystery. Located at 52 Edgeworth Avenue — just around the corner from the playing fields of Deering High School — the property has been in shabby shape for several years.
In addition to the aforementioned tarps hung over the front room (which appears to be missing a wall), the property’s yard contains a pile of wooden pallets and a trailer full of plastic trash bins. A faded blue Chrysler minivan is parked (perhaps permanently) in the weedy driveway, and more junk piled up inside the house can be seen through one of the windows that hasn’t been boarded up yet.
City tax records list the owner as Hubert Irving, who bought the place with his wife Jacqueline in 1970 for a little over $15,000. Phone numbers listed for both Irvings were disconnected. (Jacqueline’s number was also listed as belonging to Scott Irving, possibly a son, who also couldn’t be found.)
The neighbor who gave me the tip about this dump said he’s seen the place steadily deteriorate ever since he moved to the neighborhood a decade ago. This neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the elderly woman who used to live there (probably Jacqueline) allowed the place to become a pigeon sanctuary. That “obviously did not please the neighbors, especially when there were, like, 40 or 50 of them at one time!” he said.
The neighbor thinks Jacqueline moved or passed away about two years ago, and said he thinks her son (presumably Scott) assumed responsibility for the house. The pigeon problem has abated a bit, and the neighbor said the caretaker has done a few things to maintain the property. The lawn is regularly mowed and someone once brought a cherry picker over to trim some of the trees, but months often pass without any noticeable activity there. The place still has electricity, as evidenced by the fact someone neglects to turn off the lights inside.
“The fact is, we pay very high property taxes around here, so it boggles the mind how someone could just let the house go to seed like that and still be paying the taxes,” said the neighbor. “And if they’re not paying the taxes, how come the city hasn’t quarantined the place?”
The property got the attention of city inspectors two summers ago, when someone complained that three large tents set up there were encroaching on neighboring properties and there was a lot of junk piled up in the yard. A follow-up inspection a month later found the violations had been corrected, but noted that the inside of the home was too unsanitary for habitation — human habitation, that is, not pigeon.
— Patrick Banks