Embattled Chestnut Street house razed

By Jenna Lookner | Jan 30, 2013
Photo by: Jenna Lookner A worker from Maine Coast Construction looks on as demolition begins on the home at the corner of Frye and Chestnut streets in Camden on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

Camden — Efforts by neighbors and community members to halt demolition of the Captain Frye House ceased Wednesday, Jan. 30, as Maine Coast Construction began tearing down the house.

Captain Frye house is located at 58 Chestnut St. in Camden, was built in the late 1800s and served as Camden's livery stable for a time.

The home is owned by Robert Hammer and Susan Crowe, who previously said they plan to build a new home on the site. Architect Jack Silverio of Lincolnville designed the home that will be built on the lot where the Captain Frye House has stood for more than a century.

While Hammer did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday, Jan. 29, yellow caution tape was visible around the perimeter of the property nearest Chestnut Street. Construction equipment arrived Wednesday morning and the process of leveling the building began around 7:45 a.m.

Despite a raw, drizzly winter morning neighborhood joggers and dog walkers went about their morning routines, many pausing momentarily to look as the demolition of the residence progressed. Traffic and parking were not restricted on Chestnut Street or Frye Street during the initial stages of demolition, but shortly after 10 a.m. traffic was detoured away from Frye Street as the barn portion of the structure was taken to the ground.

Workers at the site said demolition of the house was expected to take several days. Workers said they had been in contact with Camden Police Department to inform officers about the anticipated time frame of the project, and to discuss any disruption to the normal flow of traffic near the site.

Though the structures on the site had been completely razed by Friday, Feb.1, a large pile of debris from the demolition was visible on the lot on Feb. 4.

Hammer told The Camden Herald in a Sept. 6, 2012, phone interview he and Crowe have donated a number of architectural components salvaged from the house and barn to Habitat for Humanity. From Chestnut Street, the view of the home's interior showed it appeared nearly gutted as of Wednesday, Sept. 12.

Hammer and Crowe wrote a letter to neighbors Aug. 21, 2012, informing them of the impending project; the couple received a demolition permit from the Town of Camden on Aug. 27, 2012.

Enclosed with the letter was a rendering of the shingle-style cottage that Crowe and Hammer intend to build on the site. The letter stated work on the site will "begin soon and progress through the remainder of fall and winter [2012]" with plans for "substantial completion sometime in late spring 2013."

It is unclear what delayed the demolition process.

The demolition permit allows for "removal of all existing structures from the location," according to the original application. Hammer said during a September interview he plans to remove all structures and the existing foundation, a decision he and Crowe reached after consulting with Maine Coast Construction and Silverio. Hammer said they drew the collective conclusion that building new — rather than attempting to salvage the existing building — would be in their "best interest."

An ensuing public outcry included a petition and numerous letters to The Camden Herald, some expressing dismay and surprise that Camden does not have guidelines in place for the preservation of historic homes.

In September, Camden Code Enforcement Officer Steve Wilson explained Camden has three districts included on the National Register of Historic Places — the Chestnut Street District, the High Street District and the Great Fire District.

Despite that classification, private homes in those historic districts are not explicitly protected by the town zoning ordinance, he previously said.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at jlookner@courierpublicationsllc.com.


The house at 58 Chestnut St. was devoid of all window glass and the doors were removed prior to demolition. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Demolition of the residence at 58 Chestnut St. began around 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
A worker from Maine Coast Construction looks on as demolition begins at 58 Chestnut St. in Camden. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Demolition of the house at 58 Chestnut St. began Wednesday, Jan. 30 around 7:45 a.m. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Demolition of 58 Chestnut St. as seen from Frye Street. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
The remains of the house will be consolidated in the foundation of the home before being trucked to the dump for disposal. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
A pile of rubble was all that remained of the barn and a portion of the house at 58 Chestnut St. around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
The stone foundation of the barn as seen from Frye Street. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Comments (2)
Posted by: Eleanor Masin-Peters | Jan 31, 2013 14:46

I have a beautiful, old Victorian built in 1886 in Camden, that looks similar to the house on Frye St. and  has  been,  and still is a wonderful home for our family for the past 30 years.

Posted by: Eleanor Masin-Peters | Jan 31, 2013 07:59

How sad.  Is there no reverence for our historical heritage?  Is this the best we can do in preserving our past.  All that beautiful woodwork, irreplaceable today, the memories lost to a bulldozer,  no life remaining, only a photo hanging in the Camden Library to be gaped at with awe.

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