ELLSWORTH — Anchored on High Street by the old Pine Street School and on Water Street by monument company H.W. Dunn & Son, Pine Street is much more than a
throughway from downtown to uptown Ellsworth. A neighborhood in the traditional sense of the word, where you can borrow a cup of sugar and plow your neighbor’s driveway with nary a thought, the street boasts homes on the local and national register of historic buildings alongside rentals like the one at 58 Pine St.
“A Pine Street success story!” exclaims Bill Fogle, president of the Ellsworth Historical Society. “Harry Jones has done himself proud with this property, which had been in decline.” Once owned by the Tracy family in the 1940s, a careful restoration of the white clapboard aligns with the resurgence of the Pine Street neighborhood in recent years.
“I think it’s coming back — it did go away for a while,” said Janice Eldridge, who has lived at 57 Pine St. since age 11. She can point to the Jordan House, across and down a bit at 48 Pine St., from her side window. The Jordan House property extends through to Spruce Street on a double lot and, while in a state of disrepair, Eldridge said she sees someone periodically check on it. Eugene P. Jordan purchased it in 1921, which is likely how the 1892-deeded property got its name — but Jordan only held on to it for four years.
“When we came here, it was owned by three sisters,” Eldridge recalled. “There was a Mrs. Gilmore, an Elva Judd and Grace McKinley, and Grace was the principal of the Pine Street School.”
Next door to Eldridge, at 61 Pine St., is an interesting brick home that was the parsonage for Unitarian ministers in Ellsworth from 1917 to the 1950. Betsy and Doug Arntzen bought it in 1992. The house was already on the National Register of Historic Buildings when they moved in, Betsy said, “and that was fine with us.”
“The Church made renovations in 1917 for the minister and his family … [and] additional renovations for a subsequent minister in the 1940s,” Betsy said. These included turning two small parlors into one large one and fashioning a kitchen in a portion of the dining room. Now, she operates her massage therapy practice from the home.
As some homes receive a sprucing up or a remodel, others have fallen further into decay, like the 1855-built home at 53 Pine St., which Fogle calls “a gorgeous example of a tiny Maine clapboard.” He noted a demolition permit was issued to the owners in 2010 but never used.
The Tilden House at 64 Pine St., owned by Leon and Margaret S. Tilden from 1956 to 1981, has missing windows and has long been unoccupied.
“When we moved here, Mrs. Orr owned it, and she ran it as a boarding house,” Eldridge recalled. “It changed hands several times. It was a lovely French restaurant at one point. It was a lovely house, it was.”
Now, the property, and the Spruce Street house and lot behind it, have been sold, allegedly to a developer. Eldridge said she and her neighbors hope that whatever ends up being built there “will go in line with Pine Street.”
The Jordan-Fernald Funeral Home covers the corner of Pine and Franklin streets, and “has always been there,” Eldridge said.
Eldridge, a former county treasurer and telephone company employee, retired two years ago on her 80th birthday although she still works one day a week at Blaisdell & Blaisdell. After all, it’s a short hop from 57 Pine St. to the law firm’s Main Street address.
“We were the newest house on the street,” she said. “I guess I’m still the newest house and it’s been 70 years.”
Behind Eldridge’s home lies what once was Shady Lane, a cross-street between Pine and Elm, built to service the fire station that once stood at 26 Elm St. Eldridge said the street was well used, and that she’s been told by the city that it is slated to become a walking trail.
Google maps “still continues to direct us — wherever we’re going — to take Shady Lane,” Fogle said. Now it appears as a crowded driveway, heading toward attorney Chris Whalley’s house on Spruce Street, the former fire station. The attorney has moved his offices to nearby 45 Pine St., which Fogle said is slated to become an Airbnb. Whalley also owns 49 Pine St., which he uses as a rental property.
In addition to houses being fixed up (or coming down), Atlantic Art Glass and Fogtown Brewery, at 25 Pine St., brings foot traffic and has livened up the neighborhood. Built in 1906, the entrance to Fogtown faces Hancock Street but is also accessible from Pine Street.
Change is inevitable — we all know that — and for Pine Street, it is changing for the better, as this avenue of historic and neighborhood homes is slowly returning to the more vibrant neighborhood street of Eldridge’s youth.
“I have loved this street,” she said. “I have been very happy here.”