An empty, 19th century Cape-style home in Prospect Harbor is being used as a training exercise for firefighters and will be leveled sometime over the winter. Photos Courtesy of Evelyn family

Historic Prospect Harbor home to be used for training burn

GOULDSBORO — A house in Prospect Harbor that has been in the Hamilton family for generations will be no more by the end of the winter.

The Cape-style, two-story structure that was built — as far as anyone knows — in the early 1800s, will be used as a training exercise for firefighters.

The date it was constructed is unknown because a Town Hall fire many years ago gutted the building, destroying all of the records inside, according to Mary and Bob Evelyn, owners of the historic home in the village.

But the house endures in other ways.

The seven-room home caught the photographic eye of documentarian Berenice Abbott and is included in a volume of her works published by Aperture Masters of Photography.

Abbott worked with Eugene Atget in the 1920s as he photographed Paris. She then went on to chronicle New York City in the same way.gouldsboro-house-burning-2

Abbott also created a significant body of work documenting life in Maine, where she lived in her later years.

She collaborated with Prospect Harbor writer and artist Chenoweth Hall to create her last book, “A Portrait of Maine” (1968), for which Abbott traveled around the state.

The house in question was once owned by Mary’s great-grandparents, Henry and Maude Hamilton, who bought it from a family named Handy.

The property was at one time a farm with a barn and a separate building that Henry and Maude turned into an ice cream parlor. That building is now site of the Combs Studio, which is owned by Schoodic Arts for All.

Mary’s mother, Letitia Church, was then given the house by her parents, Chester and Ruth Hamilton. Church was born in the house and now lives in Birch Harbor. She is 91.

Evelyn said the construction is interesting with rafters made of logs and secured with wood pegs. The wiring is antique Edison wiring.

She and her husband had hoped the house would be dismantled by someone for the wood, but there were no takers.

“It is close to the road and doesn’t lend itself to have anyone living there,” Mary said.

The house is pretty much the way it was originally, although a kitchen was added and the roofline at one time had dormers.

The Evelyns built their own home on a lot behind the home and directly on Prospect Harbor.

They said that once the house rubble is cleared away they will landscape with trees and other plantings for privacy.

Mary said the last people to live in the house — other than a bit of camping she and her husband did while building their home — were Chester and Ruth Hamilton, who remained there until the 1980s.

Tate McLean, fire chief for Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor, said the firefighters have already been using the house for training and drills.

One exercise involved practicing with self-contained breathing apparatus while wearing turnout gear.

The all-volunteer departments also have been doing mayday drills during which they learn what to do should they become entrapped in a burning building.

McLean said the house ultimately will be burned to the ground, likely when there is snow cover in late December or January.

“This is a very nice thing,” McLean said of the opportunity to use the house to build skills. “It’s always good to have houses to train in, especially for a few months.”

He said the closest dwelling to the property is 100 feet away, but, as a precaution, the firefighters will create “water curtains” as a barrier.

A nearby power line could be more of an issue, McLean said, so he intends to have the firefighters make a vertical cut in the roof to direct the fire away from the kitchen addition, which is near the power line.

“Then Jason Tracey will come in and haul away the debris and fill in the hole,” McLean said.

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]
Jacqueline Weaver

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