SCARBOROUGH – For the second time since 2004, a stately older home in one of Maine’s most exclusive neighborhoods will be demolished to make room for a new house overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Clipperways, an 8,000-square-foot home built at Prouts Neck in 1898, is expected to be torn down this fall.
Robert Gould of South Hamilton, Mass., bought the property for $4 million last year. He plans to replace Clipperways with a home that is consistent with the architecture of the original. Demolition and building permits were approved by the town this month.
Averil Porcaro, who sold Clipperways along with her four sisters, said she was sad to learn that the 113-year-old house would be demolished.
The house has been called “the jewel of Prouts Neck” and was a vacation destination for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was a friend of a former owner, Porcaro said. It is on Winslow Homer Road, not far from the late artist’s studio, which is now owned by the Portland Museum of Art.
“There’s so much history there,” said Porcaro, of Snowmass Village, Colo. “I knew that I was most likely never going back to Prouts Neck after we sold the house, but the idea that it would be there for future generations to enjoy, I liked that.”
Porcaro said she is not upset with Gould, whose family owns other properties at Prouts Neck and whom she has known for many years. She said Gould intended to preserve the house and make renovations, but changed his plan after investigating the structure. According to the permit applications, asbestos was detected in various spots within the home.
It’s not clear exactly what prompted Gould to make his decision. He did not respond to requests for comment this week.
“I know it was very painful for them, too, because he did say that it caused them a lot of heartache,” Porcaro said. “With change comes sadness. We made a decision to sell, so we did, and we can’t control what happens to it, that is not our right.”
It’s the second recent tear-down project on the southern cliffside of Prouts Neck, a gated community at the end of Black Point Road.
The house next door to Clipperways was demolished, along with a World War II military observation tower, in 2004.
Clipperways was built in 1898 by Dr. F.B. Stevenson of Portsmouth, N.H., Porcaro said. The next owner was James Shaw, and in 1935 the property was sold to Dr. George Huntington and his wife, Elizabeth Dodge Huntington.
Huntington was a minister, a professor and vice president of Robert College, an independent private high school in Istanbul, Turkey. Visitors from around the world came to Prouts Neck for summer visits, Porcaro said.
Dr. Huntington had been paralyzed by polio, and he installed an Otis elevator at Clipperways to access the second floor. He also had the thresholds sloped, to allow for wheelchairs.
According to historical accounts, including the memoirs of Elizabeth Dodge Huntington, the couple met President Roosevelt, another victim of polio, at Warm Springs, Ga.
“The story goes that FDR said Clipperways was the only wheelchair-accessible house on the East Coast with such incredible views of the ocean,” Porcaro said.
After Dr. Huntington died, Elizabeth married Dumont Clarke. In the 1960s, after Clarke’s death, she sold the house to George Collier, who owned the nearby Black Point Inn. Collier sold Clipperways to Porcaro’s parents, Dr. Arthur Cairns and Marlee Cairns, in 1974.
Porcaro was a teenager at the time. One of her most vivid memories is of sitting at the enormous dining room table, which overlooked the sea and could accommodate more than 20 people. Because the Cairns family carried on a European tradition of late dinners, friends of the daughters often got impatient.
“They wanted us to come out and go to the beach, or to parties,” Porcaro recalled. “We’d be sitting down for dinner and we’d hear the screen door slam and one of our friends would come in. My father loved the house so much, he never wanted anyone to leave. So he would just get our friends to sit down and join us, and the party would be right there.”
After Marlee Cairns died a few years ago, Porcaro and her sisters inherited the property. It was difficult to manage because the sisters live in Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Toronto, and have 16 children among them. The expense of the home was also overwhelming, including an annual tax bill of nearly $50,000, Porcaro said.
“It was a heartbreaking decision to sell, but we realized that we couldn’t afford it anymore,” she said.
Vicki Halmos, who lives two doors down from Clipperways on Homer Winslow Road, heard just this week about Gould’s plan. She said it’s always hard to watch older homes torn down, especially in a place like Prouts Neck, where owners generally value the unique histories of their homes.
Halmos’ house, The Barnacle, is more than 100 years old, and she is the third owner. A former owner, an Episcopal minister, left a traveling trunk and a Bible in the home, and Halmos takes care of them.
“You go back and look at the Prouts Neck history books and there is Clipperways,” Halmos said. “It’s a fixture here.”
While she will be sad to see Clipperways demolished, Halmos said, she respects Gould’s decision as a property owner.
“I don’t know Mr. Gould. I’ve heard good things about him,” Halmos said. “I’m sure that his project will have the best interest of Prouts in mind, whatever he does.”
Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:
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