AUGUSTA — The city hired a contractor this week to clean up a Cony Street property over the objections of a man who said the items carted off by a contractor included valuable antiques, Civil War collectibles and family heirlooms.

City officials say they got a court order to clean up the yard and outbuildings at 143 Cony St. after dozens of complaints over the past seven years. Contractors had to use an excavator to fill multiple containers full of junk, the city said.

The cleanup process at the home of Rita Elwell and her son Gary Elwell was watched by city police Thursday and Friday morning.

Officials said police went to the property because the owners were upset and uncooperative.

Gary Elwell, 72, said the show of police force was unnecessary and he suspects it was meant to make “a big show” out of the city’s cleanup of the property. He said the whole ordeal was upsetting to his 92-year-old mother, Rita. The contractor removing items from the property destroyed gardens she had tended there for more than 50 years, Elwell said. He said the items scooped up by a large excavator, many of which he said were destroyed in the process, included antiques, some of which were worth thousands of dollars, family heirlooms including his sister’s dollhouse, and personal property.

“All of it had value,” Gary Elwell said. “They said it had no value, but they didn’t take an inventory. They took it away to get rid of the evidence. This is theft. I’m a historian and a writer. I lost my library of rare books, and a lot of my writing.”

What Elwell saw as valuable antiques, heirlooms and collectibles, Robert Overton, a city code enforcement officer, saw as junk that had been left outside and unprotected from the elements in violation of state junkyard laws and solid waste rules.

“The unfortunate thing is a lot of the stuff there, at one time, may have had some value, but you don’t take an antique desk and store it in your yard,” Overton said. “Everything out there – and you name it, it was out there – was clearly junk because of the way it was being stored. We ended up removing, I think, four full 20-yard dumpsters of debris.”

Overton said the codes office first sent the Elwells a notice seeking to get the property cleaned up in 2009.

Overton said the problems at the property were caused by Gary Elwell, not his mother, Rita, the owner of the home.

Elwell said he paid $1,000 for one of the books alone, an 1830 collection of Maine literature, and he shuddered to think what the total value of his collection was worth.

He said he had many Civil War-related items in a storage structure on the property and that he’d hoped to start a museum with the items one day.

The city of Hallowell seized Gary Elwell’s former home, the historic Gov. Joseph Bodwell House, in 2006 for nonpayment of taxes.

Elwell said he is seeking an attorney in an effort to be “made whole” for the city of Augusta’s actions in removing items from the Cony Street property.