PORTLAND – “A two hundred year old damsel in distress,” Dana Robbins wrote of the home that she and her husband, Steve Gleit, bought 12 years ago.

After which, before moving in, the couple spent three years restoring the pretty Cape on Stevens Avenue between Morrill’s Corner and the University of New England. And last month, their home was recognized by Greater Portland Landmarks through its Historic Marker Program.

Since 1975, Landmarks has awarded about 300 plaques to honor Portland-area properties for their “historical or architectural significance.” This home has both.

Anyone who questions the architectural element here should consider the views of renowned Boston architect Royal Barry Wills, who championed the Cape Cod style for its simple elegance. History? The Jesse & Isabel Alden House has a long one – not momentous, but a useful illustration of local life going back two centuries.

The city dates the home to 1805, but Landmarks’ deed research determined a birthday of c. 1820. First owner Alden had served as a Major in the War of 1812. Son Alpheus’ work included blacksmithing, pre-Civil War; later, when Deering was still a separate city, he commuted intown to work on Commercial Street. His son, George, became the station master at the Maine Central Railroad passenger depot at Morrill’s Corner.

Down through the generations, until Dwight Alden sold it in 1940, Aldens owned the home. Robbins and Geit found it sound, but needing some modernization (e.g. systems, kitchen); restoration (wood floors, fireplaces); and subtraction, including carpets, wallpaper and a tacked-on front porch.


They also fell in love with 804 Stevens Ave. Their devotion is expressed by Robbins, a poet and a Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing, in “The Renovation.” The Alden House speaks, in part: “I sparkled again, my dull/garments replaced by becoming gowns,/my arms filled with oil paintings and apples.”

Reluctant as they are to leave, Robbins and Gleit are returning to New York to be near family members, a new grandchild among them. The couple recently listed the property for sale with Heidi Nottonson of Keller Williams Realty. It quickly went under contract, and the closing is early next month.

“It’s a home with personality and wonderful character, and we always felt that we were its custodians,” Robbins said. She is very glad to add that the buyer, a Cumberland County resident, is also a devotee of older homes.


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