Craig Gilbert is restoring this house across from Eastern Cemetery in Gorham. Robert Lowell / American Journal

GORHAM — A professional restorer of historic buildings has begun a legacy project for himself on Main Street.

Craig Gilbert, owner of North East Housewrights, is tackling the large house at 220 Main St. he bought in November 2018. He said a neighbor in good nature calls it “the big ugly.”

One of five fireplaces at the 1775 house Craig Gilbert is restoring in Gorham. Robert Lowell / American Journal

But Gilbert, who lives in the house, has developed a five-year plan to fix it up. He envisions the property becoming a bed and breakfast.

Its outward appearance will be like it was 245 years ago with narrow clapboards and doors painted in period colors. He’ll replace modern windows with replicas of the original sashes with nine over six panes of 7 by 9 glass.

“I do appreciate property owners that strive to maintain our historical buildings like recent houses on South Street,” Gorham Historical Society Suzanne Phillips said in an email Wednesday. “We enjoy seeing history saved.”

Gilbert’s weather-worn landmark sits at the threshold of Gorham Village across from Eastern Cemetery. The property includes an ell, a two-car garage and a barn where Gilbert has set up a wood-working shop. Before Main Street construction started this year, he had a natural gas line extended into the house.

The house, built by Capt. Jonah Dyer, dates back to 1775 and Gilbert says it likely was enlarged from a smaller, cape-style home.

“The first floor frame is hand hewed,” he said.

A tall grandfather clock remains in the house. Robert Lowell / American Journal

In the mid-1800s, an ell was added. A downstairs room was remodeled in 1828, evidenced by scrawled dates Gilbert found on a timber.

In 1942, the Charles Hannaford family bought the house and used it for a residence and the office for a plumbing and heating business, Gilbert said. Fourteen years ago, Charles Hannaford III died in the home and the property slipped into disrepair.

Hannaford relatives wanted the house preserved, Gilbert said.

Many original architectural features remain, including moldings, well-worn pine floors and five fireplaces. A first floor parlor has hand-planed paneling. Prior to plaster, the original kitchen was paneled with boards that were “grooved and splined”  to make a tight fit like today’s matched lumber, Gilbert said.

The house has a sturdy stone foundation. The stones are similar to those in the cemetery’s stonewall across the street.

“I have quiet neighbors,” Gilbert said.

Researching old deeds and documents, Gilbert discovered land the house sits on is rooted deep in Gorham history. The old 30-acre parcel was owned by the town’s first settler, John Phinney. Stephen Phinney sold the property to Silas Chadbourne in 1769.

Gilbert has been cleaning up debris in the acre lot that remains today and has filled several dumpsters. He will plant cedars to replace pine trees he cleared away and soon will trim the overgrown front yard.

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