In a prior column about the Forest City Brewery on Brewery Road (now Highland Avenue), we mentioned how the brewery was turned into a fruit and vegetable cannery in 1882 by a business called Perry & Flint. One of the partners of the firm was Eben N. Perry, a well-known resident of Cape Elizabeth (now South Portland).

The former Eben Perry home at 889 Sawyer St. was converted to become South Portland Heights Hospital, that operated from 1925 until roughly 1938. South Portland Historical Society photo

In 1866, Perry had purchased land on Sawyer Street and built the stately home at 889 Sawyer St.

Perry served as deputy sheriff of Cumberland County from 1865-1869, then was elected sheriff of Cumberland County and served in that position from 1869-1872. In 1878, Perry was nominated by the governor and confirmed as the trial justice for the town of Cape Elizabeth.

He served as the trial justice for many years, while continuing to operate the produce business. In his later years, he served as the senior coroner for Cumberland County, and worked as a town constable and detective. In 1910, he sold his impressive home to Frank and Jennie Southworth. Perry died in 1912 at the age of 79.

The Southworths owned the home at 889 Sawyer St. for 14 years; they lived in the home as a single-family residence. In 1924, they sold it to Mary MacVane, the wife of Dr. Ernest MacVane. He immediately began to retrofit the home as a private hospital.

Known as the South Portland Heights Hospital, it opened its doors in early 1925. An article in the Portland Sunday Telegram described the new facility: “[The hospital] is modern in every way, with complete new electric wiring, new heating system and the addition of rooms and baths to make for the accommodation of 20 patients. Several months were taken up in the remodeling of the big residence and considerable of this time was devoted to the strictly up to the minute operating room and the erection of a fine sun parlor with room enough for two big beds….it is surrounded by broad lawns, with fruit trees in one section. It is back far enough to be away from the noise of the main street, yet is within easy walking distance of the electric car line. There are large, broad screened in piazzas. The vegetable garden and fruit trees are to be developed for fresh fruit and vegetables for the hospital. A two story building in the rear of the hospital provides housing for the help and there is also a large garage near the hospital. Miss Stella Barry, a graduate of Deering High School, a Pennsylvania girls’ school and the Boston Homeopathic Hospital is the head nurse and has proved herself to be very capable in this position.”

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An image of 889 Sawyer St. when Mary MacVane purchased the home in 1924. South Portland Historical Society image

MacVane ran the hospital through 1935. At the start of 1936, an announcement of the opening of the “new” South Portland Heights Hospital appeared in the local newspaper. Mildred E. Bowler was the superintendent of the hospital in 1936. She was the first of two live-in superintendents. The second was nurse Elizabeth P. Naylor who took over as superintendent in 1937.

By 1938, the hospital appears to have been shut down and then reopened that September by Dr. Gerard B. Fournier as the South Portland Hospital, a “private home and hospital for chronic mental and nervous disorders – all types, convalescents and invalids.”

Around 1940, the building reopened as a nursing home, known as the South Portland Rest Home, with Mrs. Ann Kelley serving as proprietor. By 1941, Mrs. Louise Oliver had taken over as proprietor. While she was living in and managing the rest home, she remarried and changed her name to Louise Streeter. From 1941 to roughly 1944, she ran the home, then left and opened Streeter Convalescent Home at 6 Pine St. in South Portland.

A 1925 announcement of the opening of South Portland Heights Hospital. South Portland Historical Society image

After having been closed for at least a year, by March, 1946, the home had been renovated, redecorated and reopened as the Depper Rest Home, managed by Mrs. Harriet E. Depper. Unfortunately for Depper, Mary MacVane (Dr. MacVane’s widow) sold the Sawyer Street building in July, 1946, to Millie E. Miller. Finding herself suddenly with no facility, Depper solved her problem by leasing the former City Home at 42 Anthoine St. and reopening her Depper Rest Home there.

Now the owner of 889 Sawyer St., Millie Miller changed the name of the nursing home to the Miller Rest Home. The Miller Rest Home operated from 1946 to July of 1963.

In 1963, Leola Noyes and her son William “Billy” Noyes, Jr., purchased the building and changed the name yet again to the Noyes Home for the Aged. They continued running it as a nursing home for a few years, but in 1967, Billy Noyes, his wife Ruth, and his mother Leola converted the building into a boarding house for special needs adults.

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Dr. Ernest MacVane, founder and operator of South Portland Heights Hospital, 889 Sawyer St. South Portland Historical Society photo

The home was known as the William Noyes Home. They had 24 men, ranging in age from 20 to 80, living in the home. Most of the men had previously lived at the Pineland Center in Pownal. Funding came in the way of reimbursement from the state on a cost-plus basis.

The Noyes family lived on site and also hired additional staff to help with the operation. Billy would bring residents out to community services in his van, 10 at a time. He’d take them to go bowling or swimming at the YMCA each week, to craft workshops in Portland, and sometimes to special events like the Cumberland Fair. Some of the residents would earn a dollar a week for helping with chores around the home, like making beds or cleaning. Depending on their ability, some residents had bicycles and would be able to bike around the neighborhood or beyond.

In an interview in the Portland Press Herald in 1973, Billy Noyes said that when he first opened the home, he initially encountered resistance from some of the neighbors who thought residents might be violent, but once they got to know the new residents of the home, the neighbors accepted it.

Billy Noyes retired in 1985 and sold the property to Kathleen Tibbetts. Tibbetts continued operating the group home under the Noyes Home name; she also operated a group home at 48 High St. in Ferry Village, known as the Gaia Home. The Noyes Home was closed and the property sold in 2001.

Residents from the William Noyes Home on their bikes. Norma Jane Langford photo/Press Herald

If you have photos, artifacts or information to share related to South Portland’s past, we would love to hear from you. South Portland Historical Society can be reached at 207-767-7299, by email at [email protected], or by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at [email protected]

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