Jarred DesVergnes restores siding Monday on Westbrook’s historic Harris House. Robert Lowell / American Journal

The exterior restoration of Westbrook Historical Society’s Harris House in Cumberland Mills is underway and work is on schedule for the grand opening of the house next fall as a museum and learning center.

“We’re still targeting to be complete for our first annual Nathan Harris Merchants Day scheduled for Sept. 14, 2024,” project manager and house curator Deborah Shangraw said in an email to the American Journal.

Westbrook Historical Society’s Harris House on Main Street has a new roof on the ell. The roof features custom scaffolding of mahogany and cedar for a display area. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Harris was a prosperous 19th century local merchant and he and other merchants in Westbrook’s past will be celebrated at the event next fall that will mark the museum’s opening.

The house, built by Harris in 1828 on what is now Main Street in the Cumberland Mills Triangle, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pamela Pallas of Windham  donated it to the historical society, and in September the Cornelia Warren Community Association awarded a $100,000 grant to begin the exterior work.

Shangraw said Jarred DesVergnes of Alpha Remodel Design in South Portland began roof stripping and replacement of the house’s rear section on Nov. 7.

Historical Society President Michael Sanphy was worried about the roof.


“He got that done first,” Sanphy said Monday. “It’s coming along good.”

Shangraw said work to mitigate wood rot of siding began this week.

Vegetation that created a moisture barrier has been removed and much of a side wall is rotted behind its clapboards, she said.

DesVergnes, bundled up against Monday’s chill, said boarding will be replaced where needed and covered with a weather shield underlay.

DesVergnes is passionate about restoration.

“It’s blood, sweat and tears on every job,” he said.


He’s aiming to protect the house before forecasted rain and snow mid-week.

“My main concern is keeping water out of the plaster,” he said.

Although the house has weathered over the years, “overall, it’s held up pretty well,” DesVergnes said, citing the quality of the original lumber.

Shangraw hopes the exterior work can be completed before freezing weather.

“Once the wood rot (work) is complete, I’ll reassess the exterior work and remaining funds. I’m still in the process of seeking other donations and grants to continue with the restoration,” she said.

The interior restoration that includes replacing modern flooring with wooden boards is slated to begin by the end of March. Interior debris was removed earlier this month to clear the way for interior work, Shangraw said.

Come spring the exterior clapboards will receive a fresh coat of beige paint with maroon trim. The grand opening will be a fundraiser to help continue “our restoration, particularly the murals,” Shangraw said.

The oil-painted murals inside the house, once covered in wallpaper, depict the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, the USS Constitution, a sea battle and the house itself.

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