The House

PREFACE

The impressive 6,000 square foot brick dwelling located at 28 Weld Street in Dixfield has historically been known as the Stanley House, the Marsh House, and most recently the Edwards House.  The current owner has chosen to call it the Marsh-Edwards House which reflects the names of the family that resided in the house for almost 100 years.

This history is an amalgamation of public records, newspaper reports, letters, and other archived documents and photographs as well as oral accounts. Whenever possible, however, documentation was found to verify or refute these anecdotes. What is presented here is the author’s best ability to provide a faithful and accurate account of the history of this house and its inhabitants. It is by no means a complete or exhaustive history, it is a constant work in progress, and the author welcomes source contributions from anyone who may hold more keys to the story of this magnificent place.

LAND SALE

The Stanleys and The Harlows  – 1881 to 1887

On February 9, 1881 Mary C. Stanley, the wife of Frank Stanley, paid $200 for a half acre parcel of land on Weld Street, which she purchased from the Hon. Elbridge G. Harlow. Exactly six months later on June 9, 1881 she paid the same amount for an adjoining half acre of land giving her one full acre of land just a few yards up the road from where she and her husband, her parents, and her young daughter had been living.

Mary and Frank were related to Elbridge Harlow by marriage. Elbridge’s present wife was Rosella Stanley, Frank’s sister. She passed away almost exactly one year after the [land] purchase at the age of 46. [Elbridge] died a little over a year after she did, at the age of 58, but had been in “feeble health” mentally and physically for several years prior to his death.  Although originally a lawyer by trade, having entered the Oxford County Bar in 1846, he was also a politician. He had been a representative to the Maine State Legislature in 1855, and later a state senator in 1861 and 1862. In 1871 and 1872 he served on Gov. Petham’s council charged with erecting the Normal School in Castine. In 1873 he was appointed Jail Commissioner and attended the national conference in Philadelphia. In May 1876, however, he suffered a “paralytic shock” from which he never recovered. His body gradually failed until he was unable to walk and was confined to his house. It is safe to say, therefore, that by 1881 when his brother-in-law’s wife purchased the land, he would have been physically and mentally deteriorated.

Mary’s husband Frank Stanley, 30 years old at the time his wife purchased the land and four years her junior, was a first cousin to the famous Stanley Brothers of Kingfield, of Stanley Steamer fame, and their sister, Chansonetta, a renowned photographer. Prominent locally in his own right, he was a successful businessman, owning mills, a general store containing the local post office and the telegraph office, and horses, which he traded. He was an active freemason, holding many offices in that organization. Frank was also active in local government. He served as a town selectman from 1882 to 1890, and again from 1917 to 1918. Mary Stanley was active socially as a member of the Ladies Sewing Circle an auxiliary of the Universal Society.

From February 27 1864 to July 15 1865 Frank Stanley served as Corporal for Company B of the 32nd Maine Infantry in the Civil War. He would have been 15 years old. He enlisted as a drummer boy and served in the 31st and 32nd Maine regiments until he was mustered out of service after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender. During his service, he participated in engagements at Cold Harbor, North Anna River, The Wilderness, and Green Oak Cemetery. He was also near Pertersburg during the great mine explosion. He suffered from “malarial poisoning” while serving. Soon after the Civil War ended, the L. D. Kidder Post, Grand Army of the Republic was organized in Dixfield. This was a major political force for years. Frank Stanley was the first commander of this post and also had the distinction of being Dixfield’s oldest living Civil War Veteran until he died in 1935.

In the spring of 1886, Frank Stanley sold the brick house on Weld Street to Albion Marsh for the sum of $2800.

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CONSTRUCTION

When the house was first built it did not include the veranda, and the barn was a smaller carriage house approximately half its current size. Although built in the neo-Colonial style with a center-staircase-style symmetrical floor plan and only modest Victorian adornments, it was a modern structure when it was built, and remains one of the most impressive residences in town.

In the 1880s, brick dwellings were beginning to be built with an air space between the brick exterior and the interior wooden frame walls to improve heating and cooling. The builder made sure to apply architectural improvement not only to the house, but to the barn, as well. Further, he filled that air space, at least the barn walls, with hay, for added insulation.

He also chose the most modern heating system of the time – coal fired steam heat. The house has two chimneys, one in the main house and one in the kitchen ell, but neither has ever sported a fireplace. There is evidence that each chimney ran at least two stoves on each floor, while the other rooms were fitted with steam radiators.

Perhaps the most unique feature of the house, though, is the barn. Built to be a carriage house  originally, with room for horses on the lower level, its uniqueness comes from the fact that it is built entirely of brick, just like the house, and with insulated walls. It is extremely rare to find brick barns anywhere in this country. Another feature of its construction is yet another architectural modernity of the time. That is an A-frame construction under the roof with a long bolt running from the apex of the A-frame to a beam running the length of the first floor ceiling.  This construction supports the weight of the second floor, enabling a full 36 foot span without support columns on the first floor. Many barns built in the area around that time employed the concept to allow uninterrupted space on their barn floor.

Behind the barn to the left is a small outbuilding original to the house. The actual purpose of the building remains unknown, but it originally contained a chimney at the rear of the structure, and wide doors on the east and north sides of the building. A smaller door was located next to the chimney, and the south side contained large sunny windows. Perhaps it was a laundry house, summer kitchen, or a blacksmith shop for the horses. In the 1990s, the owners at the time refurbished the building and used it as a shop to sell baseball memorabilia.

Another interesting curiosity of the house is the small kitchen located on the second floor in the ell. The sink is an antique from the Rangely Inn that was installed in the 1990s, replacing the original shallow iron sink. The plaster ceiling was also replaced with a slat board ceiling after a minor tremor in 1990 caused the crumbling original to deteriorate beyond repair.

It is not certain where the bricks for the house were made, but local masons and architects have suggested that they are of too high quality to be from local kilns. They are possibly of Canadian origin, most likely from Montreal.

After Albion Marsh purchased the residence in 1887, he embellished the house with Victorian grandiosities including the veranda, and expanded the carriage house to its present size of 36 feet by 46 feet. He also electrified the house. He installed a two-hole privy in the expanded barn, and a feed chute from the first floor to the underground level, where he kept livestock. He also added a cupola to the barn roof. Although not verified, architectural features in the barn suggest he had an ice house there, as well.

INTERIORS

In keeping with Victorian aesthetics, the wooden trim and other exterior features of the house were painted in two colors. These were crimson and pale yellow. It is more difficult to discern what the original décor and trim consisted of, since the interior rooms have undergone extensive remodeling under different owners.

The barn walls are painted in two shades of blue tinted green, which dates at least back to Albion Marsh’s time. We know this because there is only one layer of paint on the wood, and pencil graffiti on the barn door signed and dated by children of Albion Marsh in the 1890s. (*the initials RME are carved into the door as well for Robert Marsh Edwards)

The front room to the left of the entryway, which is now used as a dining room, was probably intended to be either a dining room or a twin parlor to the room on the right side of the foyer. This room was originally a deep forest green wallpaper with a raised floral and vine pattern. There was believed to be a gilded plaster chair rail that encircled the room. A stove sat off the north wall of the room.

Little else is known about the original wall coverings or moldings and trim -if any- that were added when the house was built. The house underwent extensive renovations and modifications in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was used as the residence and office of a lawyer. Suspended ceilings and wall-to-wall carpeting were installed in many of the rooms, and there is anecdotal evidence that the crown molding were removed and the door and window moldings replaced with simpler materials. It is curious that the original wall covering discovered in the dining room, along with fragments of gilded plaster wainscoting with matching colors found in the barn would be paired with simple, painted moldings now found around the doors and windows, and not be embellished with a plaster crown molding. Indeed, though the exterior of the house was not ornately decorated in Victorian trim, excepting the veranda and barn cupola,  it was nonetheless the most impressive dwelling in the community, befitting its owner’s social status. It seems odd, therefore, that the interior rooms, at least those on the first floor, would not have been more ornately trimmed. Unfortunately, unless early photographs of the interior surface, we may never know how the interior was originally decorated.

In addition to the double parlor and dining room on the first floor there is also a room to the back of the foyer. It is unknown what this room was used for originally or whether it was connected to the room next to it which is now a bathroom. The floor in this room is painted wide pine boards and a large closet has been added. It is known that this room has been used as both a bedroom and an office space. It may have originally been a type of storage room or pantry or possibly a bedroom for the cook or butler.

To the right of the dining room is the first floor kitchen and next to that is another room that was likely used for storage or as a pantry [it is currently a laundry room]. The doors leading from that storage room would have exited to outside, to the second staircase, [this door has been plastered over], and into the barn.

The four rooms on the second floor are slightly easier to discern. Although like the downstairs, various renovations and modifications have added wall-to-wall carpeting, and large closets to all of the rooms, as well as dropped ceilings. An investigation above the dropped ceilings shows mostly intact white or uncoated plaster ceilings and walls. The floors were mostly uncoated wide pine boards. However, in the front right bedroom [Private Room 1], the floor had been painted various shades of brown over the years, outlining a center floor rug space that grew larger with each new coat of paint. There was also once a door near the exterior wall that allowed direct passage to the bedroom behind it [Winds Room], that has since been plastered over.

The front left bedroom [Tina’s Room] at one time contained a stove.  This room was originally used as a ladies parlor.  From this room, one has access to another room on the second floor of the ell through a set of double doors [Hope’s Room]. This large room contains an exposed chimney [it likely contained a stove], and more ornate, stained trim and moldings, indicating the house was indeed decorated more richly than other physical clues would indicate. It is not known what this room was originally intended for but the current owner believes it was used as a sitting room or den. With four doors off from this room, it is unlikely that it was intended to be a bedroom. One of the doors access the fourth bedroom, located on the northwest corner of the main house [Bob’s Room]. On the opposite wall is a door leading to the back stairs down to the first story of the ell. The fourth door, on the same wall, leads past stairs to the attic into the narrow, all wood kitchen in the ell, which is believed to be original to the house.

The bathroom at the top of the main staircase is believed to be original to the house. It is believed that it was originally used as a “bathing” room before the actual plumbing was installed.

RENOVATIONS 1989

In 1989 Doris Hamilton fell in love with the big brick house on Weld Street. Her husband Donald Hamilton, mother Hazel Eskildson, and daughter Kerry Hamilton got together, sold the three respective houses they were living in, and with the pooled resources purchased the house on Weld Street and made extensive renovations to accommodate their multi generation family.

The large 36 feet by 46 feet two story barn was converted almost entirely into living space. On the first floor they added a full bathroom with a walk-in shower, a raised room with wall to wall bookcases [current library], and another room behind it which was originally used as a bedroom. The original stall windows, and exposed beams and brick were kept and worked into the building design.

On the second floor two large rooms and another full bathroom were added behind the all wood kitchen in the ell, which was completely restored. The first room has built in wall to wall bookcases and the original wide pine floors. The second room features pocket doors and a single window. During construction a small 13 foot by 6 foot room was discovered in front of the window.  This room was only accessible by a crude ladder that lead to a hidden trap door. The current owner believes this room to be a classic Victorian era ‘Disappointments Room.’

In addition to the rooms behind the kitchen on the second floor, another large open concept one bedroom apartment complete with a kitchen and bathroom were also added over the front part of the original carriage house as well as the large, wide staircase leading up to it. Below it, what remains of the carriage house has been left as a garage and/or storage space.

RENOVATIONS 2000

In 2000 Richard Higgins purchased the house with plans to make it into a Bed and Breakfast. To comply with local building codes he was required to add the fire alarm panel and sprinkler system to the house.

RENOVATIONS 2008

In 2008 Bill and Bev Gallant replaced the main roof and commercialized the kitchen to accommodate a restaurant. They added the large commercial stove vent and a three bay sink. The commercial sink was removed before the Gallants moved out of the house in 2016.

 

 

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