Slate House – Brownville, Maine – A Historical Landmark
Brownville Couple Restores Old Slate House
Bangor Daily News, by Edna Bradeen, c1974
The little town of Brownville is enjoying a year of special events in observance of the town’s 150th birthday. Old friends and former residents are returning with heartwarming response to help in the celebration of the of the birthday of the town well loved by them.
In keeping with all these gala events, it would seem appropriate to give an account of one of the older homes of the village which has a historical story with roots going back to one of the town’s early industries.
Back in 1828, Moses Greenleaf discovered a vein of slate running through the town “of the best quality, suitable roofs or writing slates” so states his book, “Survey of Maine.”
n 1842 the Crocker Quarry started operation and from this a “slate house” was constructed, probably in the year 1848. This house was known for many years as the Sparrow House since it was reportedly built for William Sparrowm superintendent of the quarry at that time.
Five years ago this home was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Harbron of Durhan, CT. Upon his retirement as a production engineer for Pratt and Whitney Aircraft two years ago, the couple moved into their retirement home.
The present owners wish to preserve the old home in its original design.
Located on Church Street, the two and one-half story home is constructed with a slate foundation, 22 inches of layers of slate of various thickness. The exterior of the house is also covered with slate which was cut from 7 1/4 by 12 1/4 inch size with one end rounded and when applied to the sides of the house create a pleasing effect.
The roof was originally slate covered but the owner felt it was too far gone to preserve so they had this replaced with a modern roofing.
The steps, front and back, are of the finest slate, as are the steps in the hatchway to the cellar. In nearly all of the nine mantels are found, one inch of thickness and in lengths of four or five feet, held in place by old wrought iron brackets. The walls are well constructed with double plastering and the ceilings downstairs are 10 feet high while the upstairs ones are of nine foot height. The woodwork is all of brown ash finish.
Mr. and Mrs. Harbron have completed the remodeling of the kitchen, keeping it as near as possible to the original design but still making it modern and convenient. They plan to keep all other rooms as they were originally built. They will use paneling, bright and cheerful wallpaper to make them pleasant and keep the original brown ash finish on the woodwork.
The slate on the exterior was badly in need of repair. The owners got the professional services of Olyn A. Lord of Dover-Foxcroft who restored the slate work of over 50 homes in the area. It was decided to remove all the slate from these walls, apply a covering of aluminum for insulation and as Lord and his helper, John McCarthy, replace the slate, all broken pieces are replaced with matching design cut from a regular roofing slate. Lord says his slating tools are similar to those used back in the 1880’s. He has carefully preserved and replaced the slate in the same position on the front of the house which has the following scratched into it: “E.L. Chase, Brownville, Sept. 2, 1888 — Eda Chase, Sept. 2, 1888, Brownville.”
All of this gray slate exterior has been tastefully contrasted with the use of white paint on the old wide corner finish boards and around the finish on the doors and windows.
Mr. and Mrs. Harbron are happy with their historical slate home and are deep in plans for the future use of their 26 acres of land that goes with it.
(The Slate House is on the National Register of Historic Places)