'The Grand Recycler'

Searsport 'landmark' slow to come down

Owner's Belfast buildings not condemned
By Fran Gonzalez | Apr 09, 2018
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Doug Brown has been salvaging pieces of the house he owns at 386 East Main St. in Searsport for some time now. On March 30, most of the structure still stands.

Locals know Doug Brown likes old houses.

He scavenges for historical hardware, knobs, handrails, trim, beams, shiplap boards, plumbing fixtures and the like and sell to people looking for authentic pieces.

He has a unique real estate portfolio, as well. One of his "landmark" properties is the Victorian-style house at 386 E. Main St. in Searsport, across from Greg’s Auto Sales. Though the structure has deteriorated since he bought it some 12 years ago, many people are still drawn to what has long been a curiosity on Route 1. Many visitors over the years have ignored the "no trespassing" signs.

Searsport Code Enforcement Officer Randy Hall said the house has not been occupied in more than 20 years, long before Brown purchased it. Nearly two years ago, in April 2016, Hall sent out letters warning property owners, including Brown, about public safety issues created by derelict structures.

At that point, portions of the house had "fallen to such a disarray that they are beyond repair," Hall wrote in his letter to Brown.

Since then, Brown has been working on taking the structure down, according to Hall. No fines have been imposed and there is no timeline for work to be completed, he said.

Two large trailers are currently parked in the front yard of the East Main Street building with boards and other debris spilling out.

“It would have to get really extreme for fines to happen,” Hall said. “Most of the time if you treat the owner decently — they will work with you.”

Brown owns another highly visible building in Belfast, on the corner of Edgecomb Road and Route 3, just up the road from Perry’s Home Furnishings. Several weeks ago, a storm that dumped heavy wet snow caused a partial collapse of the roof.

According to Belfast Code Enforcement Officer Tod Rosenberg, Brown’s Edgecomb Road building is not condemned and is not in any imminent danger of falling down.

“If the building was occupied, it would be condemned,” Rosenberg said. “I worked with him two years from now to get the roof repaired — the city manager has worked with him.”

Brown was only able to complete repairs to half the roof; the side that did not collapse.

Belfast has had only three buildings condemned in the last seven years, according to Rosenberg. Two were on Poors Mill Road and one on Harvey Road. The structures were questionable, so they were demolished, Rosenberg said.

Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum said he was aware of Brown’s roof collapse and said “the building is still structurally sound and secured on the first floor.”

But is Brown following Belfast's property maintenance code?

"We have a lot of people that don't follow the code, a lot of properties,” Slocum said. "As long as it doesn't affect life or limb, we try and work with the property owner."

Slocum said city officials worked with Brown five years ago on his Waterville Road property as well. Rosenberg previously said the Waterville Road (Route 137) property owned by Brown “has a long history of violations.” Most of the violations are related to “junk” stored at that location.

At one point, the violations were so severe that Brown was arrested and jailed, Rosenberg said. Members of the Maine Militia came to Brown's aid and cleaned up the property enough to allow his release from jail a week later, he said.

"We will need to reassess his other property once the snow goes away," Slocum said.

“This is what he does, he buys old structures and salvages what he can.” he added. “He's the grand recycler."

Brown has not been fined by the city. Attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.




Pieces of the 386 Main St. house lay strewn over the side and front part of the property, March 30 (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
This Edgecomb Road structure, owned by Doug Brown, sustained roof damage from a spring storm. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Doug Brown's Waterville Road property, pictured March 30, has had a long history of violations. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Debris still remains at the Waterville Road property March 30. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Comments (5)
Posted by: Bruce Cooper | Apr 11, 2018 06:14

Although I live near Philadelphia, I have been photographing this house every summer for more than 30 years while vacationing June and July. It was built in the late 1830s by Capt. Joseph Loomis Park (1817-1884) a noted Searsport sea captain with whom I have complicated direct family connections going back to 1842.

My closest connection to this house is through my great grandparents, Joseph Agustus Treat (1843-1919) and Florence Emeline Merrill Treat (1848-1943), who spent their wedding night in the house on September 13, 1871 after being married in Frankfort. Florence Merrill Treat's mother -- and my great great grandmother -- was also a Treat, Emeline Treat Merrill (1814-1865), who was married to my great great grandfather, Major General Jonathan Merrill (1801-1848), commander of the Second Maine Militia in Frankfort.

On February 3, 1842 Capt. J.L. Park married 23-year old Susan Parker Treat (1819-1887) who was both his stepsister and Emeline Treat Merrill's cousin. The Parks had seven children (also my relatives) of which six were born in the house, and the other was born in India. Of their seven children, two died as infants and the other five lived to the ages of 11, 15, 25, 41 and 64. Capt. Park passed away in the Searsport house 1884 at the age of 67, and Susan three years later in 1887 also at 67.

Susan Treat Park's sister, Lydia Parker Treat, was married to Joseph Park's cousin, Capt. Benjamin Bentley Park (1813-1884), but my family ties are even more complicated than that! When Lydia Treat Park died in 1871 at age 59, Benjamin Park then married Florence Merrill Treat's first cousin, Alice Merrill Treat (1850-1939), who was not only 37 years Benjamin Park's junior, but also survived him by 55 years. All five these Treat/Parks are now buried in a row next to each other in the Bowdich Cemetery on Rt 1 in Searsport about a mile from the Capt. Joseph Park house, and barely a hundred yards from Capt. Benjamin Park's house in which my great uncle, Leonard Merrill Treat, lived for many years and which I stayed in when visiting Searsport as a child in the 1950s. That house still stands and is the home of Paul and Lynn Rulli.

As sisters, Susan Treat Park and Lydia Treat Park were also both one generation older cousins of both Joseph A. Treat and Florence Merrill Treat, while Alice Merrill Treat Park was Florence's first cousin, that means that I am related, by either blood or marriage, to ALL seven of Treats, Merrills and Parks proving once again that the family relationships and marriages in 19th century seafaring coastal Maine were often notoriously close -- and oh so wicked complicated.

As for Capt. Joseph Park, among the vessels of which he was the master during his career was the schooner "St. Cloud". On December 15, 1839 while he was sailing the "St. Could" from New York to Prospect, ME, it was caught in the first of three "great gales" that struck along the coast of Massachusetts in the last two weeks of 1839 that wrecked over 90 vessels, damaged 200 more, and resulted in the loss of more then 90 lives. The "St. Cloud" wrecked and went down at Cape Ann some thirty miles northeast of Boston with the loss of two lives.

Bruce C. Cooper

Posted by: John E Marshall | Apr 10, 2018 13:50

How many times can Mack Page and the Maine Militia come to Doug Brown's aid? I say lock him up again.


Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Apr 10, 2018 11:53

The Searsport  house sits across one of the busiest flea markets in all of Mid-Coast Maine.  The issue is safety and when a child goes in "exploring" or the addict decides it is a good place to make meth and stay out of the rain.........well then you are right, he does not have enough money, should a child get hurt or teenagers use it for a place to drink.  None of these buildings are secure and if you're a parent then you know kids do not have the mental development to determine risk properly.


You are right about the longer he waits the less his argument survives of there being any value to the nobs and moulding.  At minimum he should fence around the decaying buildings for safety and liability reasons.  For if an accident, and that's why they call them accidents, happens a good lawyer will take ALL of his land as well as all his knobs and mouldings.  Leaving him with nothing but a story of once being the Grand Recycler.

Posted by: Patricia Keyes | Apr 10, 2018 10:20

I hate to see these old buildings, usually orginally crafted far better than anything being put up today, simply leveled to "put up a parking lot." There's only loving sweat equity in the remains, and he should be left alone to putter as he has strength. It may sound like a lot of money if you valued each knob and piece of moulding on a spreadsheet, but you have to have a buyer. Time keeps on ticking, and the longer these things sit, the less likely they are to be reused. If our Grand Recycler gets sick or is forced to work on something else more urgent, time passes and he loses money on a spread sheet.  He can't afford to pay people to take it down gently and pack it all in protective plastic either!  Again, without a buyer, there's no financial reason to move anything. Just because he could put money into bagging and tagging it all, doesn't mean he'll be able to sell it! He could spend thousands no a crew to satisfy the aesthetic tastes of city dwellers, and end up bankrupt for it. Leave him alone. Enjoy the view, and the reminder to all of us that we will all rot and die someday, and life is too short to meddle in other people's business.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Apr 09, 2018 10:38

Maybe the municipalities might consider the value of the property for tax purposes in "The Grand Recylers" valuation.  Evidently there is more value in those buildings then meets the pretty police valuation.


The pics in this article show the Edgecomb Rd Property as a structure that suffered snow damage, HOWEVER the other pics look like junk yards which I ask.....Are these properties considered and permitted as junk yards?

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