2017-11-23 / Front Page

Automobile comes home to Saco

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


Above, Larry Phillips, right, drove the 1940 LaSalle in a trailer from Connecticut to Maine Thursday, Oct. 19. Phillips had a black and white photo of the LaSalle parked in front of Laurel Hill Cemetery, but didn’t know where the photo was taken. He contacted Ann Garland at the Dyer Library after finding the car’s original registration, which was to Lenora Seavey. Right, Kelley Archer, left, is the newest chairman of the Saco Historic Preservation Commission. She and Garland have since compiled research on Seavey and the home and created a document tracing connections back almost 100 years. (Grant McPherson photos) Above, Larry Phillips, right, drove the 1940 LaSalle in a trailer from Connecticut to Maine Thursday, Oct. 19. Phillips had a black and white photo of the LaSalle parked in front of Laurel Hill Cemetery, but didn’t know where the photo was taken. He contacted Ann Garland at the Dyer Library after finding the car’s original registration, which was to Lenora Seavey. Right, Kelley Archer, left, is the newest chairman of the Saco Historic Preservation Commission. She and Garland have since compiled research on Seavey and the home and created a document tracing connections back almost 100 years. (Grant McPherson photos) SACO – A vintage automobile was returned to its historic home after almost half a century, thanks to the work and patience of many volunteers.

Lenora Seavey, born 1885 in Newfield, lived at 90 Temple St. after her husband, Alton Moss Seavey, died in 1940. Fifteen years later, Gertrude Bean moved in to clean and cook for Seavey. The two travelled to church together every Sunday in Seavey’s 1940 LaSalle. The classic car is now owned by Larry Tribble, an antique car collector who lives in Suffield, Connecticut. On Tuesday, Sept. 5 the house at 90 Temple St. was placed at the top of Maine Preservation’s 19th Annual Most Endangered Historic Places List 2017. In 2012, a fire destroyed much of the roof and third floor. Since then, the first and second floors have been exposed and seen water damage. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The city of Saco took over ownership of 90 Temple St. in June 2016 because of overdue property taxes.

The connection between the 1940 LaSalle and 90 Temple St. was first made when Larry Phillips, who works for Tribble, found a black and white photo of the car in front of a gazebo. Using the car’s original registration, Phillips contacted Ann Garland, a volunteer for Dyer Library, to learn if the picture was taken in Saco. The two confirmed the picture was taken in front of the gazebo at Laurel Hill Cemetery on Beach Street.


Except for the carpet and tires, the 1940 LaSalle is all original. The 77-year-old automobile has had four owners since it was first owned by Lenora Seavey and has 32,000 miles on it. The house at 90 Temple St. was the first entry on Maine Preservation’s 19th Annual Most Endangered Historic Places List 2017. It was severely damaged by a 2012 fire and has been vacant since. Frank Carr, of Hardypond Construction, hopes to repair the building and use it as an apartment building again. (Grant McPherson photo) Except for the carpet and tires, the 1940 LaSalle is all original. The 77-year-old automobile has had four owners since it was first owned by Lenora Seavey and has 32,000 miles on it. The house at 90 Temple St. was the first entry on Maine Preservation’s 19th Annual Most Endangered Historic Places List 2017. It was severely damaged by a 2012 fire and has been vacant since. Frank Carr, of Hardypond Construction, hopes to repair the building and use it as an apartment building again. (Grant McPherson photo) “It’s been a treasure hunt,” Garland said. “I enjoy research. I’ve learned as much about Saco in the time researching the car as I did all the time I’ve lived in Saco. Unfortunately (Seavey) died in 1975. Few people around actually knew her in person.”

The 1940 Lasalle has about 32,000 miles on it and likely never left Saco before 1967 when Seavey sold it as her health began to decline. Cadillac made the LaSalle between 1927 and 1940 as a less expensive model to help its struggling sales. Seavey’s LaSalle is one of 23 of 425 convertibles from the last year the model was built.

“It runs amazingly,” Phillips said. “It’s very special. It’s all original, never been redone aside from the carpet and tires. It is the original car.”

Phillips drove the car in a trailer from Connecticut to Saco Thursday, Oct. 19. Tribble is only the fourth owner of the 1940 LaSalle in its 77 years. He shows it at car shows across the country, most recently in Michigan. Tribble would like to return the car to Saco if the house at 90 Temple St. can be restored.

Kelley Archer, Saco Historic Preservation Commission chairman, hopes to do just that. After she learned of 90 Temple St.’s endangered status, she began to research the history of the home and its connection to Seavey with Garland’s help. She has since put together a binder and power point presentation of what the two women collected.

“Forty-eight pages later and it’s still continuing,” Archer said. “She stays on the car side and I started with the men, the architects and the house side and we put them together.”

The house, built in 1890, is an example of the Queen Anne style and was designed by Josiah M. Littlefield. Four of Littlefield’s buildings, including 90 Temple St., were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The other three are located in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Restoration of the home could take place soon thanks to Frank Carr and Hardypond Construction. The Portlandbased contracting firm is also renovating the former Notre Dame Church on Cutts Avenue. The company does not own 90 Temple St. yet, but Carr serves as a volunteer project manager to try and kick start work on the house. The former church is less than a half-mile away from the house at 90 Temple St. The group placed plywood boards on the roof in September to prevent further water damage to the interior. Carr plans to raise money to cover the cost and labor for repairs.

“This needs a public and private partnership,” he said. “Hardypond has project volunteers and council expressed support for it to be preserved. This has to get going, nobody is doing anything.”

Archer said Carr could appear before the planning board in December for another project update on the 90 Temple St. project. Carr said the project could be eligible for either local or federal abatement funds. Mold and lead paint inside the house will have to be removed. Archer hopes to apply for a grant from the Certified Local Government program, a conservation effort run by the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Office. Saco is one of only ten Certified Local Governments in Maine.

Archer read an architect survey from the National Register that stated the original design plans of the house survived and she’s begun looking for them to help future developers.

“I would love to be able to have my hands on those plans,” she said. “Then going forward we would be able to use the same footprint of the original plans in order to put it together.”

Archer is serving her first year as chairman of the Saco Historic Preservation Commission. She was excited to see the LaSalle in front of 90 Temple St. after weeks of coordination.

“See (the car) drive in and drive away with the top down and the weather, I was totally ecstatic about the whole story,” she said. “It all began with a car and a gazebo and we got a road trip home.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “It just keeps having all these different components, all interrelated. One-hundred and twenty-five years later the story keeps going. We think stories get buried over time. It’s amazing how this one became alive again, especially a 77-year-old car.”

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