2014-09-05 / Community

A Window on the Past

Frank T. Palmer’s Elm Street Garage
By Craig Skelton
South Portland Historical Society

Many buildings in South Portland over the last 100 years or so have gone through one transformation or another.

My parents owned a home next to Reynolds School in the 1950s at 1060 Broadway and at that time, the building was a clapboard-sided two family. Not to miss out on a good thing, my dad bought that wonderful asphalt siding from a door-to-door salesman and, for a while, if you stood far enough away, it almost looked like a brick building – but not quite. Mom and Dad moved across town and sold the Broadway house in 1959 to folks who transformed it into the Manden Convalescent Home that occupied the building for the next decade. Not long after that, South Portland experienced a period of growth through the 1970s and 1980s seeing construction of new apartment buildings and conversion of older buildings into more living units where zoning allowed for it. It was at that time, my parents’ humble twofamily that did a stint as a nursing home was converted into a five-unit apartment building. Our fair city also saw tremendous changes again through the 1980s and 1990s, including construction of dozens of condominium complexes and conversion of apartment buildings to condominiums. Today, the old homestead is home to five residential condominium units.

Like my parents’ old place and so many other homes, 107 Elm St. also went through a few different iterations over the years. Featured in the book “South Portland: A Nostalgic Look at Our Neighborhood Stores,” that location was operated as Knapp Bros. grocery store in the late 1890s and early 1900s and, in 1904, operated under the name Palmer & Wilson. Shortly thereafter, from 1905 through 1909, Walter H. Knight operated the store until it was taken over by Eugene Treworgy around 1912.

Starting in the 1920s, Frank T. Palmer began an auto service business there, later known as Elm Street Garage, and operated it for about 10 years. Frank was the grandfather of Ralph Cary, who some may recall helped me out with the Red Men Hall article earlier this year.

Ralph tells me that a two-story porch was added to the front, which, the last time I walked by, was still there. An observer driving by 107 Elm St. today will find that the building is undergoing extensive renovations. There is no telling what the building may be next.

Craig Skelton is a guest columnist and member of South Portland Historical Society.

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