33 Congress has shown a remarkable consistency in ownership since it was built in the early 1900s, with two families – Hilton and Turesky – in possession nearly the entire time. The first owner was Theara Hilton (1862-1939) who purchased the lot from the Deering heirs (Henry Deering, Henrietta Deering, Margaret Noyes and Margaret Gilman) in 1901, while he, his wife Mary and a young son were renters at 3 North Street. Hilton was an apothecary, a trade he listed in every census after 1880, when he was a youthful mill hand in his native Richmond. For decades Theara Hilton Drugs was located down the street at 129 Congress, opposite the Portland Observatory (now Belleville Bakery). With a small family of his own, Hilton usually rented out a portion of his beautifully situated house. In 1910 the tenant was a packer in the corn industry with a wife and twin daughters. A recently arrived Irish girl served as live-in maid. Ten years later five adults and three children of a retail grocer were the occupants. In the final census of his life, Hilton shared the house with his thirty-year old son, also a druggist, and his family of four, a 17-year old nursemaid, and a single woman in her forties who managed a doll hospital. In 1947 it was bought by Solomon Turesky.
Both Solomon and his wife had been born in Polish Russia in the late 19th century. Yiddish speaking, they married and had two children before Solomon emigrated to the US in 1910. His wife and children followed two years later, and four more children were born in Maine. In the WWI draft document, he was described as slender, of medium height, with blue eyes and dark hair. A peddler in dry goods before becoming a merchant in the clothing trade, by 1930 he had bought a house on Sheridan Street (worth $2000 in 1940), where he lived before purchasing 33 Congress. After his death in 1963, the house passed down through numerous children to his grandson, the current owner, in 1982.
33 Congress Street - 1924
34 Congress Street
The large turreted house at 34 Congress Street, at the corner of Morning Street, is an example of a wood-frame Queen Anne dwelling built at the turn-of-the-century to house an increasing, mostly immigrant, population in Portland.
It was built by ‘brick mason’ Jeremiah G Floyd (1825-1909) c1895 after his purchase of the lot from Francis Fessenden. Floyd, a Maine native, was an active builder in Portland during the second half of the 19th century.
The first resident of the dwelling was Rufus Cutler Libby (1861-1934). The son of a furniture dealer, Libby was an insurance agent with an office on Exchange Street. In 1913, he joined the well-known Turner, Barker & Co. Libby was also an amateur photographer whose collection of hundreds of photo negatives forms part of the Maine Historical Society’s archive.
Herman Libby followed his father in the insurance business – in 1940 he reported an income of $3800 a year. Herman inherited the property and lived there until it was finally sold out of the family in 1955, sixty years after its construction.
34 Congress Street - 1924
74-76 Munjoy – Wolf Russman Store and Apartment Buildings 1916; Joseph Libby, Builder.
Russman (1863-1950) was a Russian/Jewish immigrant who came to the US in 1893. He worked at first as a fruit peddler and married in Portland in 1911 to his wife Sarah Meyers, a widow with a young son. He had his grocery shop here in the first half of the 20th century. Buried in Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hicks St, Deering
80 North Street
80 North Street, 1871, The Hiram Pierce House
Hiram Pierce of Wolfeboro NH moved to Maine where he is listed in US Census records as a hay wholesaler. It appears that his son Harry worked as a clerk in his hay business on Moulton Street. In 1900 Hiram, his son, his daughter Anna and her two children lived in the house with a female servant. Hiram died in 1909. After the Pierce family sold the house in the late teens, the dwelling appears to have been rented. The house originally had a connected two-story barn.
80 North Street
63-69 St. Lawrence Street
63-69 St. Lawrence Street, c 1868
Built shortly after the Great Fire of 1866, the large multi-family dwelling is Greek Revival in style. According to Landmarks records, it is the Captain A Merrill & Ai J Fickett House. It was occupied by the Fickett family for many years. Ai J Fickett was a carpenter, and the likely builder of the house. Fickett lived with his two daughters, Ella and Mabel. The daughters ran a fancy goods store out of a portion of the dwelling. Mabel died in 1884 at 25 years old. Her sister continued to operate the store for a few more years.
In the 1920s, Mrs. Hattie Besse of 63 St. Lawrence was the publisher of Whitney’s Pocket Guide to Portland (copies of this travel guide can be found at Osher Map Library)
63-69 St. Lawrence Street 1924
140 Congress Street
Built around 1858 and located directly next to the Observatory, the Ellen Moody York House is a modest one-and-a-half-story home. Largely vernacular in style, it boasts hints of Gothic and Greek Revival influences with features such as tripartite windows, slightly curving trim, and rounded molding. Seen from the Observatory's seventh-story viewing deck, the house has a rear ell with gabled windows facing down Munjoy Hill towards Casco Bay. Since 1924, 140 Congress Street has been altered by the church addition.
The Ellen Moody York House at 140 Congress Street is located on land long-owned by members of the Moody family. Born in Portland in 1837, Ellen Moody was the granddaughter of Lemuel Moody, who built the Observatory in 1807. She married John W. York and had several children, the oldest of which, Edward Howard York, gave the Observatory to the city of Portland in the late 1920s.
140 Congress Street - 1924
46 Lafayette Street
46 Lafayette Street, The William Jones House c.1850 In 1850 William J Jones purchased land from Harriet Peterson on Lafayette Street. US Census records indicate William was born in the Danish West Indies and came to the US through Canada. He became a naturalized citizen in 1892. His widow Mary [Elizabeth] remained in the house at 46 Lafayette street after his death. She lived in the dwelling with two of their three sons, Alfred, Edward and Abraham. William J Jones worked variously as a mariner (1850-1869), a cook (1875), a wood and coal dealer (1885-1888), and a laborer (1880, 1890-1891). In 1899 Mary deeded the house to Abraham and two lots at 44 and 46 Lafayette Street.
In 1922 the dwellings were purchased by George Simms. His family had been living in the dwellings since 1916 according to street directories. George was a clergyman who was born in Washington DC. He lived in the dwelling at 46 Lafayette with his wife Lila, a native of South Carolina, and four their children.
46 Lafayette Street 1924
48 Lafayette Street
c.1850, original occupant, unknown, a later owner was David Augustus Dickson (1887-1979) who came to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica, British West Indies in 1911 and became a naturalized citizen in 1916. His wife, Mary Daly (1890-1981), came to US in 1914. The couple lived on Lafayette Street for several years before purchasing the home at 48 Lafayette Street in 1927 from Cressey & Allen, David’s employers.
David worked as a shipper (1930), porter (1940) and janitor at Cressey & Allen’s retail music store on Congress Street for many years. He later worked as an elevator operator and janitor at Porteous, Mitchell and Braun Department Store (1941-1943) and as a janitor at Associated Hospital Service of Maine (1950s). Mary worked as a maid and seamstress. In 1950 she was named Maine State Mother of the Year.
The Dicksons raised five children. While David and Mary only attained an eighth grade education, all of their children went onto higher education. The four eldest, Leon, Audley, David, and Frederick, graduated from Bowdoin College. Leon, Audley and Frederick became medical doctors. Leon graduated from Howard Medical School, Audley graduated from Columbia University School of Optometry, and Frederick became a surgeon after attending the University of Rochester Medical School, but died young in 1957 at age 35. Their brother David received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard, served in World War II, and went onto spend 40 years in academia as a teacher and university president.
Their youngest and only daughter, Lois, was valedictorian of Portland High School in 1950 and class president of Radcliffe College. A few years after her graduation from Radcliffe College she became the vice-president and director of the Washington DC office of the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). While with the CEEB she designed and implemented the Pell Grant Program. She married Emmett J. Rice, an economist, and had two children E. John Rice Jr. and Susan E. Rice, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. National Security Advisor for President Obama.
Although David and Mary Dickson moved to 51 Melrose Street in the early 1960s, the Dickson family continued to own the house at 48 Lafayette Street until 1984.