Home and Garden

A Window on the Past – South Portland Heights Hospital and the Noyes Home – 889 Sawyer St.

In a previous column, we discussed how Forest City Brewery, now Highland Avenue was transformed into a fruit- and vegetable cannery in 1882. Perry & Flint were involved. Eben Perry, a well known Cape Elizabeth resident (now South Portland), was one the partners in the firm.

The former Eben Perry house at 889 Sawyer St. was converted into South Portland Heights Hospital. This hospital was operational from 1925 to 1938. Photo by South Portland Historical Society

Perry purchased land on Sawyer Street, in 1866. He built the stately residence, 889 Sawyer St.

Perry was deputy sheriff for Cumberland County in 1865-1869. He was elected sheriff of Cumberland County and served in that capacity from 1869-1872. Perry was nominated to be the trial justice for Cape Elizabeth by the governor in 1878.

He was the trial judge for many decades while still managing the produce business. In his later years he was the senior coroner of Cumberland County. He also served as a detective, town constable and investigator. Frank and Jennie Swworth bought his impressive home in 1911. Perry died in 1912 at the age 79.

The Southworths owned the home at 889 Sawyer St. for 14 years. They lived there as single-family homes. They sold it to Mary MacVane in 1924, Dr. Ernest MacVane’s wife. He immediately retrofitted it as a private hospital.

It was originally known as South Portland Heights Hospital. It opened its doors in 1925. An article in Portland Sunday TelegramThe facility was described as follows: “[The hospital] is modern in every way, with complete new electric wiring, new heating system and the addition of rooms and baths to make for the accommodation of 20 patients. Several months were taken up in the remodeling of the big residence and considerable of this time was devoted to the strictly up to the minute operating room and the erection of a fine sun parlor with room enough for two big beds….it is surrounded by broad lawns, with fruit trees in one section. It is back far enough to be away from the noise of the main street, yet is within easy walking distance of the electric car line. There are large, broad screened in piazzas. The vegetable garden and fruit trees are to be developed for fresh fruit and vegetables for the hospital. A two story building in the rear of the hospital provides housing for the help and there is also a large garage near the hospital. Miss Stella Barry, a graduate of Deering High School, a Pennsylvania girls’ school and the Boston Homeopathic Hospital is the head nurse and has proved herself to be very capable in this position.”

Image of 889 Sawyer St. when Mary MacVane purchased the home in 1924. Image courtesy South Portland Historical Society

From 1935 to 1936 MacVane managed the hospital. At the beginning of 1936, an announcement was made regarding the opening of the hospital. “new”The local newspaper featured South Portland Heights Hospital. Mildred E. bowler was the hospital’s first superintendent in 1936. She was the first of the two live-in chiefs. Nurse Elizabeth P. Naylor was the second, taking over the role of superintendent in 37.

It is believed that the hospital was closed in 1938. It was reopened as South Portland Hospital in September of 1938 by Dr. Gerard B. Fournier. “private home and hospital for chronic mental and nervous disorders – all types, convalescents and invalids.”

In 1940, the building opened as a nursing facility. It was also known by the South Portland Rest Home. Its proprietor was Mrs. Ann Kelley. By 1941, Mrs. Louise Oliver had become the new owner. She managed the home and lived there for some time. Louise Streeter was her new name. From 1941 to 1944, she ran the home. In 1944, she decided to open Streeter Convalescent Home at Pine St., South Portland.

An announcement from 1925 regarding the opening of South Portland Heights Hospital. Image from South Portland Historical Society

After being closed for a maximum of one year, the home was reopened as the Depper Rest Home in March 1946. It was managed by Mrs. Harriet E. Depper. Unfortunately for Depper, Mary MacVane (Dr. MacVane’s widow) sold the Sawyer Street building in July, 1946, to Millie E. Miller. Depper, who suddenly found herself without a facility, leased 42 Anthoine St.’s former City Home and opened her Depper Rest Home.

Millie Miller, the current owner of 889 Sawyer St., changed the name to Miller Rest Home. The Miller Rest Home operated from 1946 to 1963.

1963: Leola Noyes & William “Billy”Noyes, Jr. purchased and changed the name of the building to the Noyes Home for the Aged. It was used as a nursing home for a few years. In 1967, Billy Noyes and Ruth Noyes along with Leola, converted it into an adult boardinghouse.

Dr. Ernest MacVane, founder and operator of South Portland Heights Hospital at 889 Sawyer St. Photo by South Portland Historical Society

This home was called the William Noyes home. The home was home for 24 men aged 20 to 80. Pineland Center, Pownal was home to the majority of the men. The state paid the men on a cost-plus base.

The Noyes family also lived there and employed additional staff. Billy would take 10 residents with him to community services in his van. He’d take them to go bowling or swimming at the YMCA each week, to craft workshops in Portland, and sometimes to special events like the Cumberland Fair. A few residents would get a dollar per week to help with chores around the house, such as cleaning or making beds. Depending on their abilities, some residents were able ride their bicycles around their neighborhood or further afield.

Interview in the Portland Press HeraldBilly noyes, who opened his home in 1973, stated that he initially encountered resistance from neighbors because they believed the residents might be violent. The neighbors became more open to the idea once they met the new residents.

In 1985, Billy Noyes took his retirement and sold the property to Kathleen Tibbetts. Tibbetts managed the group home known as the Noyes Home. She also ran the Ferry Village group home at 48 High St. which was known as The Gaia Home. In 2001, the Noyes Home was destroyed and the property sold.

Residents of William Noyes enjoy riding their bikes. Photo by Press Herald – Norma Jane Langford

If you have photos, artifacts or information to share related to South Portland’s past, we would love to hear from you. You can reach the South Portland Historical Society at 207-767-77299, or by email at [email protected]You can also send it by post to 55 Bug Light Parc in South Portland (ME04106).

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo acts as the executive director for South Portland Historical Society. You can reach her at [email protected]

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