FARMINGTON – The Butterfield main house was built in 1789 and was the oldest standing wood frame structure in Farmington, until it was demolished by E.L. Vining Co. last week. The structure was part of a pair of homes built by Samuel Butterfield during Farmington’s early beginnings. The second structure, a brick mansion, was converted into what is now Skowhegan Savings Bank, but the main house, fondly referred to as Butterfield’s “Red House” remained a home. It’s been passed between several different owners over the years, and according to Marion Scharoun, current President of the Farmington Historical Society, the last private owner had high hopes that someone might finally step in and save the property.
“The owner couldn’t afford to keep it and reached out to us to see if we might take it on. This was about two or three years ago now, and back then we already had three properties we were maintaining, and we couldn’t add more on our plate,” said Scharoun.
The Historical Society responded to the previous owner’s call and took photographs of the interior and exterior structure, but in the end declined her request to take the property off of her hands and preserve it as a historical listing on the national registry. But it wasn’t simply the Historical Society’s lack of resources, an organization run predominantly by volunteers, that kept it from taking over the preservation of the Butterfield house.
“There were a lot of reasons. The location was bad and part of the issue too was that it wasn’t in its original condition. The exterior and the frame was original, but things had been replaced over the years. I think that also kept it from getting listed in previous years,” said Scharoun. “In the end, I think the house’s fate was a death of a thousand cuts. In hindsight, it’s easy to second guess yourself.”
The house was then sold to E.L. Vining Co., and the previous owner stripped the house of its doors and windows to try and save what she could, thinking that E.L. Vining wouldn’t preserve the house. Her inclination was correct. Back in the winter of 2020, Taffy Davis, a volunteer at the Historical Society, saw the proposition for the Butterfield house’s demolition slated on a planning board agenda. The proposition was approved, and the house no longer stands.
“We didn’t fight hard enough,” said Scharoun.
On social media, the public reacted to the demolition as a true loss of the town, reminiscing about the loss of other historical buildings and wondering what this means for the fate of other reminders of the town’s history that remain.