The Endangered “Tobacco” House
The little two story house at 34 N. River Road was built in 1877 according to a recent tax record, but there is good evidence that this house was built much earlier. Lot 20 of the original village plat was sold by John Pray in October 1836 to a Thomas Gleason who immediately sold it to new arrivals from Connecticut David Hall and wife Betsy (Elizabeth.) This lot was on the southeast corner of Mechanic Street and Main Street (River Road) and included the portion where Lee’s Restaurant is now. The lot was split at some point. The property tax increased in 1837 indicating a house was on the property. Later records list the house as a residence and tobacco factory owned by David Hall. The property was inherited by Betsy and two sons, Reuben and Orlando Fish Hall in 1849. The brothers are listed as “tobacconists” of the firm O.F. & R. Hall, still at the River Road location. Both brothers served in the Civil War and were members of Waterville’s “Brady Guards” that formed part of Company I, 14th O.V.I. at the start of the war in 1861. Orlando sold or gave his share of the property and business to his brother and moved west in 1877. Reuben was married to Susan E. Robbins, daughter of Constable David Robbins and Phebe Gunn (Refer to the W.H.S. Robbins House Museum) and owned this property until his death in 1902 and his daughter owned it after that.
The records show that the south half of lot 20 remained in the Hall family through three generations and this writer can find no record of a new house having been built by this family. Could the house at 34 N. River actually date to 1837? We at W.H.S. like to call it the “tobacco house” due to its long history as a tobacco business. The property is now owned by the City of Waterville and its future in light of a new bridge and riverfront park is uncertain.