Family home demolished after nearly 100 years

6 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — The surviving adult children of Armand and Anita Blanchette gathered Monday, May 14, to say goodbye to their family home as it was slowly being demolished.

Armand, the son of Onezime and Sidonie (Rossignol) Blanchette, and his wife Anita Marie Theresa Robichaud lived in the home for decades, raising their children and seeing countless grandchildren come through the doors. Anita died in 2016, while Armand passed away in November, 2017.

The Blanchette clan includes Marc, Timothy, and Louis Blanchette and Patricia “Patti” (Blanchette) Sloat all of Houlton; Mary (Blanchette) Brown of Hampden; and Barbara (Blanchette) Lambert of Presque Isle. Two siblings — Bernadette Howe and Christine Loiselle — are deceased.

Built in 1920, the 2 Willard St. duplex home hosted activities for five generations of the Blanchette-Robichaud clan.

When Armand and Anita fell in love and married, they purchased the building and Anita’s parents — Louis and Ozithé (Bourgoin) Robichaud  — moved in to the other half of the duplex.

“Louis used to pay Armand $10 a month for rent,” Brown recalled, but he didn’t want to accept it.

After Anita’s parents died, Armand knocked out several walls and opened the building up to accommodate for their growing family.

With their home located across the street from the St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church, the Blanchette family members grew up devout Catholics.

Both Armand and Anita regularly told their children that when they died they wanted the building razed, because they felt it was no longer safe for a new family to live in.

“They were so afraid that someone was going to fall through a floor whenever we had a big crowd together,” Brown said. “Every holiday the house would be full and mom would say, ‘I don’t know if the house can hold all these people.’”

Ironically though, when it came time for demolition, the razing proved more difficult than expected. Gerald Dickison, a long-time contractor in the Houlton area who now works for J. McLaughlin Construction, was brought in to level the building, which the family thought would only take a few minutes.

Instead, it turned into nearly a daylong affair with the family gathered around in lawn chairs, eating snacks and reminiscing as they watched the building come down.

“It was prayers that held this house together, Sloat remarked. “The residual prayers must have been keeping it up.”

Sloat’s son Matthew, who also works for J. McLaughlin Construction, was able to take the first swipe at the house in the excavator, adding another layer of family to the demolition. The family has no plans to sell the property. Instead, they plan to use the vacant lot as a gathering spot for summertime picnics and family gatherings.