I’ve lived close to Veranda Street for 34 years, and in that time it has gone from being an in-between residential and commercial street to its current status as a developing foodie semihaven. I’ve never been able to ascribe a specific character to Veranda Street, except for one word — gutsy.
I’m not even sure why I think of it that way. I think part of it is the nuts-and-bolts makeup that the street used to have, bolstered by its few businesses. which included Espan’s Quick Lunch — a diner aficionado’s diner — and Quattrucci’s variety store, maker of robust and tasty Italian sandwiches. The street’s residences are mostly fairly attractive apartment buildings. I-295 runs alongside and across Veranda Street, and there’s a constant hum of traffic.
But “bustling” is not a word I ever would have associated with Veranda Street. In fact, it often had kind of a lonely feeling. And yet there was a time when that word probably applied, according to what I’m reading in the book “Deering: A Social and Architectural History” (William David Barry and Patricia McGraw Anderson, Greater Portland Landmarks, 2010).
After the first version of the Martin’s Point Bridge was built, Veranda Street was the way people got from Tukey’s Bridge to Falmouth Foreside and Martin’s Point. Martin’s Point for a few colorful years in the mid-1800s housed the Verandah Hotel, a hangout for celebrities of the time such as Longfellow and William Cullen Bryant. The Verandah apparently became known as a “rum hole” that stayed open all hours because, being across the city line, it could. I don’t actually know if Longfellow and Bryant habituated the hotel after it became a rum hole. Let’s say they didn’t. Sometime after the Verandah burned down, the U.S. Marine Hospital was built at Martin’s Point, and the building remains, as part of the Martin’s Point Health Care system.
Because of factors including the presence of major employers such as B&M Baked Beans and the Grand Trunk rail facility on Presumpscot Street, a lively residential neighborhood and small downtown, with stores and services, developed in the early 1900s along the street. Owners of businesses associated with the sea, like the prominent Russell Shipyard, lived in the neighborhood. In fact, I just figured out which house the Russell Shipyard owner lived in, and will insert a photo later.
Later on, a neighborhood landmark was Espan’s Quick Lunch, in business from 1948 to 2007. All the years it was here, I meant to stop in and have breakfast or lunch, but I only did it once. You might think “Espan’s” is a weird name. I always did, too, and finally read in the Press Herald that the owners meant to name the diner something else (I can’t remember what and can’t find the story), but the name came out wrong on the sign they had made, and they just kept Espan’s (those are probably my kind of people).
Another popular gathering place was the Wigwam. Someone I know remembers eating delicious spareribs and dancing to the jukebox there. When I tried to come up with more information, nothing turned up. I do know that it was in the building where Veranda Noodle is now. That building has housed several eating establishments, and I wish I could find out more about what they were. For several years it was a place called (I think) Supper at 6, where you could buy take-out home-cooked-style meals. I used to do that fairly often, really liking the coziness of getting that kind of meal fast!
Veranda Street didn’t change for years after I moved here, and now it’s changing quickly. Sometime in recent years, two new restaurants opened across from each other on Veranda Street, one of them in the old Espan’s building. They’re aptly named Veranda Thai and Veranda Noodle Bar.
Veranda Street’s foodie insurgence had started a few years before, though, when Beal’s Ice Cream opened up in a building that had clearly been an ice cream place years before, but had been forlornly empty all the time I had been here. A couple of years ago, the Other Side Deli opened at the Falmouth end of the street, in Quattrucci’s old location, and now we have Union Bagel where for years there was a failing (that’s a guess) pizza place.
Sometimes, especially in the summer, the Washington Ave. end of the street is packed solid with parked cars, presumably restaurant-goers and ice-cream eaters. That feels kind of festive and very different from the Veranda Street of not so long ago.
But I don’t want it to change too much! I don’t want to live on Restaurant Row, no matter how good or how chic the restaurants are. I like the old gutsy Veranda Street, where I was often the only pedestrian in sight.
Martin’s Point is about a mile from my house and my doctor is there, so I walk to appointments. From that end of Veranda, you can look out over the water at the islands in front of you, my neighborhood to the right, and Martin’s Point on the left (the right side is shown below).