This is a sad tale of an historic house and street in limbo. The Bangor Daily News recently reported on the ongoing saga of 25 Bond Street in Augusta, Maine which has been in the city’s possession for over a decade:
The city plans to enlist neighbors, downtown advocates and historic preservationists as officials try to figure out what to do with the historic but dilapidated and cheaply built former millworker house at 25 Bond St.
The city-owned house, vacant since 1999, in considered by many to be a significant and unique example of millworker housing.
However, the owner of a neighboring building has told city officials it is a hazardous eyesore making it hard to attract tenants to his building next door, and should be torn down, according to city councilors.
Research done in 2004 when a city committee studied what to do with the mustard-yellow building, which now has painted-on fake windows, could not pinpoint when it was built but determined that it probably was built sometime between 1875 and 1878. It was built on the property of Sprague Manufacturing Co.
The house is believed to have been built for millworkers, many of whom came to Maine from Quebec to work at the cotton mill that would later be owned by Edwards Manufacturing Co. Other homes and apartment buildings also were constructed on the street and on Sand Hill to house the thousands of workers employed at the mill.
The city bought the house in 2000, for $14,500, from St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, which had been willed the house at the death of its previous owner, John Dienaltoski.
The 2004 study committee concluded the time was not right to conduct a major restoration of the building, but recommended the city keep possession of it.
A 2007 report by a committee charged with studying the future and potential for revitalization of Bond Street, a very short street running between Water Street and Mount Vernon Avenue, recommended the city sell 25 Bond St. but require, through a preservation easement, that the new owner restore and maintain the building “to its historic 19th Century character.”
We’re not sure what the hold-up is on selling the house with the preservation easements. That sounds like a reasonable plan and vital to maintaining the historical integrity of Bond street.
Having driven on Bond street many times, we have always been struck by the underlying cohesiveness of the buildings. As you can see in the Google Map below, the buildings on the street are in pretty good condition and are all of the same general age and style. Additionally, all of the buildings on the side with 25 Bond Street back up to, not surprisingly, Bond Brook which adds to the desirability.
That being said, Bond Street needs a lot of help since it is a major connector road between Northern Avenue and Mt. Vernon Avenue so it gets a lot of traffic for a short road. The geography of the area with Northern Avenue shooting up a hill and Bond Brook means Bond Street is the only option for traffic to switch between roads. Naturally, this traffic reduces the desirability of Bond Street as a residential area.
To add desirability, the city should look at doing three things:
- First, there has been some nice sidewalk work on Water Street (which becomes Northern Avenue) that needs to be extended up Bond Street. It’s been awhile since we’ve been through there so perhaps this work has already been done or is in the works, but from the Google Map it is vital that this happens.
- Second, Bond Street should be zoned mixed use so that some of the buildings can capitalize on the traffic with commercial space. This would bring cars that would parallel park on the street which not only calms traffic, but provides a buffer for pedestrians from traffic.
- Third, add a few sidewalk bump-outs with tree wells would be important for adding needed shade for pedestrians (currently lacking due to the low stature of the buildings), providing safer mid-street pedestrian crossing, and additional traffic calming.
What do think . . . does this sound like a plan? Any other options or ideas out there? Let us know in the comment section below 🙂