Maine Preservation Releases 2012 Most Endangered Historic Resources List

Picture of Waterville Savings Bank Building in Waterville, Maine

Waterville Savings Bank Building in Waterville, Maine

The Portland Press Herald today has a story on  Maine’s 2012 Most Endangered Historic Resources:

Maine Preservation, a nonprofit that has compiled the list each year since 1996, includes general categories of buildings. This year it identified historic freight sheds, in-town public facilities, history in the digital age, and original building materials as endangered.

The list is meant to highlight buildings with uncertain futures and the potential for creative reuse of community spaces.

“Preservation of these built resources is a leading catalyst for community revitalization, economic development and continued quality of life for the citizens of Maine’s towns and cities,” said Maine Preservation Executive Director Greg Paxton at a news conference at Saco City Hall.

The group uses nominations and staff research to compile its list.

View a slideshow of Maine’s Historic Endangered Resources.

Maine Preservation has created a one-page summary for each endangered resource . . . below is the list with an excerpt:

With the advent of digital media, the field of history has made powerful advances in the methods used and the efficiency of research and documentation of the past, in ways previously unimaginable. Such benefits to the field come at a cost, however. One of the ongoing challenges of historical research has always been to find written documentation to clarify events of the past. But now, at the same time that written records in digital form can reach a wider audience, the form of these record raises new questions of storage, permanence, volume and coherence. Given the volume and generally short-term nature of material, creation of lasting records in modern times has diminished, and the existence of official documents, personal correspondence, photographs, architectural drawings, etc. all face an uncertain future.

  • ORIGINAL BUILDING MATERIALS – Statewide

While there is no summary for this resource, it is pretty obvious why it’s on the list . . . if not, please see our own rants on vinyl-vandalism which illustrates how the use of non-original building materials destroys our architectural heritage.

WOOD ISLAND LIFE SAVING STATION (pdf) – Kittery

The Wood Island Life Saving Station, a Duluth-style station designed by architect George R. Tolman, was built in 1908 by the Sugden Brothers of Portsmouth, NH. It replaced the original Jerry’s Point Station #12 across the harbor in New Castle, NH. The U.S. Life Saving Service (became Coast Guard in 1915) took control of Wood Island at that time. The station was in active service until 1955, when the Coast Guard moved its operation back to New Castle, NH, rendering the structure as abandoned “military surplus.”

The Timber Point Peninsula, the farmhouse, and outbuildings were purchased in 1928 by Charles and Louise Parsons Ewing. Shortly after the purchase, Charles Ewing, an architect, began designing a summer cottage at the more private, far end of the point. The two-story “cottage”, or main house, was completed in 1930 and had fourteen bedrooms. In addition, to the farmhouse, two-story cottage, and numerous outbuildings, the property boasts a Shaker Barn built in 1800 that was transported in pieces from the Shaker Village in Alfred, Maine in 1938, and reassembled at Timber Point. This is only one of five Shaker Barns still in existence in Maine. The oceanfront location of over one hundred pastoral acres is a true rarity in New England with diverse wildlife and ecosystems present on the property.

The combined appraised value of these [school] buildings is $821,690, whose sale could bring the school district some portion of this, rather than spending an estimated $75,000 in demolition. Demolition would create approx 1,020 tons of debris (assuming 25% recycling). The embodied energy in these two buildings is equivalent to 190,103 gallons of gasoline.
The four-story landmark retains a variety of architectural details that make the building highly significant. The storefront level’s façade is divided by a large arched entryway with flanking shop windows. On the fourth story, an arcade of arched windows adds heft to the upper level. Several cornice lines, lintels, and quoins add texture and profile variation on the façades (the block sits on the corner of Main and Appleton). The largely intact interior woodwork and layout also contribute to this significance.
After fifteen years of vacancy, the building is threatened by neglect and damage from a leaking roof. The owner has shut off water and electrical services to the building, making the fireproof design vulnerable. Because the building is privately owned, options for reuse and preservation are limited.

The question of Lincoln Street School’s survival underlines the need for increased community awareness of local historic resources, as well as interest and backing for the resource’s adaptive use, rather than tax-funded demolition. The town of Rockland has already been an exemplary model in the effective use of commercial space to rejuvenate its rich historic downtown area. Its legacy remains incomplete, however, without a broader look at existing community resources.

Freight sheds, with their simple architecture and state of neglect, often do not inspire the same preservation interest as depots. Because of their long-term use as places of storage, freight sheds can have deferred maintenance, making their preservation a timely concern. Their spaces bear witness to a rich and dynamic history of labor, technology, and municipal growth. As intown areas across Maine embrace reinvestment and redevelopment, reuse of these resources bears careful consideration.
Public facilities in major part contribute to our community’s future through architectural layout and location. Continuing to locate such facilities in town simply helps ensure continued vibrancy. Communities that see vacant buildings as an asset, a challenge and an opportunity to fill ensure that such vibrancy will continue. Communities that regard vacant buildings as “eyesores” and demolish them without due consideration, in turn, fragment the town center. These vacancies are often known as the “broken tooth” problem. Urban renewal was a huge failure in the 1960s and repeating this error by demolishing potentially serviceable buildings in the 21st century is replacing a potential business with a vacant lot. With this in mind, the strong potential for adaptive use and maintenance of historic in-town facilities can better facilitate an intact townscape.
Built in 1939 as one of only eight Works Progress Association projects in Maine, the Central Fire Station has been a significant landmark in the Saco community from the very beginning. The brick firehouse, designed to reflect an ongoing heritage from an earlier tradition of civic service and public safety, well served its role from its construction until January 2011, when a newly built North Street facility replaced it for local firefighting operations. Since, it has remained empty– already twice threatened with demolition.
Update: The Old Central Fire Station will be sold and restored! It will house 4 to 6 affordable senior housings units and commercial space.
Picture of Old Fire Station on Thornton Avenue in Saco Maine

Old Fire Station on Thornton Avenue in Saco Maine

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