Demolition Alert 20: Old Washington County Courthouse in Calais, Maine

The Bangor Daily News is reporting that the old Washington County Courthouse, now owned by Fairpoint, is being demolished. From the story:

History or hazard?

That’s the crux of the debate swirling in Calais this week as a demolition crew knocks down a downtown, 1930s-era red brick building at 10-12 Church Street.

Greg Paxton, executive director of Yarmouth-based Maine Preservation, contends the Neoclassical-style building that once served as the Washington County community’s courthouse is “sound, well-built, architecturally significant and highly reusable.”

Jeff Nevins, a spokesman for FairPoint Communications, which owns the long-vacant building, contends it is “structurally compromised.” He claims a heavy snowfall could cause the building to collapse, perhaps onto FairPoint’s abutting central office building, which houses an array of sophisticated telecommunications equipment . . .

Paxton agrees that the Calais demolition revives public confusion over what constitutes a “historic” building. He agrees that “old” does not constitute “historic.”

The National Register of Historic Places program administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior has three basic criteria for a building or site to be considered “historic.” It must have been either associated with a historic event — such as Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln was assassinated — or it must have a direct connection to a historic figure, such as a presidential birthplace. The National Register also lists buildings determined to be rare and distinctive examples of a particular style of architecture.

While this may be the technical term for “historic,” we believe that is much too constraining. Why don’t we consider the irreplaceable craftsmanship and material that went into these buildings as “historic.” Look at any of today’s modern buildings and you will  find neither, especially today’s vinyl-sided, chip-board infested McMansions.

Curiously, they claim that it was a “long-vacant” building but makes no mention as to whether or not they attempted to sell it. An historic, our term, brick building can be a particularly attractive target for restoration. How can incurring a demolition expense be a better business decision than selling the building, even if for a $1?

Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a picture of this building located on 10-12 Church Street in Calais, Maine. Does anyone have a picture they would be willing to share?

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