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September 18, 2018

Historic Cushman Tavern could face wrecking ball

Courtesy / Maine Historic Preservation Commission
Courtesy / Maine Historic Preservation Commission
The historic Cushman Tavern, seen here in a Maine Historic Preservation Commission photo from 1979, could be torn down. Sabattus and Lisbon town officials cite the dangerous condition of the structure.

Sabattus and Lisbon town officials are jointly considering whether to order the demolition of the 19th century Cushman Tavern, due to the dangerous condition of the structure.

The Sun Journal reported that the tavern sits on the boundary between the two towns. "It's a shame nobody's rescued this place. It's one of the last historic buildings we have," said Dennis Douglass, the code enforcement officer for both Sabattus and Lisbon. The property is privately owned.

The large 2-1/2 story wood frame Federal-period tavern is now a private residence. It's most significant for the folk artwork drawn on the walls of its halls and stairwell by artist Orison Wood. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

According to the National Park Service listing, the house was built around 1825 by a Mr. Dwinal, and sold within two years to Capt. Samuel Cushman, whose descendants operated a tavern there for many years.

"The significance of this building lies in the magnificent murals by Orison Wood executed in the first and second story hallways and the wall of the stairwell between," the listing says. "These murals are outstanding examples of highly stylized primitive painting."

The listing cites a Jan. 22, 1927 Lewiston Journal article, which says Cushman's daughter recalled a stranger coming to the door of the Cushman Tavern and saying he "could paint the walls with marvelous decorations which would help to advertise the Cushman House far and wide and make its name notable on the lips of the traveling public." The tavern is located on the old "stage road" from Portland to Bangor. The images depict landscape designs "in which willowy trees fill the space in a bold pattern" and are "outstanding examples of early American art."

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