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January 14, 2019

Bucksport businessman to purchase historic Wilson Hall

Courtesy / National Register of Historic Places
Courtesy / National Register of Historic Places
Wilson Hall, a former seminary in Bucksport built in 1851, is at the right in this postcard. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

The owner of an ice cream shop in downtown Bucksport has submitted a proposal to buy Wilson Hall, a historic but deteriorating former seminary on Franklin Street.

Larry Wahl, owner of Wahl's Dairy Port on Main Street, submitted his proposal to buy the building from the town for $1, with an eye toward first stabilizing the structure and then renovating it for apartment units, Town Manager Susan Lessard told the council at its Jan. 10 meeting. Wahl's proposal also request a $65,000 interest-free loan from the town to help pay for the project.

Wahl told the council he could start the project in March and would plan to have it completed in a year.

In 2010, the town's code enforcement officer determined that portions of the building were unsafe and contained deteriorating walls and floors.

Wilson Hall was built in 1850-51 by the Eastern Maine Methodist Conference, and was the only seminary in Hancock County, according to Wikipedia. The Greek Revival structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The building is a two-story gable-roofed structure, with a two-stage square belfry at the center of the roof ridge.

The consensus of the council was that the building should be preserved as a landmark in the town. Council members agreed that Wahl, as a successful local businessperson, could be the right person for the project.

"I think it should be saved," one resident told the council. "It's a piece of history in our town."

The council agreed to have Lessard draw up terms of the agreement, with a timeline for Wahl to carry out the project, for the council's Jan. 24 meeting.

The hall previously attracted the attention of Orrington contractor Dick Campbell, who proposed a $1 million plan for the redevelopment of the building into a health care and live-in rehabilitation center for seniors. Campbell was given an extension to pursue the plan last summer.

Earlier this month, the Bangor Daily News reported Campbell's plan was unsuccessful.

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