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Developers, business owners and communities from Biddeford to Surry that rehabilitated historic and often deteriorating buildings in 2018 have been cited by Maine Preservation for "lifting" the economy of their communities.
The 2019 Honor Awards, presented by the Yarmouth-based nonprofit last week, recognize projects that find ways to reuse historic buildings, making them relevant while also preserving their history.
“Taking vacant and underutilized historic buildings and adaptively using and updating them is an essential ingredient for community revitalization and vitality,” said Maine Preservation Executive Director Greg Paxton in a news release. “When completed, these buildings lift the economics of the areas around them and the spirits of the citizens benefiting from them.
Renys Inc., was also given the "Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. Preservation Champion" award for the retailer's "commitment to Maine’s downtowns," and two Isle au Haut women who raised money to restore a local lighthouse were named "Spirit of Preservation" award winners.
Full descriptions of winners can be found at mainepreservation.org. Projects winning honors are listed below.
The first Renys opened in October 1949 in Damariscotta. The company now has 17 stores, 11 in downtown areas and 13 in historic buildings. A 14th building was donated to a nonprofit. The Damariscotta and Farmington stores were renovated using historic preservation tax credits, and the one in Bath is slated to be.
Paxton noted the company uses its downtown buildings as part of its marketing strategy, and the downtown locations of most if its stores helps add to the town center's vitality and economy.
The Hartford Fire Station, 1 Hartford Square, at the top of downtown's Water Street, is the primary fire station for the city of Augusta. It was designed by Bunker and Savage, built in 1920 and entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.
In 2016, the city approved a $6 million bond to renovate and expand the station in order to accommodate larger vehicles and a growing firefighting force. Brewer-based contractor Nickerson & O'Day was lead designer, and WBRC A/E led the architecture and engineering team in collaboration with national fire station expert Bob Mitchell of Mitchell Associates Architects. Thornton-Tomasetti/Becker provided structural engineering expertise. Augusta's Director of Finance Ralph St. Pierre managed payments and change orders and U.S. Homeland Security provided grant funding for a back-up generator and compressor. Sutherland Conservation and Consulting provided historic preservation guidance.
The work included a 11,600-square-foot addition, built to match the character of the historic station.
"Creative thinking helped rejuvenate this 99-year-old community resource through a combination of rehabilitation and new construction that restored this landmark and brought it up to modern safety standards," said Maine Preservation.
The downtown three-story wood and masonry frame building, constructed in 1860, is “an excellent representation of the mixed-use development that came to typify Maine’s rapidly expanding industrial cities in the late 19th century.“ The building had deteriorated over the years, until owner Seth Harkness began a restoration project in 2017.
He worked with Coastal Enterprise, Inc. on a construction loan and partnered with CEI on the historic tax credits. Among those involved were Portland Builders, Caleb Johnson Architects, restoration carpenter Lee Hoagland, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, contractors Ron Haley and Barry Dumper, and artist Chris Clay.
The National Park Service pictured the project on the cover of its Annual Report on the Economic Impact of the Federal Historic Tax Credit for fiscal year 2018.
"The 17 Alfred St. project took a blighted building that was in danger of 'demolition by neglect,' and transformed it into a thriving, handsome and contributing piece of downtown Biddeford's historic commercial district," said Maine Preservation. "It serves as a successful case study in historic rehabilitation for other local property owners."
The Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton uses its two historic houses to showcase the work of Rufus Porter and other New England folk artists. The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, but had deteriorated. The Rufus Porter Museum acquired the house in 2011. Much of the renovation work was done at a discounted rate or in-kind or done by volunteers.
The Merry Barn was built in the early 20th century for the Merrys, a family of shipbuilders and captains. In 2015, Stephanie McSherry bought the barn with the dream of opening a literacy center in the space. Four years later, after a successful adaptive use rehabilitation project, Merry Barn Writers’ Retreat & Educational Consulting LLC opened. All work on the structure was executed with care so as to not disrupt the historic integrity of the barn.
The Stevens building is part of the former Maine Industrial School for Girls Complex (the Stevens School) in Hallowell. Designed by the Augusta architectural firm Bunker Savage and completed in 1938, the two-story building is the largest structure on the campus at an imposing 4,700 square feet and it features an octagonal wooden cupola, a concrete portico and two-central chimneys.
The school closed in the 1970s and was later used for state offices. In 2003, the state put the campus up for sale, and it remained vacant until 2016, when Mastway Development bought the complex for the redevelopment. Using state and federal historic tax credits, the owners have rehabbed the building to provide student housing for the University of Maine at Augusta. The work was completed with guidance from Sutherland Conservation & Consulting.
It's the second Mastway building on the campus to be named an Honor Award winner. The Administration Building renovation was cited last year.
The Jose Block is one of several buildings built on Exchange Street in the mid-19th century by Horatio Jose, one of Portland’s most prominent businessmen at the time. The Italianate-style structure was bought by developers Jim Brady and Steve Parker in 2018. Working with Warren Construction, restored and rehabilitated both the interior and exterior of the building. The upper three floors have been updated to Class A office space, with The Grill Room Restaurant remaining on the first floor.
One challenge was the mural on the south elevation overlooking Tommy’s Park. The masonry behind the mural was failing and that the required repair would destroy it. The decision was made to replace the mural after repairing the wall. Will Sears created an abstract design inspired by the colors of Portland.
The Butler School and the Payson House, both designed by Francis Henry Fassett who had a strong impact on the look of Portland, the apartments date from 1879 and 1877.
Avesta in 2011 bought the buildings for conversion into affordable senior housing. Avesta worked with Efficiency Maine on upgrades that were acceptable from a historic perspective, exceeded code and would have the desired impact on building operations, Maine Preservation said. Hebert Construction, Goduti/Thomas Architects, Structural Design Consultants, and Tremont Preservation Services worked on the project.
Built shortly after the Great Fire of 1866, decades of drafty and foggy windows prompted current owner H.H. Sawyer Realty to engage Bagala Window Works. Because the building is in a historic district, and a highly visible, important part of the Old Port, the owner decided to restore the building to its original glory. H.H. Sawyer Realty funded restoration project itself and used state historic tax credits.
Work was by Justin Smith, of New England Sash Company, Bagala Window Works, Pete Chavonelle of Masonry Preservation Associates, Victor Wright and his crew at Heritage Company and Bill Bunton.
The Notre Dame de Lourdes Church at 20 Cutts Ave., Saco, built 110 years ago, was vacant for more than a decade when Cutts Avenue Apartments LLC bought it in 2017 for conversion into 19 apartment units. Hardypond Construction, Shields Architecture, Base Design Group and the city to ensure that the design of the Cutts Avenue Apartments did not diminish the historic character of the church, Maine Preservation said.
"The conversion of the church into apartments is symbolic of the changing face of Saco itself," said Maine Preservation. "Once, a mill town, the city, along with its neighbor Biddeford, is looking to its future as a cultural and economic center in southern Maine. The Cutts Avenue Apartments play a part in this transformation, offering a unique housing experience to a new generation of Saco residents while honoring the city’s storied past."
The Mildred M. Fox School has been an anchor of community life in Paris for 125 years. Avesta Housing of Portland bought the building in 2016 "and undertook the challenging task of transforming the building into critically needed affordable housing for seniors."
This town had the vision to save the school so it could benefit the community, and Norway Savings Bank, a key partner, facilitated the acquisition of funding and championed the project, said Maine Preservation. The $3.2 million Avesta project will enable local seniors to age in place safely and affordably; the majority of the units are occupied by residents of Paris and Norway.
The Surry Village School has served the Downeast community in a variety of capacities since the two-story Greek Revival and Italianate schoolhouse opened in 1872. It was returned to the town in 2014 and was added to Maine Preservation’s list of Most Endangered Historic Places in 2015. The community galvanized to save it.
The Old Surry Village Schoolhouse Preservation Group raised the money to pay for the materials and professional teams, as well as providing labor to bring the building back to life, including using volunteer labor. In June, the schoolhouse opened to the public as a museum and community meeting space.
The Grand Trunk Depot in Yarmouth, built 1906, was taken over in 1968 by the Yarmouth Village Improvement Society. It was leased until 2018 to local florists. Through Maine Preservation's Protect & Sell Program, developer Ford Reiche bought the building and partnered with Gorham Savings Bank on development of a bank branch.
The bank's architects, designers and contractors, CAP Services and JD Design, ensured the exterior appearance and nearly all the original interior was preserved. Others who worked on the project were Sarah Witte, landscape architect and coordinator of permitting and community insight; Nat Tupper, Yarmouth town manager; the entire Yarmouth Town Hall; and the Yarmouth Village Improvement Society, which rallied community support and assisted with regulatory permitting, Maine Preservatoin said.
The bank's renovation of the Grand Trunk Station in Portland received a 2017 Honor Award .
Molly Siegel and Alison Richardson, to bring attention to the 112-year-old Isle au Haut lighthouse, which is still operating but in need of $500,000 in work, raised money by becoming the first people to swim around the island. Swimming in one- to two-mile legs during August and September, they exceeded their $18,000 goal.