Maine’s Preservation’s 20th list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Maine, released Tuesday, includes the notable buildings including the Vinalhaven home of artist Robert Indiana and the summer home of the first female U.S. cabinet member.
The list, released Tuesday, also features the state’s working waterfront — with Boothbay Harbor’s specified — and the state’s historic dams.
The yearly list by the Yarmouth-based nonprofit was created to identify and raise awareness of endangered and threatened historic properties and materials in the state and has grown to 158 since 1996.
Of those spaces listed in the past 20 years, 55 have been saved, 44 are “in motion,” and 18 have been lost, Maine Preservation said in Tuesday’s release.
“Preservation of key structures is a catalyst for community revitalization, economic development and continued quality of life for the citizens of Maine’s towns and cities,” Greg Paxton, executive director of Maine Preservation, said in a news release. “Historic preservation bolstered the state’s economy throughout the recent downturn and has continued to be a key catalyst for community vitality in the current economy. To consolidate these gains, we must continue to wisely manage our downtowns, in town neighborhoods and rural historic assets to increase our tax base and provide a firm foundation for future prosperity and quality of life, as this list illustrates.”
The 1837 brick house and connected barn have been home to the Perkins family for more than 250 years, and it houses the Frances Perkins Center. The nonprofit that has the right of first refusal to buy it from Frances Perkins’ grandson, but must raise $5.5 million for purchase and rehabilitation before the deal expires November 2019. Perkins, the U.S. secretary of labor from 1933-45, was the nation’s first female cabinet secretary. She was born in Massachusetts, but her parents were from Maine and she spent the summers of her life, from 1880 to 1965, at the house. Perkins is credited as the architect of key provisions of the New Deal, including programs that helped bring the nation out of the Great Depression. The house’s issues threaten both the buildings and contents, Maine Preservation said.
The Star of Hope Lodge, most recently the home of artist Robert Indiana, who died earlier this year, is deteriorating, in disrepair and endangered as a lawsuit ensues over his estate, Maine Preservation said. Indiana’s will calls for the Star of Hope, a landmark Main Street building, to be turned into a museum of his artwork, as well as a public space for lectures and classes. Morgan Art Foundation Limited has filed a federal suit alleging that individuals close to Indiana sold his works without proper compensation, forged artwork and isolated and exploited him.
The Star of Hope Lodge was founded in 1874 by the local Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which used the building until the 1930s. Indiana bought it in 1977, and it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, and Indiana used it as his home and studio until his death earlier this year.
“Today, the Star of Hope towers over Main Street, but windows are boarded up, there is a tarp over a hole in the roof, and the exterior clapboards and sheathing have deteriorated significantly,” said Maine Preservation. “As the current legal battle drags on, the building continues to deteriorate.”
Maine’s 3,500-mile shoreline — 5,300 miles including islands — has only 20 miles of shoreline still used to support commercial fishing, Maine Preservation said.
Maine’s commercial fishing industry brought in $636 million in 2016 — 80% from lobstering — supporting 35,000 jobs. Of the 20 miles of working waterfront, eight miles are owned and dedicated to use by the public — the remaining 12 miles are privately owned and vulnerable to changing uses.
A state planning office study says that by 2050, most of Maine’s coast will be classified as suburban/urban because of economic pressures that induce communities to shift to non-maritime commercial and residential uses, the organization said. It said Boothbay Harbor and a planned zoning change for its Maritime District, is “a prime example.”
The Maritime District, established 30 years ago on the east side of the harbor, comprises less than 1% of the land area in the town and houses three of the four wholesale and retail lobstering businesses serving more than 60 lobstermen, Maine Preservation said. The rezoning would change 77% of the district to allow commercial development, Maine Preservation said.
“Management of what’s left of the state’s historic working waterfront is critical to Maine’s future economy and to our cultural history,” Maine Preservation said. “At any point this land could be developed for hotels, or other commercial or residential uses, permanently removing access for commercial fishermen.”
Maine’s network of rivers gives the state the most hydropower per capita of any state east of the Mississippi, and this power far exceeds that produced by other sustainable sources, Maine Preservation said.
“Our dynamic rivers shaped the development of Maine’s towns and cities and continue to provide key sources of transportation and power,” it said, adding that there are more than 1,000 dams in the state and 111 working dams that generate 26% of the state’s electricity.
“Maine’s historic dams long predate the recent demise of fish in the Gulf of Maine and continue to provide flood mitigation, drinking water supplies, irrigation, fire control, protection for coastal maritime resources and picturesque settings and lakes and ponds for recreation,” it said. “Some 200 of the total are river dams that powered grain, lumber, carding and paper mills, and the communities that grew up around them.”
It said that communities considering removing dams because of repairs, projected maintenance, aiding fisheries and limiting economic losses all have valid concerns. But the nonprofit cited flood control and energy generation among the arguments for keeping the dams in place.
McGlashan-Nickerson House is a survivor of the 19th century thriving Red Beach community built around the now-defunct Maine Red Granite Co. and the Red Beach Plaster Co. in Calais, and is now in danger of being demolished by the National Park Service. The house, built in 1883 by Scottish immigrant George G. McGlashan, and then bought by Justice Samuel H. Nickerson, was acquired by the National Park Service as well as the house’s six acres, in 2000, as part of the St. Croix International Historic Site. It is the largest and most architecturally significant house in Red Beach, and is the only one of Italianate style.
The National Park Service no longer needed the house after 2013, when a visitor’s center was built.
“Sadly, [the park service] had already stopped painting and repairing the historic residence, abdicating its mission to maintain the property,” Maine Preservation said.
Cushman Tavern, which features murals by artist Orison Wood, has been put on the demolition block by its owners, the towns of Lisbon and Sabattus. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the house, built in 1825, is a significant example of late Federal-style, but the murals are its most remarkable features, Maine Preservation said.
The tavern, currently vacant, “has suffered from severe neglect that includes a failing roof and significant interior water damage,” it said.
Wood painted murals in several houses in the area before 1830. In an article in the Jan. 22, 1927, issue of the Lewiston Journal, the daughter of owner Capt. Samuel Cushman said a stranger who said he was an artist came to the door of the tavern and said that he could, “paint the walls with marvelous decorations that would advertise the Cushman House far and wide and make its name notable on the lips of the traveling public.” Maine Preservation said, the murals “rarity and remarkable condition make these murals important examples of early American art.”
In 1840, when Sabattus split from Lisbon, this property, including the house, was split between the two towns. Both towns have agreed to issue a demolition order citing safety concerns, Maine Preservation said. A contractor has approached the towns about disassembling the building while securing the murals, and removing all materials from the site instead of preserving the tavern in place, Maine Preservation said.
“Maine Preservation is prepared to work with Lisbon and Sabattus — and the property owner — to seek a positive path forward that does not include demolition of the property or removal from the site, and we are willing and able to offer technical assistance and our expertise,” the organization said.
The town of Rumford took ownership of the 1916 building through tax foreclosure in 2009, and it remains vacant and has deteriorated, including water damage after a snow plow struck a back corner several years ago.
The three-story, wood-frame building with brick façade has a a leaded prismatic glass transom with “Clough & Pillsbury” — the hardware store that first was housed there — inset in colored glass. The upper floors still retain historic hardware displays and inventory, including cutlery, stoves, tinware, paints, fishing tackle and sporting goods. Much of the original detailing remains intact throughout the building, most notably on the upper floors.
There has been some interest in the building, but there is also talk of demolition, Maine Preservation said.
The organization urges the town to “secure a commitment from a developer to rehabilitate this vital structure so it can once again contribute to Rumford’s economic future.”
Some proposals for the building could be eligible for state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, the organization said.
“If this building comes down it will remove the opportunity for more commercial and residential development in downtown and leave a gaping hole in the historic streetscape,” Maine Preservation said.