2008 Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Resources
Portland, Maine . Today, Maine Preservation announced its 13th annual list of Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Resources at a press conference at the Pennell Institute in Gray. This property is among the eleven listings added to the program this year by Maine Preservation’s Board of Trustees. This year’s list features statewide thematic listings as part of a green focus, highlighting the inherent environmentally and economically sustainable aspects of preservation.
“Preservation is recycling on a large scale, and we can reduce our impact on the environment and save energy by adaptively reusing buildings and their durable historic materials rather than carting them to the landfill,” stated Executive Director Greg Paxton. “This is good old Yankee conservatism at its best. Our mission is to promote the preservation of Maine ’s historic places. Preservation isn’t only about an appreciation of the past; it’s about enriching the present and future quality of our communities. That’s why we’re excited to highlight preservation’s green agenda on this year’s Most Endangered list.”
Green theme listings include historic railroad buildings, old growth wood, embodied energy, storm windows and landfills, all of which are imperiled by the destruction of historic buildings and their historic materials to the detriment of the environment statewide, “Maine Preservation also recognizes the state’s working waterfronts, historic houses of worship, fraternal organizations, historic schools such as Pennell Institute, an African-American guesthouse and the historic tax record of Maine, which all face threats,” said Chris Glass of Camden, president of the Board of Trustees. “Failure to maintain these institutions undermines the quality of our communities. The Brooking Institution’s study highlighted the preservation of Maine ’s historic communities as key to the state’s future economic prosperity. Maintaining these buildings and institutions are not only windows to our past, but doors to our future.”
New to the list in 2008 are:
Working Waterfronts, throughout the state are threatened with potential loss of not only historic buildings and landscapes, but also the livelihoods, access and traditional ways of life of many citizens in Maine ’s waterfront communities. The Pemaquid Fisherman’s Co-op is an example of how businesses, aided by state programs, are struggling to stay viable;
Preservation’s Statewide Green Agenda :
• Historic Railroad Buildings, in addition to being historically important, are finding renewed life as stations for expanded transit lines, lessening reliance on fossil fuels. Buildings like the Greenville Junction Depot beside Moosehead Lake and the Freight Shed in Hallowell could see a second act as part of a cleaner Maine transportation network.
• Old Growth Wood, the dense and far more durable wood of Maine’s historic virgin forests is gone in nature but preserved in historic buildings. This irreplaceable building material stands the test of time far better than softer new-growth wood availabletoday. Preserving rather than replacing old-growth wood in buildings creates less waste and requires less energy. It is more cost effective in the short term while requiring less maintenance over the long term.
• Embodied Energy refers to energy and resources already expended to construct an existing building. Energy-efficient certification standards like LEED do not adequately account for energy savings from retrofitting existing buildings. Most people are unaware of how improvements to an existing building can produce more energy-savings than constructing a new building; even one constructed to green standards, and is less expensive. An example of a lost opportunity is the recent decision by Department of Education to abandon Nathan Clifford Elementary School in Portland in favor of a new school building.
• Landfills throughout Maine fill quickly with construction debris, the largest category of landfill waste, occupying about 1/3 of landfills’ volume. Gutting historic materials or tearing down entire historic buildings results in more rapidly filled waste sites, causing the need for new sites to be opened.
• Storm Windows are threatened by replacement with expensive but short-lived vinyl windows. Putting storm windows over historic wooden windows produces the same R-value as new double-pane windows, and is more cost effective while generating less waste. Vinyl windows produce toxins in manufacture and are “maintenance free.” This means that they cannot be repaired.
Historic Houses of Worship statewide face a variety of challenges with declining membership and aging buildings. Free Will Baptist Church in Bowdoinham, a significant rural church that has long been vacant, and the United Baptist Church in Lewiston, whose congregation dwindled and building is distressed, are prime rural and urban examples;
Rock Rest, Kittery Point , recently nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, operated from the late 1930s to the late 1970s as a summer guesthouse for African-American tourists. Rock Rest provided a safe haven from de-facto segregation faced by black travelers on vacation. The property has been vacant and in need of repair, and is threatened by the potential of being sold to an owner who could tear it down;
The Masonic Temple, Portland represents Buildings of Fraternal Organizations statewide, many suffering from lower membership levels and lack of funding for maintenance and repairs. The Masons of Maine is considering the sale of their space, which would likely result in the destruction of its remarkable historic interiors;
Pennell Institute and Campus, Gray , brick Italianate former school buildings are suffering from lack of use and deferred maintenance, like many across the state;
Maine’s Municipal Tax Valuation Lists,statewide are imperiled, and irreplaceable records of buildings in many communities, vulnerable to decay or being discarded.
This year, each of the individual properties will be eligible for a $500 matching grant from Maine Preservation’s Preserve Maine Fund in order to facilitate fundraising efforts necessary to plan for the facilities’ rescue, such as a building conditions assessment or marketing study.
Working Waterfronts: Pemaquid Fisherman’s Co-op
The Story: The potential loss of working waterfronts in Maine threatens not only historic buildings and landscapes, but the livelihoods and traditional ways of life of many people in Maine’s waterfront communities. These working waterfronts provide a link between residents and the industries that have shaped Maine, but whose influence is waning in the face of economic change, residential redevelopment and high property costs. The Pemaquid Fisherman’s Co-op is an example of how businesses, with the help of state programs, are struggling to stay viable.
The Threat: Rising property costs, encroaching development, and the high cost of fuel are among the treats to Working Waterfronts. Of Maine’s 5,300 miles of coastline, only 20 miles of working waterfront access remain.*
The Solution: Fortunately, the threats facing Working Waterfronts are being well studied, and there are many organizations and partnerships addressing these issues. The Working Waterfront Coalition is made up of more than 140 industry associations, state agencies, non-profit groups, all advocating for healthy Working Waterfronts, which preserves the heritage of coastal Maine. Programs such as the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program and the Affordable Coast Fund help protect that heritage.
*The Last 20 miles: Mapping Maine’s Working Waterfront (Island Institute)
Historic Houses of Worship
As membership in mainline denominations decline, religious properties are threatened by deferred maintenance, and abandonment. Yet in addition to serving as religious purpose, these community landmarks offer gathering and nurturing institutions serving many humane community-enhancing roles. Below are two very different examples of an issue that affects many communities statewide.
Free Will Baptist Church, Bowdoinham
The Story : Built of native brick on the highest point of Bowdoinham Ridge, the Free Will Baptist Church served as a religious and social hub of the community for 100 years after its construction in 1837. The modest and graceful church building was the place where Maine evangelist Frank Sanford heard his “first call to God.” After the church disbanded, the congregation left the building in the care of the Ridge Cemetery Association, which began to raise funds to repair it.
The Threat : The roof of the church is currently in serious, but not irreparable, structural condition, as a hole in the roof has gone unpatched. The breach is currently covered by a plastic tarp. Estimates to close the roof and address structural concerns are much higher than originally anticipated. Water has begun to infiltrate the church, which faces demolition by deferred maintenance.
The Solution : While there is passion in the community to save this historic structure, an organized effort has yet to coalesce around the Free Will Baptist Church. Repair work began through a New Century Community Program grant in 2006, but was halted when further issues were discovered and funds were insufficient to tackle the new challenges. The upcoming 250 th anniversary of Bowdoinham can help illuminate the place of the Free Baptist Church in the towns past and the potential role for the building in its future.
United Baptist Church, 250 Main Street, Lewiston
The Story : The most prominent building on the west side of Lewiston’s downtown, the United Baptist Church was constructed in 1922 to better serve a growing membership on the site of the former Main Street Baptist Church. The United Baptist Church congregation had formed in 1917 from three smaller churches, following the trend towards unification in the Baptist faith. The building is in the English Gothic style, and the fifty-foot main entrance tower has welcomed the faithful since its construction.
The Threat : Like many urban churches, the United Baptist Church has experienced declining membership, and as a result of inadequate funding, the church building has been gravely imperiled by years of deferred maintenance. The congregation, which has dwindled in recent years to some 35 members, is strongly considering selling the property. A buyer would most likely demolish the church.
The Solution : The situation at United Baptist has only recently come to light, and as a result, solutions are in their infant stages. According to engineering estimates obtained by the church, repair of structural and roof damage would cost about one million dollars, but some preservationists question this estimate. With the increased visibility of the problems facing United Baptist, hopefully the religious and civic committees of Lewiston can come together to find new funding and new uses for the landmark church.
For additional information and resources, visit Partners for Sacred Spaces
Rock Rest, Kittery Point
The Story : Built and operated by the Sinclair family from the late 1930s to the late 1970s as a summer guesthouse for African-American tourists, Rock Rest provided a safe haven from the de-facto segregation faced by black travelers on vacation. The core of Rock Rest is an 18 th c. York County cape, rebuilt with new end chimneys and entrance hall, and expanded over the years to accommodate more guests. The property retains its original guesthouse furnishings and extensive documentary materials about guests and business operations, providing a window into the operations of this unique site. Rock Rest was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Threat : Rock Rest has been only minimally maintained the last 10 years, and has stood unoccupied for the last four. Attempts to bring the seller together with a buyer who would preserve the buildings have so far been unsuccessful. A sale on the open market could result in the demolition of these historically significant buildings.
The Solution : The future preservation and interpretation of Rock Rest has many interested parties, from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to the Seacoast NAACP, with feasibility studies and grants for initial planning secured. The site would be included in the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, and would be an important heritage tourism site. This support can be built upon by bringing attention to this valuable chapter in Maine’s history and the threat the property faces from development.
Masonic Temple, Portland : Historic Fraternal Organization Buildings
The Story : The Masonic Temple in Portland houses a local lodge, regional orders, and the Masonic Grand Lodge of Maine. [external: possibly broken?] Even this headquarters for Masonic activity in Maine faces problems common to smaller lodges and fraternal organizations statewide, making it emblematic of issues facing historic fraternal organization buildings. Constructed in 1911 by architect Fredric Thompson, this commercial block occupies a prominent position in the Portland streetscape between First Parish Church and City Hall. An example of Beaux-Arts Classicism, the exterior is monumental in character, and the interior boasts spaces reflecting that style, including a decorative two-story hall with attached Corinthian columns.
The Threat : A portion of the building was sold for commercial office use nearly two decades ago. Like many fraternal and community-oriented institutions, Masonic membership has declined and funds are scarce and the Trustees of the building are preparing to sell for commercial development. The sale of the building would likely result the unique interior spaces’ substantial alteration.
The Solution: Fraternal organizations are facing declining membership state and nation wide, a problem that can lead to organizations relinquishing buildings too large for current needs or for lack of funds to maintain older spaces. Sensitive reuse by buyers of former fraternal organization properties would help preserve these resources.
Pennell Institute and Campus, Gray
The Story : The Pennell Institute, a brick Italianate building with a distinctive clock tower, and the Pennell Science Laboratory are integral parts of campus of the former high school that served the Town of Gray. The buildings were completed in 1886 and 1897 respectively, and have housed educational and civic institutions since their opening. The Pennell Institute had a reputation as one of the finest high schools in New England and had several graduates of distinction, including….. The main building currently houses the Gray Historical Society, and the Science Laboratory is unoccupied.
The Threat : After years of legal dispute over the ownership of the building between the school district and the Town of Gray, the courts ruled in September 2007 that Pennell Institute is owned by the town. For years, vacant parts of the complex have suffered from neglect and deferred maintenance. Wooden entrance vestibules on the main building have sustained water damage. Structurally, however, the building remains solid.
The Solution : Now that ownership issues have been settled, work can begin on developing a plan for the future of the Pennell Institute that will ensure its preservation and use for years to come. Many residents of Gray and alumni of the Pennell Institute have been working to raise funds and awareness about the building’s history, plight and potential. Voters passed a budget that includes funding for the Institute’s maintenance. A plan use for the unoccupied spaces and funding to repair them must now be developed.
Maine’s Municipal Tax Valuation Lists
The Story : Municipal Tax Valuation Lists are an underutilized, imperiled, and irreplaceable records of buildings in many communities. Inventorying houses, barns, and industrial and commercial buildings, these records indicate not only who was taxed and how much, but serve as vital records for buildings, recording owners, building dates and changesto structures. Some towns have retained these records since their founding, but many others are unaware of the potential of these massive volumes.
The Threat : Many municipalities no longer have these records on file, and many others may not be aware that they do. These volumes, often the first to go into storage or be discarded because of their size, are an increasingly rare window into the history of property ownership and the overall development of Maine’s communities.
The Solution : An effort to survey towns and determine the status of these records, to inventory them, and preserve them as a valuable resource will pay long-term rich dividends. While these records have been traditionally held by each municipality, a statewide list or database of Municipal Tax Valuations Lists could also be compiled. State law requires notification of the State Archives prior to the removal or records.
PRESERVATION’S GREEN AGENDA
Historic Railroad Buildings
Hallowell Freight Shed & Greenville Junction Depot
The Story: As fuel costs rise, Maine is wisely increasingly looking to alternative forms of transportation that save money and lessen the impact on the environment. In addition to new technologies, existing infrastructure, such as railroads are a great potential resource. An example of a property that can be preserved with this new green purpose is the adaptive use of the Hallowell Freight Shed as a passenger depot, or the reuse of the rail station in Greenville Junction, for passenger or freight service.
The Threat: Many rail stations and other railroad infrastructure face similar threats from demolition or ongoing neglect. Passenger service has long-since been discontinued along most of Maine’s railways, though rising energy costs are causing automobile-focused commuters to re-think the potential of alternative transportation. Preserving existing infrastructure to facilitate alternatives is prudent.
The Solution: Increased awareness that historic railroad buildings are not just part of our past, but possible gateways to future transit and transport options for Maine.
Old Growth Wood
The Story: Many of Maine’s historic structures were initially constructed from old growth wood harvested from trees hundreds of years old. The wood from these trees is much harder, stronger, and less prone to insects, fungus, warping, or damage than the softer, new wood commercially available today. Because the nearly all of these ancient trees have been cut down and are no longer readily available in nature, this wood is preserved in the structural timbers, floors, shingles, and windows of historic buildings and cannot be replaced.
The Threat: Gutting of buildings, wholesale replacement of clapboards, trim and windows and other “modernizations” that purport to save homeowners time and money are actually more expensive than repair. The reliable historic materials are replaced with materials substantially less durable, guaranteeing increased maintenance costs. The loss of these materials also undermines the historic integrity of buildings.
The Solution : Education about the reparability, durability, cost and energy efficiency of repair and maintenance rather than replacement. Like old growth forests, once this wood is gone, it’s gone forever.
Embodied Energy : Nathan Clifford School, Portland
The Story : “Embodied energy” refers to the energy and resources already expended to construct an existing building. New buildings are nearly always cited as energy-efficient construction, using green building standards like LEED. LEED has erroneously substantially under-estimated the importance of embodied energy in measuring energy efficiency and has also under estimated the great efficiency of well-built historic buildings, which can often be further improved with attic and basement insulation and air-tight storm and sash windows. Historic buildings are often victim of a misplaced ‘newer is better’ idea where energy efficiency is concerned, but the outlook that new construction is inherently more efficient over the life of the building fails to consider substantial energy usage to produce, transport and erect building materials. A germane example of this is the recent decision by Portland voters to abandon the Nathan Clifford Elementary School in favor of a new school building on Ocean Avenue.
The Threat : The push for greener buildings constructed with greener building materials and methods is in some cases self-defeating. Demolition and equivalent new construction, no matter how energy efficient, typically require decades to equal the energy savings of rehabilitating an existing building.
The Solution : The greenest building is the one that is already built. LEED is just beginning to adequately address the energy and financial savings that come from reusing existing historic materials. This discrepancy undermines the credibility of the rating system as applied to the largest portion of the built environment: existing buildings. By retrofitting historic buildings with additional insulation, storm windows, and by sealing and caulking air infiltration, superior energy efficiency can be achieved. As individuals and institutions strive for greener buildings, it is important to note that adaptive reuse of buildings is the ultimate in recycling.
To find the embodied energy in your home or building, try the Embodied Energy Calculator
To learn more about the green aspects of historic preservation, visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Preservation and Sustainability page.
To read the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Maine Preservation, and Greater Portland Landmarks commissioned Second Opinion on the Nathan Clifford School, click here.
The Story: Landfills themselves aren’t currently historic resources, sadly they are where many historic resources wind up. The largest category of waste in land fills, occupying roughly 1/3 by volume, is building products.
The Threat: While Maine’s waste management practices are among the best, the need to devote more space to landfills can negatively impact the quality of life in surrounding communities.
The Solution: Keeping buildings and their historic materials in use and out of landfills results in a host of benefits to the community. The degree to which we can reuse buildings and building materials through skilled rehabilitation practices results in repair instead of replacement, at a lower cost while developing and employing skilled craftsmen. The net result is substantially less waste.
The Story: As energy and winter heating costs rising, many Mainers are looking for ways to make their homes more efficient and weather tight. Purveyors of new windows tout the efficiency of replacements, many of which are less durable that historic windows and are thus more expensive over the long term in spite of initial energy savings they provide.
The Threat: Storm windows are being marginalized as an option in the face of aggressive marketing by new window companies. The removal of historic windows from a home and removes a piece of craftsmanship which in many cases could be repaired, and removes an element of its historic character.
The Solution: Innovations in storm windows are producing long-term, light-weight, less-expensive alternatives to window replacement that outlast vinyl or new wooden windows. The addition of storm windows to historic windows produces an R rating of 2, the same R-2 rating as a double-paned window. “Maintenance free” actually means it cannot be fixed, putting a building owner in a shorter endless cycle of “replace and throw away.”