Brick South, Portland

With the arrival of railroads in the 19th century, Portland became a booming transportation hub for people and freight. In 1886, the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad developed rail facilities at Thompson’s Point where the first railroad repair shops were constructed. Destroyed by fire just a few years later, a 25,000-square foot Machine Shop was rebuilt in 1904 and leased by Maine Central Railroad. During World War II, the government took over the property, and the building was used to store steel for Liberty Ships then under construction. Over the next 60 years, a series of owners proposed several development projects, but none ever got off the ground.

In 2009 Forefront Partners, purchased the property, undertaking the long process of transforming the one-time industrial site into Portland’s most dynamic new district. They re-named the old Maine Central Railroad Machine Shop Brick South. It’s one of just two buildings surviving from the railroad era.

Forefront Partners' goal was to transform the historic Machine Shop into a multi-use event venue, and to preserve the grand vistas and stately character of the space while adding the amenities essential for large, catered events. Care was taken during the development process to preserve the historic and architectural character of the building. Structural reinforcement, roof replacement and a new system of underground utility lines are just a few of the many improvements the machine shop required. In May 2017, the building became the first LEED Core and Shell Gold project in Portland.

Today, Brick South offers an experience unparalleled in southern Maine, celebrating Portland's rich history and serving as a versatile venue for weddings and trade shows, fundraisers and a variety of festivals. Last year, the Maine Flower Show brought over 16,000 visitors to the site over a three-day period and this fall the building was the site of Maine Preservation’s Annual Gala.

Brick South—a reminder of the city’s railroad heyday-- is on the fast track to becoming a star on the Portland Scene.  

D.W. Adams Building, Augusta

It’s 1909, and Augusta’s largest department store, The Bussell & Weston Co., moves into a new home on Water Street in the heart of the central business district:  The three-tory store, popular for its huge display windows and 12,000 square feet of floor space, quickly becomes a retail icon in downtown Augusta. Though Bussell & Weston closed in 1920, the popular landmark was purchased by D.W. Adams who operated his own store here until 1985 -- the same year it was listed in the National Register as one of the best surviving unaltered structures constructed as a department store in Maine. In the late 1990s, parts of the building were occupied by a dance studio, but the upper floors stood vacant. In 2013 owners Laura and Jason Gall began rehabilitating the storied department store, beginning with the historic commercial space.

Renovating the 12,000-sq. ft. building was an enormous financial undertaking. Though structurally solid, the building required extensive remodeling inside, including lead paint abatement, a new roof, replacement of knob and tube wiring and installation of all new mechanical systems. Replacement doors and windows replicating the originals, including the stunning Chicago-style windows on the front, were installed. Project developers also had to deal with the removal of a once manned hydraulic elevator and the discovery of a buried oil tank. On the exterior the brick was repointed, and the 1900 fire bell on the Commercial Street elevation was restored. The project was topped off with new paint from top to bottom using historic colors. 

Today the second and third floors, originally wide-open spaces, house six market-rate apartments. Inspired by serene views of the Kennebec and Old Fort Western across the street, the owners’ goal was to create warm and inviting spaces that celebrate the building’s historic character. These residential spaces have brought new life to Water Street, and have helped inspire other projects, adding to the capital city’s increasingly vibrant downtown atmosphere.

The Plummer School, Falmouth

The Plummer School has stood as a landmark in the town of Falmouth since its construction in the early 1930s. The impressive two-and-a-half story Colonial Revival style high school, flanked by two-story wings to the east and west, was constructed in two phases c.1930-31 and 1935. Built primarily of brick with wooden clapboards at the gable ends, the roofline features an original, copper-domed clock tower, undoubtedly the building’s most iconic feature. Added to these features are finely crafted brick cornices and arched door heads. On the interior, the building retains many of the original classrooms, central corridors, and stairs.

Following nearly a decade of committee hearings, public meetings, and a town-wide referendum, an innovative agreement formalized a public-private partnership between the developer and Town of Falmouth to rehabilitate the building. While Falmouth is a historic town, there are few historic public buildings of note, so preserving the building and re-purposing it with a public mission were goals of central importance.

Devising a financially viable plan for the project was not easy. The first attempt to establish the building’s eligibility for Historic Tax Credits failed. A year-long proposal process to convert the building into a new Library also failed to garner the necessary support. However, with the guidance and expertise of project partners Sutherland Consulting, Developers Collaborative and OceanView at Falmouth, historic tax credit eligibility was gained in 2016 and work began on converting the historic school into one of very few senior communities designed for moderate income residents. 

Today, the completed apartments wrap around a large common area in the center of the building -- once site of the high school gym. The wood windows are restored originals now fitted with exterior storms. On the walls, much of the original plasterwork survives and a historic chair rail was replicated for installation throughout the building. Workers removed contemporary carpeting as well as linoleum and layers of various adhesives, exposing the original hardwood floors, which were sanded and finished. Outside, they scraped and painted the clock tower and dentil molding, and carefully repaired the school’s impressive slate roof.

The impact of Plummer School’s rehabilitation and re-use has been felt throughout the community of Falmouth. Besides providing much-needed senior housing, the revitalization of this space highlights the perseverance of a local community in protecting and celebrating one of the towns prized historic public buildings.

Agora Grand Events Center & Inn at the Agora, Lewiston

Originally known as Kelsey Hall, the Italianate mansion on Walnut Street in Lewiston was designed and constructed in 1850 by Captain Albert Kelsey, a noted architect and Lewiston’s original city planner. Sixteen years later, Monsignor Thomas Wallace purchased the mansion for the Catholic Church, and in 1890 constructed St. Patrick’s Church on an adjacent plot. This enormous Neogothic sanctuary was designed by Patrick Keely, architect of Portland’s Cathedral, and his impressive plan features asymmetrical towers, one of which held the record for Maine’s tallest structure. Sadly, in 2009 the Portland Diocese closed the church, selling off most of the stained-glass windows as well as copper in the pipe organ, rendering it mute. Both the mansion and the sanctuary remained vacant until 2014 when Andrew Knight moved to Lewiston. He quickly fell in love with the property, purchased it and spent the next several years methodically rehabilitating both landmarks.

Structurally, the buildings were in good shape. Knight’s primary challenge was finding an appropriate use for them in this economically depressed part of Maine. Converting both structures to commercial use required extensive life safety updates (fire alarms, sprinklers, etc.) as well as new bathrooms, ADA accessibility, HVAC systems and upgrades for kitchen and liquor licensing. And then there was the stained-glass Rose Window; though intact, it called out for painstaking restoration and cleaning.   

Acting as General Contractor, Andrew spent most of 2015 transforming Kelsey Hall into a boutique hotel he christened the Inn at the Agora. Shortly thereafter, he began renovating and repurposing the church, which opened in April of 2016 as the Agora Grand Event Center. Appropriately, “agora” is the ancient Greek word for “gathering place.”

The revitalization of these landmarks, and the financial success of a luxury hotel and event center in downtown Lewiston has not only challenged assumptions about the economic viability of Maine’s second-largest city, but attracted potential new investors while insuring that two of Maine’s stunning witnesses to the past remain a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Schlotterbeck & Foss Building, Portland

The Schlotterbeck & Foss Company was first incorporated in February 1892 as a premiere food and pharmaceuticals manufacturing facility in downtown Portland. The company’s 1927 home on Preble Street is significant as the only major Art Deco-style building designed by John Calvin Stevens and John Howard Stevens, and as one of the few surviving commercial buildings designed by the firm.

Structurally, the facility made use of then- new technology for supporting a large masonry building on filled land with composite wood and concrete pilings. It remained essentially unaltered from the time of its construction, but bore several examples of wear and tear. When ownership transferred to John Anton, Tom Watson and Brian Bush with a goal of rehabilitating the structure for residential use, Sutherland Conservation & Consulting prepared a nomination for inclusion on the National Register to make the building eligible for historic tax credits. Once funding was secured, rehabilitation processes with Goduti/Thomas Architects began, starting with masonry repairs to the cast stone and brick exterior, replacement of single-glazed windows with matching insulated windows, and installation of efficient modern mechanical systems.

The primary entrance on Preble Street was retained and restored for use by offices that now fill the first floor. The existing south entrance was expanded to provide access to both offices and residential units. Original stairs in the building were retained and a new, modern elevator installed. Residential units are located throughout the building and feature open plans with partial-height partition walls. Historic brick and concrete walls, floors, ceilings, and structural columns remain exposed, expressing the industrial character of the spaces.

The result of the project was the creation of 55 housing units in addition to first-floor office space. Taken together, they represent a vibrant new addition to Portland’s post-industrial Bayside neighborhood.

Preservation Timber Framing - Winter Street Church, Bath

Bath, Maine’s City of Ships, experienced a dramatic boom in construction in the early part of the 19th century. The historic Winter Street Church is just one of the landmarks to survive from this period. Erected in 1843 in the Gothic Revival style with Greek Revival overtones, it was designed by architect Anthony Coombs Raymond and enlarged in 1864 with the addition of an Italianate-style parish hall designed by Francis Fassett. Twenty-five years later, John Calvin Stevens, once a student and later colleague of Fassett re-designed and oversaw the 1890 renovation of the sanctuary. The building complex, saved from demolition in 1971 by its current owners Sagadahoc Preservation, Inc. (SPI), is listed in the National Register as both a stand-alone building and a contributing building to the national and local historic districts.

Since owning the complex, SPI has worked diligently to carry out steeple repairs, re-roofing and window restoration and, in 2014-15, the replacement of the heating system. Tragically, while the church portion of the complex was closed due to lack of heating and other considerations, a severe 2015 storm struck the region causing a large portion of the vaulted ceiling in the sanctuary to collapse. Sagadahoc Preservation then had to remove cartloads of debris and thoroughly clean the historic space. Part of its efforts involved identifying and saving portions of the remaining plaster ceiling to capture paint colors and stenciling work from the 1890 renovation and other periods, as well as removing remaining unstable plaster ceiling which reached 27 feet at its highest point.

 An RFP was put together and after a generous lead fundraising gift from Bath Savings Institution, several bids came in. Ultimately, Preservation Timber Framing, Inc., led by Arron Sturgis, was chosen as the construction contractor for Phase I. Not only did Sturgis bring extensive experience working with historic buildings and churches to this project, he also suggesting foregoing pricey rented scaffolding, and constructing wood timber-frame staging instead. This ingenious plan permitted workers to access the highest reaches of the ceiling from timber framing that will remain in place in anticipation of the day when the ceiling can be fully reconstructed. 

Arron Sturgis is an esteemed member of the Maine Preservation family, having served as both board president and a dedicated board member. His work in Bath with Preservation Timber Framing produced a practical solution that saved tens of thousands of dollars in rental expenses, met SPI’s pressing challenges, and exemplified how traditional craftsmanship can neatly address contemporary building needs.

The Francis Hotel, Portland

The Mellen E. Bolster House on Congress Street in Portland was designed by Francis Fassett in 1881 and built as a single-family residence for a wealthy dry goods purveyor. Fassett was one of the premier local architects of his time, and is credited with many outstanding Victorian –era residences built in Portland after the Great Fire of 1866. His influence is instantly recognizable in the West End, where prized mansions designed by Fassett or his protégé, John Calvin Stevens remain standing. The Bolster House is one of the rare properties on which the two architects collaborated.

Hay & Peabody Funeral Home purchased the Bolster House in the early 1900s and installed the beautiful Seth Thomas clock still visible out front. In the ensuing years, the funeral home moved out and the once-grand mansion deteriorated. After standing vacant for over a decade, new owners Nate, Tony and Jake DeLois and Jeff Harder purchased it in 2015 and initiated plans to convert the single-family residence into a 15-room hotel and spa with a 49-seat restaurant. The hotel is now named The Francis, in honor of one of its designers, and the restaurant is called Bolster, Snow & Co.

Conditions in the building prior to development were less than ideal. The gas, electric and water services, along with modes of access and fire safety systems, all needed attention and updating. Windows were in poor condition and required major refurbishment, and some of the floors were unusable due to water damage and years of wear and tear. Luckily, some historic features were reasonably well-preserved; a good portion of the original wood flooring was covered in carpet and needed only refinishing. One of the first things guests now notice is the beautifully restored front doors’ stained-glass windows, and the wow factor continues in the lobby with simple furnishings that allow the fireplace mantle and inlaid floors to shine.

The scope of work included refurbishing all historic features, modernizing building systems, installing an ADA compliant elevator and carving out spaces for 15 hotel rooms and a modern restaurant. One of the biggest challenges involved plumbing: the building previously had 3 restrooms. Today it has 18.  

On the exterior, a major concern was the deterioration of the rear brick wall and the roof of the former garage. The roof needed to be reinforced and replaced and the brick needed to be stabilized. Fortunately, a good portion of the wall could be dismantled and re-bricked. The revitalized garage became a ground floor suite for the hotel that became instantly popular among guests.

Long vacant, this treasure on Congress Street is now available to the entire community. Over twenty jobs have been created. The Bramhall Square neighborhood, which is experiencing a renaissance fuelled by entrepreneurs who’ve opened Tandem Bakery, Bramhall Pub, The Roma, and Trattoria, is even stronger. And Maine’s largest city can offer visitors a small, charming hotel that celebrates the region’s mercantile past.

John E. L. Huse School Apartments, Bath

Named to honor Bath’s first casualty of World War II, the John E.L. Huse Memorial School was constructed in 1942 according to plans drawn by architect Alonzo J. Harriman, a native of Bath and founder of Harriman Associates. The school served the children of Bath Iron Works employees, a growing population that necessitated the addition of a new wing of classrooms at the North End of the building just seven years later.

Huse thrived throughout the baby boom years, but the student population here and elsewhere in Maine gradually declined, and in 2006 the City of Bath shuttered the school. Regional School Unit 1 occupied the International-style building for several years, but when they moved out, the 33,000-sq. ft. community anchor began to deteriorate.  Thankfully, the Szanton Company saw the value in the historic structure and purchased it in August 2016 with the intention of converting the space into residential apartments.

While vacant, Huse School did suffer from the effects of water damage, broken windows and graffiti. Overall, however, the condition of the building was excellent—the original wood joists and masonry bearing walls were in very good shape. The hardwood floors, under several layers of glue, carpet, and pads, were also in amazingly good condition.

With a firm plan in place to add a new wing and transform the historic complex into 59 affordable housing units, renovations began by exposing interior brick walls, removing small amounts of asbestos and lead paint, and refinishing the original hardwood floors. New roofing and insulation buttoned up the building and new walls framed the contemporary apartments.  Modern electrical and mechanical systems were promptly installed.

Today, the school retains its historic mid-century vibe with original signage at the 1942 front canopy, as well as period-appropriate replacement doors and windows. Common areas are sprinkled with memorabilia such as vintage classroom clocks, sections of original chalkboard, original blueprints, student murals, and historic school and class pictures. The one-time gymnasium was modified and converted into a common room and several two-story apartment units. Other amenities include a lobby with a fully accessible elevator, new entrances, and both fitness and laundry rooms. The Szanton Company did extensive site work to build a large, modern neighborhood playground, an expanded parking lot, landscaping that includes many evergreen trees, and new walking paths that feed into existing city trails.

The community response has been overwhelming, and just a week after opening 78% of the units had been rented. This remarkable project honors the schools’ namesake and its historic character while providing much needed affordable housing for the deserving citizens of Bath. 

46 Lisbon Street, Lewiston

The building at 46 Lisbon Street has been an iconic presence in downtown Lewiston since 1895. Best known as the home of Grant’s Clothing for nearly 60 years, the building was purchased by Terry’s Bridal in 1985—the same year 46 Lisbon was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The owner, Kevin Morin, had two goals for the project. First was the desire to be an active participant in the ongoing resurgence of downtown Lewiston. The second was to rehabilitate a significant building in a way that respected the history of the space while also introducing elements of modernity. Floor plans were changed minimally. Doors, interior windows, and openings were preserved, and the original wood floors were sanded and refinished.  Entirely new electrical, plumbing, heating, and communications systems were seamlessly integrated into the historic fabric.

Despite these large-scale enhancements, it was the attention to small details that lent this project its defining character. Gas powered brass light fixtures found in the basement were restored, and historic doors that had been removed were repurposed as sliding barn doors. Original wavy glass still present in the historic windows was retained; a large metal skylight was preserved and reopened. A huge wood and glass display box that had been sitting on the third floor unused for decades was repurposed as a dramatic chandelier above the third -floor kitchen. It’s also crucial to the integrity of the interiors that the owners maintained the intricate wood trim and doors, most of which were original and in excellent condition.

The project’s success is due to collaboration and a shared sense of mission among several partners.  The City of Lewiston played an integral part in making the project a reality – both with financial support and by connecting the owners with other organizations. Coastal Enterprises, Inc. and Maine Preservation also played essential roles by providing guidance, historic insight, depth of experience, and in the case of CEI, financial investment. What was once a vacant, neglected and vulnerable building is now a fully rehabilitated, exquisitely designed and constructed landmark in downtown Lewiston. The project is a fine example of small-scale redevelopment, and of what can be achieved with collaboration and vision.

Grand Trunk Railway Company Building, Portland

For years it stood alone at the corner of India and Commercial streets—the all but forgotten Grand Trunk Railway Company Building, constructed in 1903. Once an outbuilding for the sprawling 1901 Grand Trunk Railroad Station, the three-story Company Building was all that remained after the station complex was thoughtlessly demolished beginning in 1961.

But decades later, there was good news for the fortunate survivor. In 2016, seeing an ideal location for a suite of corporate office, Gorham Savings Bank purchased the building and initiated a rehabilitation project using historic tax credits.

The building was constructed of red brick trimmed with granite and highly decorative brick details, with pressed copper enlivening the roof cornice. On the interior, historic finishes survived in many locations, including bead board wainscoting, molded window and door casings with corner blocks, and wood flooring likely associated with the original structure. Still, years of roof leaks likely associated with a third-story constructed in the 1930s had caused extensive structural damage and deterioration of plasterwork. Additionally, several original transom windows had been blocked, and nearly every other original window replaced without attention to historic character

Gorham Savings and its many development partners, including Developers Collaborative and Archetype Architects, repointed all the exterior brick while unblocking all second-floor window openings. New wood windows were fabricated, along with exterior storms, once again providing stunning views of Portland’s waterfront. Inside, the team encountered structural inconsistencies that required replacement of key structural elements. As interior work progressed, 1980s suspended ceilings were removed and historic finishes like plaster walls and ceilings, bead board wainscoting and wood trim restored. Teams also removed the decorative copper cornice around the edge of the roof and completely reframed the structure. Now, with the original copper, back in place, the cornice should endure for another century. 

Without Gorham’s intervention and dedication, this vestige of Maine’s transportation history could have deteriorated beyond repair. Instead, it has become the bank’s busy, new downtown Portland office—with 23 staffers working onsite. The first floor currently holds a retail area along with an interactive teller machine, allowing customers to video bank with tellers at other locations. The second floor is occupied by Gorham Savings’ marketing and business banking staff, while the third floor holds executive offices and a board room.

The main station may have been lost, but The Grand Trunk Railway Building endures, and has become yet another tax credit success story at the edge of the city’s Old Port. 

Stewart Library, Corinna

Dedicated as a memorial to the parents of millionaire, Levi M. Stewart, the Stewart Free Library was designed by William H. Grimshaw and completed in 1898. Designed in the Italian Renaissance style, its defining clock tower looms above a three-bay façade of structural brick and granite. The original library, auditorium, and offices inside remain largely unchanged. Added to the National Register in 1974, the building stood at the center of civic life in Corinna for many years, hosting gatherings, graduations, Christmas concerts and other popular town events.

When the upper portion of the tower was threatened with demolition, Ames Associates spearheaded an effort to assess the library’s structural condition and gain recommendations for rehabilitation from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and Becker Structural Engineers, in cooperation with the Town’s board of selectmen.

Well over a century old, the clock tower masonry was in poor condition due to wind-driven rain, freeze-thaw action and deferred maintenance. These realities led to serious concern over the stability and safety of the tower structure. Of particular concern were areas adjacent to the clock faces, where water was able to enter the wall cavity due to failed joints and absent flashing. The corbelled brick at the base of the tower was also deteriorating as were wood and slate elements at the towers’ peak. 

An initial design by an engineering firm proposed demolishing the top 30 feet of the tower and re-building it with a structural steel core. Thankfully, this approach was abandoned, and a second opinion by Becker Structural Engineers agreed with Ames Associates that the tower could be stabilized and rehabilitated. Repairs entailed the selective re-build of the exterior layer of bricks, stabilization of the interior bricks, repairs to flashing at the clock faces and a complete re-pointing and cleaning. The steeple was stripped and re-flashed, re-shingled and all wood elements repaired in place with epoxy or replaced as needed. The wooden elements were also repainted. 

In Phase II, funded by a $1 million grant from the Next Generation Foundation of Maine, original windows and slate roofing were restored or replaced in kind, and an elevator -- along with a new stair and lobby—were installed. The stairwell addition was designed to meet Maine historic Preservation Commission recommendations and to stand independent of the historic fabric, making use of a structural system which is incorporated within the stair’s carriage, with the stringers acting to resist wind and seismic loads.

This iconic brick tower and steeple were very close to being torn down and reconstructed in a non-descript fashion. But tireless efforts in support of the restoration and fundraising proved successful thanks to cooperation among citizens, architects & engineers, Maine Preservation, non-profits, and state authorities. The resulting structure demonstrates the rallying power of a small, rural Maine town when the cause for preservation is rooted in local civic pride.

Elijah Kellogg Church, Harpswell Center

The First Meeting House in Harpswell Center, completed in 1759, was the original gathering place for the town. In early 1843, local architect Anthony Coombs Raymond designed a new church using a combination of Greek and Gothic Revival elements. Built by master joiner and Harpswell native Moses Bailey, it was dedicated in the fall of 1843 and later named in honor of its first minister, Elijah Kellogg. In the early 1960s the original sanctuary was raised up to allow for the construction of classrooms and a fellowship hall. In 2000 a significant addition, with more classrooms, and a larger fellowship hall was completed.

Unfortunately, time and deferred maintenance took a toll on the building and in 2013 an effort to restore and preserve the Elijah Kellogg Church started in earnest. A comprehensive approach was required to address a multitude of systemic problems, including mold, drafty windows, flaking layers of lead-based paint on the exterior, and rot in the belfry and steeple, as well as in the millwork framing the church’s arched doorway. The scope of the project also included improving access to the entrance by replacing wooden entrance stairs, a ramp and walkway, all of which suffered from rot and were deemed safety hazards.

The overall intention of the congregation was to preserve this historic structure for the future. A campaign, “Threshold to the Future,” was developed with a goal of raising $350,000, but, thanks to outstanding support from the Harpswell community, fundraising exceeded that target! With funds in hand, the church’s Preservation Committee, led by congregants with decades of experience in carpentry, woodworking and national preservation efforts, took the lead and oversaw the project.  Multiple other committees involving much of the congregation worked in tandem to ensure its ultimate success.

The project began with the removal and restoration of the sanctuary’s 20-over 20 windows. The steeple, bell, weathervane and decorative accents were all assessed, leading to the removal of vinyl siding and the installation of two eight-foot-long braces to support the belfry as well as the replacement of the bell’s rotted framework. Unexpectedly, a bent roof timber was identified, requiring roof removal, timber repair and reattachment. Layers of paint were removed from the clapboards, as well as the shutters and louvered arches. Additionally, the church’s entry was made more accessible with a granite porch and steps, and a concrete, paver-surfaced ramp with iron railings. To contain lead levels, pews, walls and ceilings were repainted, and new carpeting and pew cushions were installed.

This community-based preservation project has met or exceeded the Congregation’s ambitious goals. Today, the church thrives as a religious magnet, and serves as the setting for countless concerts and community events. It remains a shining example of quality workmanship - both that which went into creating the historic structure in the 19th century, and that which recently made it new again.

Maysville Museum, Presque Isle

Every now and again, the rehabilitation of a local landmark transforms not only a neighborhood, but an entire community. The creation of the Maysville Museum in Presque Isle is just such a project. One hundred fifty years, ago, Maysville was a small Aroostook County town, on the road between Presque Isle and Caribou. In 1883, Presque Isle annexed the village, which included a two-story school building that also contained Maysville’s Town Office and the Maysville Grange. That building was lost in a fire, as was its successor, but a 1939 structure built by the Grange was occupied until the grange disbanded and its home was sold to the City of Presque Isle. Tragically, that building, too, fell prey to fire after being sold to a private owner, and it was left vacant and exposed to the elements.

Until 2011. That’s the year the Grange building was purchased by the Presque Isle Historical Society. Their new vision for the hall included use as a small museum celebrating the history of education and town management along Maine’s northern frontier, with a specific focus on Maysville’s role in the Aroostook War.

At the time renovations began, much of the southeast corner was exposed to the weather, and animals had made their way into the building. Fire-damaged wood, broken windows and a cracked and collapsing foundation were but a few challenging aspects of the building’s condition, made worse by the fact that no plumbing, septic or well were present.  

Following removal of water-logged insulation and ceiling panels as well as other debris, the building was lifted and an entirely new foundation poured. Other work included new roofing and siding, a new front porch and steps, chimney repairs, sanding and refinishing of original hardwood floors, a new tin ceiling, new windows, and the installation of a heat pump and historic lighting fixtures. Phase Two of the project, which will allow the museum to be open year-round, includes installation of an ADA compliant restroom, a second exit, and a disabled access ramp with a small parking lot beyond.

The Presque Isle Historical Society, an all-volunteer organization, has made an incredible community impact through this project. Prior to the renovation of this building, the group had only a small, two-story Victorian house museum open for once-a-month tours –well off the beaten path on a side street in downtown. The museum’s new location along US Route 1, provides much greater visibility and more opportunity for historic interpretation and educational programming.

Community support for rehabilitation of the building was overwhelming, with all funding for renovations coming either from cash donations from local residents, or from tradesmen volunteering their time and expertise. The completed museum pays tribute to the one-room schoolhouses and meeting places that once connected the communities of Maine, and is a stellar example of community ownership in action.

Lofts at Saco Falls, Biddeford

The 20th century saw a huge shift in textile manufacturing from New England to the American South, and ultimately overseas. This seismic change posed enormous challenges for towns along the Saco River, home to some of the largest cotton milling complexes in the country. As orders dried up, it became impossible for the Saco-Lowell Shops in Biddeford to survive. By 2015, the building was virtually empty, and it had been years since any significant maintenance had been done. A leaking roof and broken windows compromised structural members and rotted the floors. 

Lack of interest in reviving the property was due primarily to its location next to a trash burning electricity plant. But when the City of Biddeford decided to purchase and demolish that facility, the historic property next door had a second chance and the Szanton Company snapped it up.

The new owner had two goals: 1) to preserve a vital part of Biddeford’s industrial and cultural history; and 2) to provide desperately needed, high quality, new rental housing for diverse income groups. 

This tax credit rehabilitation project encountered major hurdles including extensive rot in the carrying beams holding up the first level; the decision to demolish a 20th century connector building without damaging adjacent 19th-century buildings; and careful repair of the “scar tissue” on the face of the 1867 north wing. Crews also had to remove existing heating, plumbing and electrical systems, and replace all windows—including some mid-19th century openings that had been blocked for decades. They even had to remove and rebuild the gargantuan roof, and repoint all the exterior brickwork. 

With much of the structural work complete, the builders created corridors inside of each major wing with new 1- and 2-bedroom apartments on either side. A fitness room, bicycle storage room, community room with kitchen, and other amenities were added. In the attic of the 1842 wing, a hauling wheel framed with heavy timbers -- believed original to the building—was discovered, as well as an enormous chest of drawers once used to store spare machine parts. Both artifacts have been placed in the community room for display.

All 80 apartments inside the Saco-Lowell Shops were leased by the end of the first month of availability—an eye-opening demonstration of the pent-up demand for high-quality, affordable and market-rate new rental housing in Biddeford. An empty and forlorn structure facing demolition was transformed it into a state-of-the- art residence for 80 families, while also creating a facility that helps to interpret the industrial history central to Biddeford’s cultural identity. 

Samuel P. Grindle House, Castine

The poet Elizabeth Hardwick once said that Castine has a history more convoluted than that of the multi-cultural Danzig Corridor. She had a point. Successively settled by the French, the Dutch and the British, Castine is a town with a remarkable historical and architectural legacy.

In 1850, Samuel P. Grindle, a ship carpenter, purchased a parcel of land fronting the Castine Town Common. The following summer he constructed a house in the Greek Revival style, which remained in private hands until 2008. Today, the house is a significant contributing element to the cultural landscape of the Castine Town Common, recognized as one of Maine’s best surviving examples of a town green. According to the National Register listing of the Castine Historic District, Castine, "is one of the most historic villages on the coast of New England ... the sum total of its parts adds up to an almost undisturbed eighteenth and nineteenth century environment.”

Sadly, by the 1970s Grindle House was no longer a town treasure. Aluminum siding covered original clapboards and pilasters and the original entrance surround had been destroyed. Fine, 19th-century shutters had been removed, windows replaced and chimneys rebuilt. The interior itself was unfit for habitation – there was just one antiquated bathroom, a coal-fired furnace and exposed electrical wiring. Every rain storm created pools of water in the basement. Miraculously, though, the 1850s interior woodwork, floors, doors, stairs, fireplace mantles, hardware and built-in cabinets had all survived.

In 2013, the Castine Historical Society acquired the house, thanks to the generous bequest of Deborah Pulliam who was devoted to the cultural life of Castine and Maine and its historic architecture. The society was desperate for new office and archival space, and the Grindle House turned out to be an ideal location. Working from nineteenth-century photographs and physical evidence, the exterior was restored to its 1850s appearance. The building was raised up and a new reinforced concrete foundation poured, then faced with original stone. Chimneys were rebuilt, six-over-six sash windows and shutters installed, and the original front door surround re-created. New electrical, security, and life-safety systems were also added, and the house brought into full compliance with ADA accessibility standards. The Grindle House also become home to Castine’s first geothermal heating system.

The Grindle House now provides staff offices for the Castine Historical Society as well as a new, state-of-the-art archival facility. The public areas are decorated in 19th-century style with period-inspired wallpapers, carpets, a painted floor cloth and re-created lighting fixtures. The two front parlors and center stair all are decorated following the recommendations of Andrew Jackson Downing who wrote a popular book on the contemporary architecture of the early 19th century. These spaces serve as a gallery with changing exhibits and a comfortable reading room for researchers.

Because of the generosity of Deborah Pulliam, the Castine Historical Society has rehabilitated a highly visible building in the heart of this historic community. Additionally, they have created a hi-tech facility for the care and service of an expanding collection, while also assuming responsibility for the Castine Town Records, which are now available to the public for the first time in a secure professional setting.

Parish House at Saint Saviour's Episcopal Church, Bar Harbor

Saint Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor, constructed 1877-78, is the largest and tallest public building on Mount Desert Island.  While the church building was enlarged in 1885, and a rectory added a few years later, it wasn’t until 1902 that the parish acquired its Parish House, once a gatehouse for the 1880s summer cottage called “Faraway.” As part of the Saint Saviour’s Episcopal Church and Rectory National Register-listed property, the Parish House is significant for its association with Bar Harbor’s development as a summer resort and for its outstanding architecture.

Though St. Saviour’s is a beloved congregation, by 2013 the church and associated outbuildings had fallen into a state of partial disrepair. Due to the placement of a nearby asphalt parking lot, several areas of the Parish House also suffered from sill rot and water infiltration. Handicapped accessibility was nonexistent, and the Parish did not have the necessary funds to maintain the building.

Facing these issues, St. Saviour’s decided to donate the Parish House to Local Solutions, a non-profit, “creating inspired housing in the heart of a thriving supportive community where people with special needs on Mount Desert Island can flourish.” Local Solutions enlisted Community Housing of Maine to be the developer and ultimate owner, bringing on a project partner with historic tax credit rehabilitation experience. Together they laid out plans for the creation of six fully accessible apartments for young adults with developmental disabilities, and the construction of a common kitchen as well as social areas and accommodations for staff. The revitalization effort, initiated in 2016, included installation of an elevator and new mechanical systems, preservation of the historic flooring and trim, and repair or replacement in kind of exterior trim, windows, and siding.

In preserving the historic integrity of a significant local building while at the same time adapting the building for much-needed adult disabled housing, the project’s architects, planners, and consulting historic preservation organizations reimagined and revitalized the Parish House at Saint Saviour’s for the betterment of the community and the surrounding region. Six new residents of the Parish House now have a place to call home where they enjoy the support they need, the chance to discover their strengths and gifts, and a welcome opportunity to contribute to the life of the community.