Main Street

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.

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.