On an eastern facing hill above Hallowell’s downtown, the Maine Industrial School for Girls was established by State officials as a place where so-called, “wayward girls,” between the ages of 7 and 18, who were considered “a danger to themselves or a threat to society, could be safely housed and given a moral, social and academic education.”
The Administration Building at what came to be called Stevens School, was designed by Maine architect William R. Miller and constructed between 1905-06. This two-and-a-half story, hip roofed foursquare building is one of Miller’s more restrained designs, but his love for detail is evident, especially in the striking colonnaded two-story front porch.
Following closure of the Stevens School in the mid-1970s, the buildings were repurposed for state offices. The state put the complex up for sale in 2003 and began moving offices off campus, but the site remained unsold until 2016, when it was purchased by Mastway Development, LLC. Most of the long vacant buildings, considered an eyesore by the community, suffered from neglect and considerable deferred maintenance.
The Administration Building is the first rehabilitation project to be completed at the Stevens School campus. Using state and federal historic tax credits, the building is now professional office space on the first floor with four apartments filling the upper stories.
Deteriorated exterior features have been restored and interior alterations sensitively made to retain historic character, with only minimal changes to the floor plan. The colonnaded two-story front porch had significant structural damage from carpenter ants and rot, and that has now been repaired. Historic windows were rehabilitated, and low-profile Allied storm windows added for efficiency while an inappropriate modern front door was replaced with a more compatible design. Inside, drop ceilings were removed and hardwood floors restored with new hardwood installed in the front hall where the historic wood flooring had been lost. The building was also updated with code compliant sprinklers and an efficient HVAC system.
The City of Hallowell has contributed to the rehabilitation of the campus with more than a half million dollars in infrastructure improvements funded by a citizen-supported bond issue. Mastway Development also worked with the City to create a campus home for the recently completed Hallowell Fire Station.
Now known as Stevens Commons, this ambitious undertaking is off to a fantastic start, living up to the project’s goals of cultivating community through conservation, restoration, and partnership.