The University of Maine, Machias (UMM) traces its history to the founding of the Washington State Normal School in 1910, whose two-year curriculum trained elementary school teachers, providing a much-needed service in eastern Maine.
In 1911, the school moved to a new administrative and classroom building located on the site of the present-day Powers Hall. The building was destroyed by fire in 1936. The principal and the faculty met and made plans to continue classes, and the citizens of Machias worked with the state to rebuild. On March 6, 1937, over 500 people attended the formal opening of the new school building.
Nearly eighty years later, however, Powers Hall had suffered the effects of age and moisture infiltration.. Clay brick mortar joints had been improperly repointed resulting in significant damage due to spalling. Much of the decoration on the entry portico had been damaged by spalling, and the columns showed large cracks, which challenged the structural strength of the masonry units. The ballasted roof was past its serviceable life and required replacement.
The presence of PCBs was detected in caulks and sealants on the exterior of the structure and around its windows and doors. Abatement increased the cost of construction by 60%, but the University of Maine’s Board of Trustees secured additional funding to ensure the building’s safety for students and employees.
Difficult weather conditions this past winter slowed construction to a halt. Record setting snowfall in Machias meant that snow removal added substantial cost to the project.
UMM decided to install date stones to honor the 1936 rebuilding of the Powers Hall and the 2014 repair, honoring the efforts to restore the buildings relevance to the campus and to the Machias community. Slide 6:
Despite limited financial means, the leadership at UMM recognized the historic importance of Powers Hall and worked diligently to ensure that the building remained in use. The building envelope repair of Powers Hall has resulted in a building that honors the historic significance of the structure to the UMM campus as well as to the Machias community.