HOLDEN, Maine — The 1870s two-story white town hall building has sat empty for years next to Route 1A, quietly awaiting its fate.
Town leaders and Holden Historical Society members have spent decades discussing what to do with the historic edifice, but with few funds, all they could do was talk, Robert Harvey, who serves as both a councilor and president of the society, said Wednesday.
That was until the owners of Leadbetters, which is constructing a convenience store next door at the location of the former Sinclair’s Log Cabin General Store, got involved.
“We’re moving [the town hall] back [off the road] because we’ve done a land swap with Leadbetters,” Town Manager John Butts said Wednesday. “They get room to expand their septic system and we have more room for the building.”
Work crews now are lifting the building and soon will move it, Butts said.
The structure, which has an 1872 construction date, also will get a new foundation in the move, which will place it behind its present location, a good distance from the road, Harvey said.
“It gives us an opportunity to utilize the building much more and to a greater degree,” he said. “We’ll have some space around it and access to basic utilities. It’s a win-win for both sides.”
The town has put aside $30,000 for the move and between $10,000 and $15,000 for the foundation work, Harvey said.
“The historical society is broke,” he said, adding that the land swap with Leadbetters saved the building. “It’s pretty hard to do something with the building with no land and without water and sewer.”
Jeff Leadbetter said the land swap benefits both parties.
“We’re going to gain some visibility and they’re going to get water and sewer,” he said.
The new 4,000-square-foot Leadbetter convenience store will be similar to the family’s Stillwater locale and will provide gas, groceries and prepared take-home foods, Leadbetter said. The store is scheduled to open May 1.
As for the 136-year-old building, over the years it has been used as a meeting place and housed the town hall and Grange 544 until a new Holden municipal facility was built in 1975. An old well in the back provided water and an outhouse was used.
Paint is peeling off the walls, some rotten trim boards need replacing, and the roof has problems, but overall the structure is sound, Harvey said.
The town is considering several options for a foundation, Harvey said.
“We’re looking at possibly a full foundation or a frost wall,” he said. “We’re also looking at utilizing some of the existing granite … so it would appear that it’s sitting on a granite foundation instead of a cement foundation.”
After the new town hall opened three decades ago, the old building was used less and less, and for several years had been closed up and vacant.
Harvey thanked Leadbetters for their work on the project and added that he and the rest of the historical society members are excited for the doors to reopen.
Uses under consideration for the building include hosting a “farmers market [and] an antique flea market,” on the first floor and “artisans and the historic society can use the top floor to display our artifacts,” he said. “It will be used. That’s the big thing.”