City issues historic-buildings brochure

Bangor's 107 year old Thomas Hill Standpipe stands out amoung nearby houses on a recent fall morning.  The structure, designated a national historic landmark holds 750,000 gllons and supplies water to most of the downtown area.  BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT
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Bangor's 107 year old Thomas Hill Standpipe stands out amoung nearby houses on a recent fall morning. The structure, designated a national historic landmark holds 750,000 gllons and supplies water to most of the downtown area. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT
Posted Sept. 29, 2010, at 9:47 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A man walked into City Hall recently and asked the code enforcement office about building a fence. He had just bought a home and assumed all he needed was a simple permit.

Not so.

“He had no idea that his home was in a historic preservation district,” said Jeremy Martin, Bangor’s assistant code enforcement officer.

That meant the man had to make his case before the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, a citizen committee whose task is to ensure that any external changes to historically or culturally significant homes are appropriate.

It turns out the man wasn’t alone, either, according to Martin.

“We’re amazed at the number of property owners who don’t know their buildings are historic,” he said. “Now, I don’t necessarily believe them all, but regardless, we needed to do some education.”

City staff members and a local historian have teamed up to produce a comprehensive brochure that outlines Bangor’s rich architectural history and walks property owners through the responsibilities and restrictions of owning a historic home.

The brochure has been sent to the more than 400 property owners in Bangor who own a historic site and has been coupled with a pair of workshops held this week and another scheduled for next week.

“We’re all gratified that it’s done. It was a lot of work,” said Sara Martin, the architectural historian hired by the city to create the brochure. “The best thing to me is the map. We haven’t had anything comprehensive that shows Bangor’s historic sites.”

Included in the map are 34 unique historic landmarks — ranging from the Samuel Farrar House on Court Street to the Wheelright Block downtown near West Market Square — and nine distinct historic districts. A property is considered historic if it exemplifies a certain style of architecture or if it has other cultural or social significance.

The brochure, and the work that went into producing it, was paid for through a grant from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and matching funds from the city. Martin, who submitted the winning bid to produce the report, has served on the city’s historic commission and has been interested in architecture for as long as she can remember.

“There are so many historic properties in Bangor. I’m not surprised that many don’t even realize they live in one,” she said. “This project renewed my appreciation for Bangor’s architecture.”

According to Martin, Bangor has one of the strongest protective historic preservation ordinances in the state. The commission hears dozens of requests each year, ranging from roof replacements to facade improvements to more substantial changes.

“Most homeowners are great. They are people who really see themselves as stewards of these houses,” she said.

Historic preservation brochures are available to the public at City Hall. The document is expected to be made available on the city’s website, www.bangormaine.gov.

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