Online pledge campaign aims to make historic Bath building’s electrical system current

Posted Feb. 22, 2012, at 3:22 p.m.
Bath city officials and members of the Bath Freight Shed Alliance gathered Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011.
Bath city officials and members of the Bath Freight Shed Alliance gathered Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. Buy Photo

BATH, Maine — Supporters of a project to revive a historic building on Bath’s waterfront have turned to an international audience in an effort to raise $18,000 for electrical upgrades.

The Bath Freight Shed Alliance has a long-term goal of purchasing the Commercial Street building and performing hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades, but for now they’re focusing on the short term. Wiebke Theodore, who is one of the alliance’s founders and leaders, said the primary goal is to raise enough money to buy electrical materials so students at the Bath Regional Vocational Center can complete an upgrade of wiring and lighting. The upgrade will allow the freight shed to become the home of the Bath Farmers Market next winter.

“The building is full of outdated wiring,” Theodore said. “We need to bring it up to current standards.”

To accomplish the fundraising, the Freight Shed Alliance has employed a Web-based organization called Kickstarter to collect donations between now and March 31. Donations will be made in the form of pledges and if the effort fails to reach $18,000, the alliance won’t receive the money.

“The Kickstarter idea is that you should have a reasonable goal in mind,” Theodore said. “Even if we have $17,500 at the deadline, we won’t get any of it. This is a strong incentive. It’s very important that people show their support early. If people see that we’re getting a lot of donations out of the gate, it helps generate more interest.”

Aside from the reward of making a contribution toward an ambitious community goal, donors will receive incentive packages depending on how much they give. A donation of $9 will put a donor’s name on a sponsor list and earn a set of emailed recipes from the Bath Farmers Market. As the donation level goes up, the prizes include custom T-shirts, a bag of fresh produce and a picnic table at the freight shed with the donor’s name on it. Larger donations, such as $1,840 or more, earn free nights at a Bath bed and breakfast plus a massage and a downtown dinner. For a top pledge of $2,300 or more, the alliance will provide all of the lower prizes and throw a party for the donor and 40 guests, including live music from a local band called The Arrowsics.

Theodore said part of the rationale for the Kickstarter campaign is that the alliance does not want to compete with other local nonprofit organizations’ fundraising efforts. On the contrary, the long-term goal of the freight shed is to be a headquarters for some of those nonprofits, including the farmers market; an organization called Maine’s First Ship, which is already building a replica of the 1607-era Pinnace Virginia in the shed; and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, among others. There are also plans to start a bicycle rental operation for visitors, including those who come by boat to the nearby city docks.

Theodore said she’s counting on strong local support, but that Kickstarter campaigns typically are supported by donors from all over the world. As of Wednesday morning, just a few hours after the Kickstarter effort was launched, there were already $425 in pledges made.

The 110-year-old freight shed was once a transfer point for freight trains to be ferried across the Kennebec River in the years before there was a railroad bridge. It also has been a distribution warehouse for local retailers and a metal scrap yard for Bath Iron Works. The freight shed is owned by Howie Kirkpatrick Jr. of Woolwich. Maine’s First Ship and the Freight Shed Alliance have a lease agreement with Kirkpatrick that includes the stipulation that the alliance perform upgrades on the building.

Theodore, who writes a blog about the freight shed at www.bathfreightshed.blogspot.com, said that part of the plans for the summer months is to insulate the building and install a heating source so it will be comfortable next winter for the farmers market.

To make a donation or learn more about the project, visit the Kickstarter website at www.kickstarter.com and enter “freight shed” in the search bar at the top of the page.

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