PORTLAND, Maine — The tower clock that survived the infamous demolition of Portland’s Union Station and the historic park where Occupy Maine demonstrators camped out for nearly five months last year headlined Greater Portland Landmarks’ second annual Places in Peril list, unveiled Wednesday.
The organization’s list is a local spin on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 25-year-old annual Most Endangered Historic Places rankings, which have sought to raise the profile of deteriorating properties deemed important to the country’s heritage.
The seven Portland area buildings and properties listed Wednesday are in need of protection, funding and awareness to avoid falling into greater disrepair or — in some cases — being lost forever, Landmarks officials said.
Despite being historic properties, two of the sites designated as imperiled by the group Wednesday have been in contemporary headlines.
The tower clock from the majestic Union Station — whose destruction in 1961 to clear the way for a strip mall is largely credited with launching Portland’s historic preservation movement — is now housed for public display in Congress Square park. In a controversial decision earlier this month, the City Council agreed to sell two-thirds of the publicly owned space to private developers who plan to expand the adjacent former Eastland Park Hotel.
“This is a very iconic piece. It’s one of the last remaining pieces from Union Station, which was such an important landmark,” Greater Portland Landmarks Executive Director Hilary Bassett said during a Wednesday news conference. “The developers have dedicated some funding to packing it up and moving it away [from Congress Square], but there’s no plan for where it will go from there.”
The city’s 1866 Lincoln Park, built after the Great Fire of 1866 destroyed most of downtown Portland, was more recently the home for the local offshoot of the high-profile Occupy Wall Street protest movement in late 2011 and early 2012.
“Recently, Lincoln Park was in the news because of the Occupy movement,” Bassett acknowledged. “There was an encampment there.”
By the time Occupy Maine was forced by city officials and a court ruling to take down its tents in February 2012, it was the last such encampment standing in what had been a national network of them.
Other historically valuable places on the list, however, don’t have the benefit of recent news events to create awareness of their respective plights. Joining Lincoln Park and the Union Station clock on the 2013 Places in Peril list are:
- The 1829 Neal Dow House at 714 Congress St., once home to a Portland Civil War officer and local politician dubbed “The Napoleon of Temperance.” Dow drafted the state law that went on to become the template for the federal prohibition of alcohol. He was a fierce abolitionist who used his home as a site on the Underground Railroad. Dow’s son later left the home to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which played a crucial role in fighting for women’s rights to vote and still maintains it as a museum. Yet, Bassett said of the red, brick home: “Nobody knows about it. It’s right in the middle of a main street in Portland and nobody knows about it.”
- Fort Gorges on Hog Island in Casco Bay, which was built as a U.S. military installation between 1858 and 1864, a lagging construction in response to foreign naval threats seen in the War of 1812. The property is owned by the city of Portland, but according to a Landmarks description, “has become overgrown with vegetation and shows signs of masonry deterioration.”
- Western Cemetery, located adjacent to the city’s West End Historic District and opened in 1830, remained active until 1910. A 12-acre cemetery with 6,600 marked and unmarked graves, including a tomb that belonged to the family of famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Western Cemetery is a victim of vandalism and neglect despite the best efforts of a local group, the Stewards of the Western Cemetery, Bassett said.
- The 1800 Ingraham Carriage Barn at 79 High St., described by Greater Portland Landmarks as “a rare surviving example of an early, and now very rare, building type — the urban carriage barn.” The structure is a Federal style, timber-framed building that retains its original skive-jointed clapboarding, but is “vacant and deteriorating quickly.” “The Ingraham Carriage Barn is an architectural gem that is at a tipping point: without immediate attention to preserve and rehabilitate the building, it is likely to be lost,” the Landmarks description reads, in part.
- The “historic resources” of South Portland, which Bassett said need to be cataloged and assessed before potentially landing on future Places in Peril lists individually. “There’s a lot of history in South Portland, but nobody knows about it and there’s no protection,” Bassett said, pointing to a deteriorating church at 179 Broadway and a 52 Pine St. structure in the historic Ferry Village neighborhood as examples of buildings that may deserve designations on the National Register of Historic Places if an inventory of such city buildings is conducted.