July 22, 2018
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Historic Bangor building torn down despite desire to save it

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

A long-vacant historic house in Bangor that had been the focus of nearly two decades of revitalization efforts has been torn down.

The 125-year-old engineer’s house on State Street was razed after talks broke down between the building’s owner and a developer who had hoped to save it and Bangor officials said they had no grounds under city codes to deny a demolition permit, which was granted Aug. 8.

Bob Kelly of House Revivers said he was “shocked and very disappointed” that officials at Shaw House, the nonprofit social service agency that owned the building, had it demolished. Since March, Kelly’s construction firm had been in talks to buy the State Street building and convert it to office space.

The exact date of demolition could not be immediately established on Monday, but Kelly think that it happened over the weekend. One resident at a nearby housing complex said she saw workers there on Sunday. Officials at Shaw House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Located on the site of the city’s former waterworks, which Shaw House converted into affordable housing, the engineer’s house was thought to have considerable historic value. Wilfred E. Mansur, one of Bangor’s leading architects, designed it in 1892. Named after the people who lived there, the house was unique in his portfolio.

“I was hoping that they would still give us time to work something out. I hate to see it go,” Kelly said Monday. “It was something that could have been saved. It was a piece of Bangor’s architectural history, and now it’s no more.”

City Historic Preservation Commission member George Burgoyne said the loss of the building was sad but perhaps unavoidable.

“Back in the 1960s or ‘70s, it really was able to be saved, but nobody stepped forward to do it,” Burgoyne said Monday. “It was in such a state of disrepair that it was maybe savable, maybe not. There was disagreement on the part of the board.”

Abandoned since 1968, when the city stopped generating electricity at the former waterworks site, efforts to renovate the house go back at least as far as 1998, when a developer discussed converting it to a restaurant and mixed-use commercial space.

Shaw House officials had been trying for 1½ years to get rid of the property. In December 2015, the preservation commission denied Shaw House’s application to tear down the engineer’s house. Shaw House appealed to the city Board of Appeals and the board overturned the commission’s decision.

Shaw House officials fulfilled the requirements of Bangor’s City Code regarding the demolition of historic properties, Assistant City Solicitor Paul Nicklas said. They showed that the house was incompatible to their needs and put it on sale for a reasonable period — six months — at a fair price, $1. They also got Kelly’s group to agree to preserve the building’s historic character, Nicklas said in a letter to Shaw House.

The permit included a 30-day appeal period, but no one filed an appeal, and appeals don’t halt demolitions, Nicklas said. Anyone seeking to halt the demolition would have had to file a claim in civil court. No one did.

Kelly’s firm and officials at Ames Associates LLC, an architectural firm that restores historic buildings, reached out to city officials last week to see if the razing could be averted, Kelly said.

House Revivers and Ames had been working since March to buy the building from Shaw House, which had acquired the house and historic waterworks facilities as part of a $6.8 million plan, completed in 2007, to convert the site into Waterworks Apartments, 35 rent-subsidized efficiency apartments for very-low-income adults at risk of homelessness.

House Revivers and Ames wished to turn the building into a new office space, but all sides confirmed that talks had broken off on Aug. 8.

Shaw House had replaced the roof of the engineer’s house and added a new foundation at a cost of $79,000 when it moved the building 15 feet several years ago to make way for a driveway to the apartment complex.


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