September 17, 2019
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Machias chamber moves into renovated train station

MACHIAS, Maine — The Machias Bay Area Chamber of Commerce has relocated into a historic renovated train station owned by the town.

The new location is ideal because of Station 1898’s proximity to the Sunrise Trail, its visibility from Route 1 and its proximity to the water and wildlife, according to town and chamber officials.

Chamber executive director Sharon Mack said she already has seen deer and eagles from the office.

The move to the historic town train station took place May 5 and 6, according to Mack, who described the restoration and move as an “accomplishment” for the chamber.

“I’m really proud of the chamber of commerce,” Mack said Wednesday. “Many people did not think the day would come when this would be inhabitable again.”

Machias Town Manager Christina Therrien also said Wednesday she was happy about the move.

“I’m ecstatic about it,” she said. “I’ve always felt [the train station] is where [the chamber] belongs.”

The station, built in 1898, was one of 24 railway stations built by the Washington County Railroad, according to Christi Mitchell, architectural historian for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

By 1911, the station was owned and operated by Maine Central Railroad Co., but passenger service was discontinued in late 1957 and the station was abandoned in 1985, Mitchell said.

It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 2, 1992.

Station restoration efforts actually began about 20 years ago, but moved slowly. Grants paid for a new roof and new windows, but then efforts stalled for several years.

Then, about three years ago, the chamber board decided to make the station a priority, Mack said, and obtained a 99-year lease from the town for $1 per year.

Early estimates for the restoration project were as high as $80,000 but, in the end, it cost only about $30,000. Mack said the chamber had about $10,000 from fundraising efforts. The town of Machias, which owns the building, contributed another $10,000. The chamber will borrow $10,000 through its line of credit with Machias Savings Bank to cover the rest, Mack said.

“It’s one landmark building in the town of Machias that even though it fell into a state of neglect, we were able to save it,” Mack said. “It would have been easy to walk away from this.”

Mack said the chamber still is raising money to cover the costs and lessen the amount borrowed.

“We will accept any donations, large or small,” she said.

The new office features a large, open room with a conference table and chairs. Brochures are arranged on racks which came from the former office on Main Street and are mounted to the walls.

The station’s large, sliding freight doors are on display inside. In addition, numerous historic artifacts from the families of Robert Wright and Clayton Stoddard sit along a wall that has been left original. Eventually a faux fireplace will be installed to provide display space, she said.

The chamber is seeking additional donations of locally relevant artifacts.

Behind the original wall is a separate room where Mack and Sharon Hood, the chamber’s assistant manager, work. This room has the original floor and original ceiling.

The chamber worked with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission to make sure the restoration was done as authentically as possible. Inmates from the Downeast Correctional Facility did the woodwork under crew leader Toby Sawtelle.

“Everything is so perfect,” Mack said. “All of the trim for the windows had to be hand cut because all the windows were a different size.”

Two nods to the modern day are a bathroom and handicapped accessibility, she said.

For the actual move, students involved in the Jobs for Maine Graduates program at Machias High School helped out. Before the move, they came to the old office to help pack. Then, on May 6, groups of five or six moved all the small things down to the station.

“It was a real learning experience. Some of these kids … had no idea what a chamber of commerce was,” Mack said, adding that several students became “mesmerized” reading brochures. “It was an eye-opener for them.”

Saturday, members of the Psi Delta Service Fraternity from the University of Maine at Machias helped move the furniture and other large items.

On Monday, Mack and Hood put everything away. They were ready to open on time Wednesday morning, Mack said.

“We’ve already had tourists in. We got two new members this morning,” Mack said on May 11. “We don’t even have a sign out front.”

The office is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and Mondays and Tuesdays by chance, Mack said.

In the past, the chamber has not been open Saturdays but this year, chamber officials are considering having the office open Saturday mornings during tourist season. The chamber has applied to become a state-certified tourism center in order to get funding to hire a greeter, rather than relying on volunteers. In the meantime, the chamber has invited anyone interested in volunteering to stop by the station at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 21, for coffee and doughnuts and to get more information. The chamber will accept whatever time a person can offer, she said.

“If they can only do one hour on a Wednesday afternoon, they can come in for one hour on a Wednesday afternoon,” Mack said.

 



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