BELFAST, Maine — A local home with nearly 200 years of history is slated for demolition to make way for a new $17 million courthouse, but a Belfast city councilor hopes someone will step forward to save it.
The state closed in mid-January on the 1.1-acre downtown lot that will house the future court facility. The purchase included all the buildings on the plot including the Duval Auto Service garage, a small office building used by Tidewater Oil, and a modest white house with a red door.
“There’s interest in seeing that building saved,” City Councilor Mike Hurley said Thursday after learning that the state plans to tear down the house in the next five or six months.
Thomas Bartlett, a housewright, built the home around 1825 — a decade after British troops occupied Belfast during the War of 1812, according to Megan Pinette, president of the Belfast Historical Society. Judge Nathaniel Patterson bought it in 1845, and used his home as a court during the Civil War era, when he served as a police court judge until his death in 1872.
With the new courthouse, the same land will host judicial proceedings again for the first time in nearly 150 years.
The new courthouse building, which is in the early design process, will bring the district and superior courts under the same roof. It is scheduled to be finished around June 2018.
Hurley hopes someone will snatch up the home before the bulldozers roll in. He asked Fairfield-based Mushero Jacking and Moving, Inc. for an estimate of the cost of picking up the building and moving it to a nearby location or vacant lot.
The company said it would cost about $62,000 to move the building in three sections, depending how far it is moved. Some more recent additions were tacked onto the back of the building over the years, but the original section could be moved at a lower cost.
The new owner would have to pay extra to move the fireplace and rebuild a foundation at a new site. Hurley said this could be substantially cheaper than buying or building a new home, provided the new owner has a vacant house lot.
“People in this city have a long history of wanting to preserve buildings,” Hurley said, adding that some local buildings have been picked up and moved in the past.
Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the state court system, said the architect on the project believes little of the house’s exterior is original.
“If it had been on the register or had significant historical value, we would not have purchased the site,” she said. “If someone else will accept responsibility and pay to move it, we could permit this, if it is done in a timely manner and if would not delay the project.
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