Demolition crews have started tearing down Presque Isle’s former William Haskell Recreation Center, with the property destined to become part of a local car dealership.
Kirk Carroll, the owner of Carroll’s Auto Sales next door on Main Street, purchased the building under a 2014 deal with the city, which three months ago opened its new Sargent Family Community Center.
The Haskell center was the site of Presque Isle’s city-run recreation programs for more than 70 years.
Carroll’s agreement with the city initially gave him two options for taking over the property: for the price of $145,000 if the city demolished the building or for $40,000 without demolition.
Carroll and the city ended up going with a slightly-amended first option, according to Chris Beaulieu, Presque Isle’s recreation department director. The businessman opted to cover the costs of asbestos removal — at $42,000 — while letting the city cover demolition expenses. With the purchase price set at $145,000, minus the asbestos removal costs, the final price came to $103,000, Beaulieu said. The construction company Ed Pelletier & Sons is handling the demolition.
The Haskell center “served Presque Isle well for many years,” Beaulieu said last November, at the opening day for the new community center. However, the building’s construction in the 1940s as a United Service Organization club predated modern standards and in recent years problems started to accumulate, including mold and roof leaks.
The Presque Isle city government purchased the building in 1946 and turned it into one of Maine’s first municipal recreation centers. William Haskell became the city’s first director of the new recreation department, and led the department until 1981. The center was renamed in his honor in 1987, a year after he died at the age of 73.
Some of the Haskell center’s memorabilia and historic photos are on display at the new community center, and memories and tributes also have been collected online through the Facebook group called Remembering the Presque Isle Rec.