November 16, 2019
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Even its main advocate says it looks like the end for Bucksport’s historic Wilson Hall

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Wilson Hall shown in this November 2017 file photo.

Emeric Spooner wants to save a decrepit but historic former seminary in Bucksport, but he knows that he is running out of time.

The 49-year-old Bucksport librarian and amateur historian wants to rally residents to save the 178-year-old building at a meeting later this month where Bucksport’s leaders might decide its fate. He’s produced a video tribute to the building and posted it to a Facebook page called “ Save Wilson Hall.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places but left derelict for more than 20 years, Wilson Hall came within a town councilor’s vote of being razed before residents raised $5,000 in 2014 for partial repairs. Its revitalization could preserve some of the character and the history of Bucksport and give the town museum space, Spooner said.

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But Spooner believes that if the seven-member council were to hold a meeting today, only two or three councilors would vote to save the building. At a council meeting last month on the subject, a handful of speakers supported saving the hall, but no one produced definite plans for the undertaking.

“It is definitely looking bleak,” Spooner said Wednesday.

Courtesy of Bucks Memorial Library
Courtesy of Bucks Memorial Library
Wilson Hall, a building in Bucksport, was once part of a preporatory school. Many of its students fought in the Civil War.

Councilors Mark Eastman and David Kee said they have a hard time seeing the council approving the allocation of hundreds of thousands of dollars to stabilize the structure. The building has holes in its roof and heavy rot throughout. The signature tower atop the building is tilted.

“The fundamental problem is to get somebody in there to take care of the renovations that are needed in there,” Kee said.

A developer, state Rep. Richard Campbell of Orrington, had hoped to convert the building into an elder care facility, but his efforts — which Spooner called valiant — were unsuccessful.

Kee said that unless he hears that someone has stepped forward with a solid plan to save the building, if not the funding to do so, he is likely to vote against putting town money into saving it.

“I am leaning in that direction,” Kee said.

The Town Council hasn’t yet set a meeting date to consider Wilson Hall’s fate. With two new councilors due to be sworn in Jan. 10, the council, which meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, will likely address Wilson Hall on Jan. 24, councilors have said.

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Bucksport Code Enforcement Officer Jeffrey Hammond stands inside Wilson Hall in November 2017.

Previous estimates have pegged the cost of renovating the building at $1 million, although repairs to keep it from degrading further could cost far less, town officials have said.

“There is a definite reluctance to put money toward it,” said Eastman, who said he supports preserving town history. “I don’t think the town is in the position to take something like that on. We need a commitment from the council to have enough time to explore all the options.”

Kee said the town might have already granted the building enough time, having acquired it in a tax foreclosure 11 years ago.

“People know it has been available for a long time, but nothing has happened,” Kee said.

A plan to create a park on the property and purchase a viewshed easement from neighbors might work, Eastman said.

Spooner said discussions with state officials and a private organization could lead to grant money if the town applied, but he doesn’t have much hope that it will.

“Everybody is trying to save it, but nobody’s got anything going,” he said. “It’s going to be too little, too late in three weeks. There’s no real group behind it.”

Spooner’s Facebook page had 56 likes as of Thursday morning.

 



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