February 16, 2020
Arts & Culture Latest News | Tulsi Gabbard | Bangor Metro | Jameson House | Today's Paper

A 91-year-old Bangor dance school is looking for a new home, months after its building sold

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Thomas School of Dance is moving from its location on State Street in downtown Bangor.

Nearly 25 years after it moved into a downtown Bangor building, the Thomas School of Dance has moved out of its longtime home at 14-16 State St. The 91-year-old dance academy is presently looking for a new place to offer dance classes.

Thomas School of Dance owner Cassie Pillsbury said Monday that five months after former building owner Jane Bragg sold the building to Robb and Christen Gordon of Bangor, she and the new owners were not able to come to an agreement on a new lease. The school’s present lease runs out Wednesday, and Pillsbury has not yet found a permanent new home for her business.

Pillsbury has found a temporary home for the handful of classes the school is offering in August, and she has delayed the start of her fall classes to early October to allow for more time to find a permanent home.

Thomas School of Dance | BDN
Thomas School of Dance | BDN
Cassie Pillsbury and Jane Bragg are pictured in 2014, when Bragg sold the Thomas School of Dance in Bangor to Pillsbury.

“We would love to stay in downtown, and we love being a part of the community here. We’ve been downtown for decades. But our search is definitely throughout Bangor and the neighboring towns,” said Pillsbury, who bought the school from Bragg in 2014, and who declined to name the specific reasons why she was unable to negotiate a new lease agreement at 14-16 State St.

The new owners, Robb and Christen Gordon, who bought the building from Bragg in March, declined to comment on the sale or on their plans for the four-story building, built in 1911. According to city of Bangor assessment records, it sold on March 7 for $275,000.

The block of downtown where the dance school is located, between 6 State St. and 8 Harlow St., has seen a great deal of turnover in ownership and new businesses within the past five years. Since 2014, new owners have purchased three out of the six properties on the block, and four new street-level businesses have moved in — Orono Brewing Company, Tea & Tarts, Om Land Yoga and Grass Roots of Maine. There are also newly renovated apartments located in the buildings at 20 and 26 State St., above Tea & Tarts and Orono Brewing Company respectively.

The Thomas School of Dance was founded in 1928 by Polly Thomas, then 14, who taught dance classes in the 1930s and 1940s at the Bangor YMCA and at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Park Street. In the 1950s, Thomas bought 42 Broadway, by the intersection of Broadway and State Street, where the school was located for more than 30 years.

Spike Webb | BDN
Spike Webb | BDN
The assistant teachers of the Polly Lynch Thomas School of Dance are pictured in 1953.

In 1983, Thomas sold the school to Bragg, who then moved it downtown to 88 Central St., where Kishintaikan Dojo is now located. Twelve years later, Bragg bought 14-16 State St., and moved the school there. Bragg’s other dance organization, Bangor Ballet, which was founded in 1994, also operated out of the State Street space. Like the Thomas School of Dance, Bangor Ballet is also now looking for a new facility in which to hold rehearsals.

Pillsbury said that offering multiple types of dance classes year-round — ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, Irish step dancing and an array of ballroom styles — presents a unique challenge to find the right spot for her school. In its old building, the school had four studios in which to hold classes simultaneously.

“It’s definitely puts us in a unique rental situation,” she said. “We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to find a home by the time classes start in October.”

 


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like