Though its outside appearance won’t look any different, in the coming years the inside of Stephen and Tabitha King’s famous home at 47 West Broadway in Bangor will undergo some major changes, if city officials approve a zone change requested by the Kings.
The zone change will allow them to turn their iconic red mansion with its wrought iron gate, as well as an adjacent house the Kings own at 39 West Broadway, into a permanent home for King’s extensive archive of manuscripts, articles, photographs, notes, video and audio recordings and other writings from throughout his nearly 50-year career.
It would also include a retreat for writers, who would be allowed to stay in the house while they work on various projects, and it would house the offices for the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, their charitable nonprofit organization. The foundation offices are currently located on Outer Hammond Street in Bangor.
The City Council will review the proposal for a zone change at Monday night’s meeting. If approved, the council will send the proposal to the planning board, which will make a recommendation to the council for final approval. The rezoning would change the Kings’ property from one that’s zoned as residential to a type of zone that would allow a nonprofit.
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The Kings themselves will still sometimes stay at the 47 West Broadway home, the house where they raised their three children and lived full-time throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Today, the Kings split most of their time between their property in the Oxford County town of Lovell and their home in Sarasota, Florida.
According to retired Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Warren Silver, who is the Kings’ attorney, the idea of transforming the West Broadway houses into an archive and writers’ retreat is something that had been on the couple’s minds for some time. The Kings wanted to ensure, however, that the house won’t become more of a tourist attraction than it already is.
“We want to make sure we minimize the impact on the neighborhood,” Silver said. “We don’t want to turn it into Graceland. We don’t want to increase traffic on that street. It’s not going to be open to the public. We want to figure out what the future is going to look like for these houses, and this seems to be the best way forward.”
Stephen King’s archive was until last year held by Fogler Library at the University of Maine in Orono, King’s alma mater, where scholars and other researchers could obtain permission to view specific elements of the archive. If the proposed changes are approved by the city, similar permission rules will apply to the archive when it moves to the West Broadway property.
Attorney Katie Foster of Rudman & Winchell has also been assisting in the planning process for the proposed changes, and led a meeting last month with neighborhood residents and property owners to go over the plans and hear questions and concerns.
“It’s really an important thing for Bangor. The house is something we need to protect in perpetuity,” Foster said. “It’s something that people come to town specifically to see. But it’s also a residential neighborhood. People live there. I think this is a solution that balances both those needs.”
Foster said the overall response from King’s neighbors on West Broadway was largely enthusiastic, and Silver noted that most people won’t notice much of a difference at all should the city approve the zone change. He also said that the project will happen gradually, over the course of several years.
“Most of these changes will go largely unnoticed. There might be an extra few cars at the house. That’s about the extent of it,” Silver said. “In fact, we had some neighbors mention that it will be nice to see some lights on in the building at night. I think the people in the neighborhood also want the house to continue to be associated with the family. It’s a good thing for everybody.”