Woodfords Food & Beverage: Resuscitating an Old Classic

Woodfords Food & Beverage: Resuscitating an Old Classic

As they were rolling up their sleeves to start interior renovations of their future restaurant, Woodfords Food & Beverage, Birch Shambaugh asked Fayth Preyer what she hoped to discover once they started peeling away decades of office use in the building at 660 Forest Avenue in Portland.  She let herself dream, “what if there were terrazzo floors?!”

Adaptive re-use is a strategy promoted by historic preservation that encourages developers to turn historic buildings into...

9 Things to do this August 2017

9 Things to do this August 2017

Image courtesy of Portland Paddle

Looking for new ways to explore the Portland Area? Need something fresh and different to do with your out-of-town guests? Want to take advantage of these long summer nights?  Here is a list of 10 great events this August that celebrate historic preservation and history of the Greater Portland region. Hope to see you there! 

 1) Kayak to Fort Gorges

Monday, August 7, 4:45 pm - 7:30 pm

Portland Paddle has designed a special tour of Fort Gorges for the Greater Portland Landmarks Community! Learn the latest about the preservation of this landmark while exploring the elegant granite halls, dark passageways and towering ramparts of Fort Gorges. This tour will be lead by a Portland Paddle guide who is an expert in both kayaking and Fort Gorges history. Landmarks staff will update tour attendees on why preserving the Fort matters, what preservation is being done and how you can help.

We'll start off with a paddle into Portland harbor and then make the crossing out to Hog Island, where we'll land on a beach and walk around the Island. This three-hour trip is the best way to combine the experience of sea kayaking on the Maine coast with exploring one of the region's most exciting historic landmarks only accessible by small boat. 

Monday, August 7, 4:45 pm - 7:30 pm
Portland Paddle
End of Cutter Street, East End Beach, Portland, ME 04101
Click for more info and to register!

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Heritage for a 40 Foot Lot

Heritage for a 40 Foot Lot

Written by Charles Hartfelder
Photos by Heath Paley

Today the midcentury modern look is all around us. As the architecture of the modernist movement has come of age, its historical significance is now eligible to receive all the benefits of historic designation. Its unique situation at the crux of modern homebuilding innovation in the 20th century will be remembered as the forbearer of the open-plan ideal of the 21st.

Preservation Month Matters

Preservation Month Matters

Did you know that May is National Preservation month?  We are excited there is a whole month to celebrate what we do every day!   In historic cities like ours it can be easy to take our charming historic downtown for granted.  Why would anyone want to destroy it?   But, before there were citizen groups like Greater Portland Landmarks, buildings were unappreciated, abandoned, and torn down.  This was happening in Portland,  throughout Maine, and allover the country.  Now, not only does our organization exist, but there are city ordinances, historic districts, state and national historic tax credits, and national organizations. However, nothing is safe.  As Portland grows new areas are threatened, and with every new federal tax plan, historic tax credits become vulnerable. A month devoted to Historic Preservation reminds us how far we've come, where we are going, and how much is left to be done.  

Below are some links, resources, and tools to get you excited about Historic Preservation.  Join us!

South Portland Public Library Shines Bright

South Portland Public Library Shines Bright

When Davis took over he immediately wanted to make the building more inviting and prominent to the community.  With little money in the budget he did what he could.  In 2007-8 he asked the DPW to rip out the giant over grown rhododendrons that blocked the sunlight from pouring in the front glass wall.  This also let the light from the library pour out over the little hill that was built around it, making it so distinguishable from a distance. This simple collaboration of city resources highlighted the architecture of the building and made it easier to make the case for more restoration of the library. “Numbers increased drastically” Davis said, “the increased visibility of the building alone, brought more people into it. Period.” Soon after the city started chipping away at other projects.  Next the building’s distinctive concrete was preserved.

Mechanics' Hall

Mechanics' Hall

Mechanics' Hall, built from 1857-9 at 519 Congress Street, Portland, is considered to be the finest work of Thomas J. Sparrow, Portland’s first native architect. Built from Biddeford granite and stone this Italianate style building is adorned with architectural features that highlight the community for which it was built, Maine Charitable Mechanic Association (MCMA).  The keystones above each arched window on the front façade are carved with the heads of Vulcan and of Archimedes, and the arm of Labor. The storefronts on the first floor were intended for association members to lease for their own businesses.  The core of the original design was to create a permanent home for their library that had been moved between different locations around Portland to accommodate its growing size and use.  

Important Places of Portland's African-American History

Important Places of Portland's African-American History

Portland’s Black Community has been shaping the city’s history, landscapes, and architecture since the city’s founding.  As a major port city, Portland was both a stop on the Underground Railroad and home to a thriving community of free black people who worked the waterfront or worked for the commercial railroads.  A few of the buildings that tell their stories remain standing, primarily in the India Street Neighborhood which was founded by free blacks who prospered in Portland’s maritime economy. Those buildings are featured below. 

Valentines for Historic Preservation

Valentines for Historic Preservation

Do You Love Saving Historic Places in Greater Portland?!

Say it Loud and Proud with a Special Valentine!

We are joining the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Heart Bombing Campaign by making Valentines for our favorite historic places around Greater Portland.  Help us Spread the Love and bring attention to historic Place that need some extra Love this February in 4 Easy Steps.  

Why Should We Preserve our Historic Schools?

Photos by Todd Caverly

Photos by Todd Caverly

“Historic neighborhood schools are anchors within our communities. They offer students distinctive and unique places to learn. They provide constant and subtle lessons about the history of their town and respect for the past. And, as they are often within walking distance, local schools encourage students to walk or bike, promoting healthy activity and a chance to experience and engage with their surroundings.” 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C.

In 2000 the National Trust for Historic Preservation added neighborhood schools to its annual list of most endangered historic places. It aimed thereby to raise awareness of public policies that discourage maintenance of existing neighborhood schools, the lack of money many schools need for repairs, and the trend toward large consolidated schools in locations that are not within walking distance for most students.

While the historic character of older local schools is often highly valued by the communities they serve, these buildings have become substandard due to outdated infrastructure and deferred basic maintenance. As a consequence of this neglect and changing population and land use patterns, investment in school infrastructure is needed throughout the Greater Portland area.

When Historic Schools Close

In Greater Portland, as in many communities across the nation, historic neighborhood school buildings have been closed due to consolidation or lack of investment in their maintenance. As a consequence many students need to be transported to distant new schools and neighborhoods have lost a vital community asset. Happily, many historic school buildings in Greater Portland have been revitalized by developers for new uses, usually housing. State and Federal Historic Tax Credits have been an important component in many of these conversions.

Landmarks supports the rehabilitation of neighborhood schools and has awarded several such projects preservation honor awards

 
Nathan Clifford School, Falmouth Street, Portland, Photo by Greater Portland Landmarks

Nathan Clifford School, Falmouth Street, Portland, Photo by Greater Portland Landmarks

 

Several years ago the Nathan Clifford School, located in the dense suburban neighborhood of Oakdale, was closed by the city of Portland. Local students are now transported to a new site outside the neighborhood. The historic school was sold to a developer who converted it into apartments using historic tax credits and conserved the open space at the rear of the building as a park.

Can Historic Schools Meet 21st Century Educational Needs?

Local schools were once thought of as important civic landmarks, built to last for generations, and representative of a community’s investment in its youngest citizens. They embodied the spirit of their neighborhoods, their city, and their community’s history.  While many historic schools in Greater Portland may not be designated historic landmarks, they are often seen as local landmarks. With proper maintenance and timely upgrading, they can continue to serve their communities for many years to come.

In Portland planners and design advocates are promoting a concept called “complete neighborhoods.” This refers to locales where residents have safe and convenient access to all the goods and services needed in daily life, including a variety of housing options, shops, public schools, open spaces and recreational opportunities, transportation options, and civic services. An important element of a complete neighborhood is that it is sized for a walkable human scale and accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Historic school buildings are usually located on sites within walking or biking distance of the community members they serve and provide valuable social services, community gathering places, and access to open space and recreation outside normal school hours.

Longfellow Elementary School in Portland has the highest rate of elementary students within walking distance according to school district reports. Yet the building is in dire need of internal updating to accommodate modern educational requirements, and exterior preservation to secure the building’s envelope from the elements. The city council and school board will soon be making important decisions about the school’s future.  Citizens in the school’s Deering Center neighborhood are concerned that prolonged underfunding of their school’s needs might result in its closure, like the Oakdale neighborhood experienced with the closure of the Nathan Clifford School in 2011.

 
The former South Portland High School, now Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, Photo by Greater Portland Landmarks

The former South Portland High School, now Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, Photo by Greater Portland Landmarks

 

In August, the Maine State Board of Education determined that the historic Mahoney School building, currently one of two middle schools in South Portland (the other is Memorial), is eligible for state funding.  Money is thus available for renovating Mahoney, replacing Mahoney, or consolidating the two middle schools. Residents are now discussing the potential consolidation of these schools as both have significant building problems and site limitations. Mahoney serves about 325 students on a fifteen-acre parcel at the corner of Ocean Street and Broadway, near Mill Creek Park. Memorial serves about 400 students on a seventeen-acre parcel in the Thornton Heights neighborhood. Local officials have started a complex multi-step process to determine the best and most cost-effective way to house the education of South Portland’s 725 students in Grades 6 through 8.

Greater Portland Landmarks encourages communities to act as good stewards of their historic school buildings and to continue to use neighborhood schools for the purpose for which they were designed. Maintenance and modernization of these existing facilities is a critically important community investment. Unfortunately, some historic schools may close. When that happens Greater Portland Landmarks advocates that they be designated as historic landmarks in order to facilitate their reuse based on access to historic tax credits. We applaud the work of local developers who have saved many of our abandoned school buildings through conversion, thus preserving these neighborhood landmarks for future generations.

For a look back at public neighborhood schools in the City of Portland visit our page on Portland's Historic Public Schools.

To learn more about preservation resources for saving neighborhood schools visit our advocacy page on Historic Schools.