Advocacy works. Here are updates on four buildings Greater Portland Landmarks supports.
The South Portland Armory
With the gas station almost ready to open and the front facade brought back to life, the South Portland Armory is a Places in Peril success story. The exterior of this art-deco building shows signs of new life with fresh, clean, white cement and other restored details instead of dilapidated wear. We are excited to see the inside of this challenging adaptive re-use project but probably not more than Riverview Martial Arts, who will be moving their studio into the Armory very soon. Expected opening date is beginning of February.
Saving a historically significant building is a victory, but saving a vacant one with such a large scale in a city without historic preservation protections is especially triumphant. While Landmarks would have preferred a development that preserved the entire building, we worked with the city leaders and the developer in an advisory capacity to ensure that the portion of the armory to remain will be preserved in a manner consistent with national preservation standards.
Clark Memorial Methodist Church at Pleasant and Forest
The 1856 Methodist church designed by Francis Fassett and John Calvin Stevens is a flurry of activity. Once known as "the friendly church at the corner" it stood across from the former Woodford's railroad depot, contributing to the sense of Woodford's Corner as the central hub of Deering. Hardy Pond Construction will sell off the vestry as a single family residence and is in the process of converting the church into 25 studio and one-bedroom market rate apartments. The church had been altered by a modern entrance and replacement siding but the recent construction shows its removal. The church is not a locally designated landmark but the plans are relatively sympathetic to the remaining historic character of the church. The exterior choices the developers have made further show that they appreciate this historically and architecturally significant building.
A Vacant Lot and Joe's Smoke Shop
An empty lot near Longfellow Square has been filled-in. In 1965, St. Stephens Church at 669 Congress Street was demolished by the Episcopal Church due to a declining congregation. The former church building was completed in 1855 in the Gothic Revival Building style and was an important presence in Longfellow Square. The vacant lot was used for parking for almost 50 years. Meanwhile, next door, Joe's Smoke Shop and Super Variety at 665 Congress St. became an institution in the city. The shop is temporarily closed because its building was demolished to make way for a new mixed-use building that will occupy both addresses.
The look of the new building, designed by Ryan Senatore, is progressively revealed with each day’s work. Approved by the historic preservation board, it fits with the eclectic character of the Congress Street Historic District by using real bricks and other quality materials. Landmarks supported a contemporary design that continues the variety of styles that reflect the evolving nature of the streetscape. Landmarks is glad the street wall will be reinforced to enhance the pedestrian experience and a beloved local business will remain, albeit with an updated name. We are eagerly watching the building construction fill-in the once vacant lot and look forward to perusing the new Joe's Super Variety Store.
Grand Trunk Railroad Office Building
Another Place in Peril saved. Gorham Savings Bank is using historic tax credits to restore the building for banking offices. Built in 1903, the office building is the only surviving building from the extensive Grand Trunk Railroad complex in Portland. It originally served as offices for the railroad and for the transatlantic steamship operators that used the railroads wharves and sheds. The Grand Trunk (and later Canadian National) was an important source of Portland’s prosperity between the 1850s and 1960s, serving as Canada’s main shipping route in winter between Montreal and the ice-free port of Portland.
Restoration work continues with new roofing, masonry repairs and copper restoration. The bank is documenting the restoration with a series of videos that highlight several of the restoration contractors including The Heritage Company and Masonry Preservation Associates, the masons also working on our own Safford House. The videos not only document the progress of this one building but give the viewer a sense of the hard work and skill involved in a thoughtful historic preservation project. We can hardly wait to walk inside this landmark of Portland's working waterfront that has been referring to historic interior and exterior images for inspiration.
Below are photographs shared with us by Gorham Savings Bank and No Umbrella Media of their multifaceted preservation project.