South Portland Armory
Armory Street, South Portland, Maine | Nominated to Places in Peril in 2012
The former Maine National Guard Armory is a gateway landmark that provides a striking visual introduction to South Portland at a key intersection with 30,000 cars passing by each day. Completed in 1941, the Armory was built in the flurry of new government construction following the United States' entry into World War II, when new shipyards and a steel fabricating plant were built in the Cushing's Point area for the mass-production of Liberty ships. The building features details in the Art Deco style, including glass block windows, sculptured eagles, and carved keystones with images of tanks, grenades, and bullets. In 2004, the Armory was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, however without local historic preservation protections, changes to the building would not require official review, risking loss or damage to important character defining features of the Art Deco building in any future development of the property.
Since the military vacated the property in 1996, the building has not been well-maintained: the roof leaks and the plaster walls are in poor condition; the exterior concrete steps, tower corners, and plinths beneath the stone urns are all deteriorating; the original windows need to be reglazed; and the metal canopies above the doorways are rusting and peeling. The Armory has been owned by the City of South Portland since it was acquired in liquidation proceedings in 2006. Continued deterioration from a lack of City funds for maintenance and no local historic preservation protections led to Landmarks listing of the building as a Place in Peril in 2012.
National Register eligibility opens the important potential to access significant state and federal historic preservation tax credits. Landmarks encouraged the City of South Portland to take a more proactive approach to redeveloping the building in a way that would attract outside funding, whether from private investment, state or federal funding, City-sponsored incentives such as tax increment financing, or other sources. City leaders expressed support for historic preservation and when the building was listed for sale, a preservation easement to be held by the City was included as part of the conditions of sale. In 2014 the armory was sold to a local developer with plans to convert the site into a fueling station, convenience store, and office space. The drill hall, the large portion of the building to the rear of the site will be demolished and replaced by fueling pumps, while the front of the building will be preserved. Final approval for the project was granted in 2015.
Finding new uses for vacant large-scale buildings is a challenge. 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.
- Developer files $2.5 million plan to turn South Portland armory into commercial property Portland Press Herald
- Plan for developing former armory in South Portland wins support Portland Press Herald
- South Portland armory makeover gets final OK The Forecaster
- Armory Construction Begins Current
- South Portland armory walls come tumbling down The Forecaster
- South Portland armory set to open The Forecaster
What You Can Do
- Encourage city leaders to fund ongoing maintenance of publicly-owned historic buildings. Preventative maintenance is the most cost effective means to preserve buildings, both old and new!
- Support Landmarks' advocacy efforts.