One of Portland’s historically significant buildings has been hiding in plain view.

Fronted by a busy stretch of Interstate 295 and partially obscured by the moving trucks parked around it, the U-Haul Moving and Storage building at 411 Marginal Way in East Bayside has made Greater Portland Landmarks’ list of 2017 Places in Peril.

The list highlights seven historically significant properties in Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth that the group says are in danger of being irreparably altered or destroyed.

The mid-century modern building that is currently home to U-Haul Storage and Moving on Marginal Way opened in 1963 as Portland Motor Sales car showroom. The building is on Greater Portland Landmarks’ 2017 Places in Peril list. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

“These properties help define Greater Portland,” said Hilary Bassett, Greater Portland Landmarks’ executive director. “In every case, the properties we’ve identified are prominently visible or have such historic significance that we must advocate for their protection and preservation.”

The U-Haul building, known for its distinctive roof, opened in 1963 as the home of the Portland Motor Sales car dealership.

“The ultra-modern building was a showpiece for Maine’s then-largest Ford dealer when it opened,” Greater Portland Landmarks said in its description of the building. “Now more than 50 years later, it is one of Portland’s most well-known midcentury modern buildings with its iconic folded roof as a character defining feature of its style.”

Bassett said the U-Haul building caught Greater Portland Landmarks’ attention because of a growing interest in the city’s midcentury buildings and architecture.

“They are a part of Portland that was not in the mainstream of historic buildings,” Bassett said. “They have gone unrecognized, but those buildings were a sign of their time.”

The building is located in East Bayside, a former industrial neighborhood that is rapidly evolving as a destination for craft brewers, distillers and other entrepreneurs in Portland’s food scene. Greater Portland Landmarks said the property is vulnerable to redevelopment in an area of rapid regrowth, because this style is typically undervalued and there are no preservation protections for this building or neighborhood.

Herb Adams, a well-known Portland historian, represented the East Bayside neighborhood when he served in the Legislature and admitted being surprised to learn that the U-Haul building had been placed on the endangered buildings list.

“I guess if you consider the age of that building and the symbolism, then a case could be made for what isn’t all that obvious to the average person,” he said. “I have to say that buildings like the U-Haul building are temples to American’s love affair with having too much stuff. … I am guilty of that myself.”

The other six properties that made the preservation group’s list and why it says they deserve protection:


• Hay & Peabody Building’s Seth Thomas clock (1925), 749 Congress St., Portland. It’s a rare, four-dial street clock that has a combination mechanical and electric clockwork. It is the only pole-mounted street clock in the city built by the renowned Seth Thomas Co. The clock is in serious disrepair because of the specialized skills and high costs associated with restoring it.

• Mahoney Middle School (1923-1924), 240 Ocean St., South Portland.

Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the school is on a 15-acre corner lot at a major intersection of Route 77. Designed by a noted Maine architectural firm, Miller & Mayo, it is a showcase of the Beaux Arts style once preferred for important civic buildings. The state has agreed to renovate or replace the building, putting its future at risk because no preservation protections are in place to prevent its demolition or ensure historically sensitive renovations.

• Peaks Island Amusement District (1880-1930), Island Avenue, Peaks Island, Casco Bay. Part of Portland, Peaks Island in the late 19th century was famous for is summer entertainment, including the Greenwood Gardens amusement park along the shore, earning it the nickname “Coney Island of Maine.” Much of the district hasn’t been documented and holds no preservation protections, placing it under threat as demand for waterfront property grows.

Deering Center Community Church, a Gothic Revival-style building on Stevens Avenue in Portland, was built with pink granite in 1907. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

• Deering Center Community Church (1907), 4 Brentwood St., Portland. Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, it’s an architecturally significant landmark on Stevens Avenue that was designed by noted Bangor architect Victor Hodgins. Improper mortar use has caused extensive structural problems, including bell tower damage that will cost as much as $1.5 million to repair.

• 19th-century African-American Historical Resources on Portland’s downtown peninsula. Several properties on Newbury and Lafayette streets, in the East End, and the St. John-Valley streets neighborhood along Interstate 295, tell the story of the small but thriving African-American community that contributed to Portland’s robust history in the 1800s. With the exception of the Abyssinian Meeting House on Newbury Street, a designated landmark, most have not been researched, aren’t within a historic district and have no protections. Land values are so high that these neighborhoods are experiencing intense redevelopment, including teardowns for new construction.

• Bowery Beach School (1855, altered 1985), 11 Wheeler Road, Cape Elizabeth. Characteristic of one-room schoolhouses that once dotted the region, this rare structure stands where it was built and contains most of its original features. The property is at risk because rot and rodents have damaged the framing and the owner cannot afford to make needed repairs.

The preservation group listed the landmarks to build community awareness of their significance and advocate for their protection so they can continue to play a vital role in the region’s architectural landscape. The group hopes to work with owners to protect the properties, providing advice, convening experts and identifying preservation resources.

“We’ve seen over the last 20 years how important historic preservation has been to the economic growth of Portland and retention of property values,” said Ed Gardner, owner of Ocean Gate Realty and a Landmarks trustee. “Saving these properties can only enhance the vitality of Greater Portland.”