Wednesday, May 22, 2013
It's easy to see why the owners of seven historically significant Greater Portland properties don't like seeing their holdings listed as in "peril" because they are not subject to legal protections, or are in a deteriorating condition.
Eastern Cemetery on Mountfort Street in Portland
Press Herald file photo/Gabe Souza
Some of these five buildings and two "places" on Greater Portland Landmarks' "Places in Peril" list are for sale and don't need the bad publicity. The owners say they are conscientious, appreciate the historical value of their property and don't need to be told to take care of what they own.
But in a city that can never forget the destruction of Union Station, a misguided attempt at urban renewal that occurred when the city's leaders inexplicably failed to see the value of what today would be an engine of economic development, it pays to pay attention.
So when preservationists point out which treasured landmarks are in danger, we should pay attention.
The seven properties are: The Portland Co. complex on Fore Street, the Abyssinian Meeting House on Newbury Street, the Grand Trunk office building on India Street, the Portland Masonic Temple Grand Lodge on Congress Street and the Maine National Guard Armory in South Portland. In addition to those buildings, the list includes House Island, which is home to historic Fort Scammon, and the Eastern Cemetery on Mountfort Street.
Saying these properties are in peril calls attention to them and raises the public's awareness that they could one day follow Union Station and disappear completely from the landscape.
It is not necessarily a call to immediate action. Portland has recently extended its historical preservation zone to include much of Congress Street and has had a number of preservation successes.
One of the listed properties, the Abyssinian Meeting House, is the subject of a very active preservation fundraising effort. The Masonic Temple has a foundation dedicated to its maintenance.
But it should be a call for caution. If several of these properties are to change hands in the next few years, the community should be aware of how much could be lost. It's not too soon for civic-minded buyers to explore their options.
A city with Portland's history cannot afford to be caught napping again.