Sunday, May 19, 2013
In a culture and an era devoted to celebrating "the next new thing," it can be hard for people striving to be up to date with constant innovations to slow down enough to appreciate the things they already have.
The old Saco Fire Station is on Maine Preservation's list of "most endangered historic resources" that are suitable for creative reuse.
Press Herald file photo/Gordon Chibroski
That's why Maine is fortunate to have organized groups of people who have come together not only in appreciation of the gifts that the past has bequeathed to the present -- but also to do the best they can to make sure those gifts hang around not only for this generation but for generations to come.
One such group is Maine Preservation, an organization devoted to keeping the past alive by designating endangered categories of older structures and other artifacts that may not be being used for their original purposes, but that can be repurposed for the benefit of the communities whose needs they once served.
The private, nonprofit group (mainepreservation.com, not to be confused with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, a state agency) is based in Yarmouth and was created in 1972 to promote "an appreciation of Maine's historic places and districts and provides for their preservation and use to enhance the vitality of our communities."
To that purpose, one of the group's activities is to create an annual list of "most endangered historic resources" that are suitable for creative reuse.
This year's list includes a deteriorating life-saving station in Kittery built in 1908; a 1930 14-bedroom "seasonal cottage" now part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge; the former Hollis High School and Bar Mills School, which voters have approved for destruction unless buyers can be found by the owner, SAD 6; and the old Central Fire Station in Saco.
Saco officials have already turned down an offer of $50,000 from a buyer who offered to invest $1.2 million to convert the station -- built in 1939 by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration -- to affordable housing for senior citizens.
Other things than buildings show up on the list. "Building materials" once in common use that have dropped out of favor may no longer be available for restoration purposes, for example.
And the group has even designated "history" as endangered because the conversion of record-keeping systems to digital media has led to devices that can be easily erased or become obsolete over time, making the information they contain unretrievable by future researchers.
A society that forgets its past is one without memories that can enrich its future. That's why such organizations as Maine Preservation are so valuable: They keep us grounded in where we came from, so we can see better where we are going.