SACO – A fire station built in 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project – one of eight in the state – was identified Tuesday as one of Maine’s most endangered historic resources.

Saco’s former Central Fire Station was joined on Maine Preservation’s annual list by the Wood Island Lifesaving Station in Kittery; Timber Point Cottage in Biddeford; Bar Mills School and Hollis High School; Waterville Savings Bank in Waterville; and the Lincoln Street School in Rockland.

Maine Preservation, a nonprofit that has compiled the list each year since 1996, includes general categories of buildings. This year it identified historic freight sheds, in-town public facilities, history in the digital age, and original building materials as endangered.

The list is meant to highlight buildings with uncertain futures and the potential for creative reuse of community spaces.

“Preservation of these built resources is a leading catalyst for community revitalization, economic development and continued quality of life for the citizens of Maine’s towns and cities,” said Maine Preservation Executive Director Greg Paxton at a news conference at Saco City Hall.

The group uses nominations and staff research to compile its list.

The decision to include history as an endangered resource came from the increasing use of digital records instead of written documents. Digital records can be erased, websites can be taken down and file types can become incompatible, threatening the permanence of the information, Paxton said.

Five buildings on the list are in York County, including the Wood Island Life Saving Station. Efforts to save the station – which was built in 1908 and used as an outpost for shipwreck surveillance and rescues – are being led by the Wood Island Life Saving Station Association.

“The building has deteriorated to the point that it is vulnerable to demolition by neglect,” Paxton said.

Several buildings on the list have uncertain futures because of recent votes to demolish them.

In Buxton and Hollis, the historical society and civic groups are trying to save the former Hollis High School and Bar Mills School, which had been used as an administration building since 1954.

In June, residents voted 1,554 to 1,440 to authorize School Administrative District 6 to demolish the buildings if another use cannot be found. Officials in both towns had rejected taking ownership of the buildings from the school district.

Hollis High School was built in 1941 as a townwide effort, said Peg Gardner of Hollis, who wants to save the buildings.

“I think it’s amazing they took on this huge project right at the beginning of World War II,” she said. “To me, it represents a spirt of optimism and faith.”

Stephen Heroux, chairman of the school board’s facilities committee, said the committee is still considering what to do with the buildings. He said there is no time line for a decision.

The inclusion of Saco’s Central Fire Station on the list was applauded by city officials and residents who support reusing the building.

On Aug. 21, the City Council narrowly rejected an offer from Cynthia Taylor of Housing Initiatives of New England to buy the building for $50,000 and invest as much as $1.2 million to develop affordable housing for seniors.

Councilors tabled until September a plan to raze the building to create a parking lot.

The fire station has been empty since the fire department moved to its new station last year. Paxton said the old building “exhibits a legacy that is equal parts architecture and community.”

Taylor, vice president of Maine Preservation’s board of trustees, was not involved with creating the list, Paxton said.

South Berwick’s effort to reuse the former St. Michael’s Church as a library demonstrates a creative adaptive use that can save in-town public facilities, Paxton said.

David Stansfield, a member of the library’s building committee and Friends of the Library, said the 1887 church on two acres is the perfect location for a library. The library is expected to move in next month.

Library Director Karen McCarty Eger said residents – many of them former church members – have responded positively to the building’s reuse.

“They’re just beyond delighted, walking into that historic space,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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