GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine has backed off plans to install vinyl siding on a 193-year-old art gallery building on its Gorham campus, heeding preservationists’ calls to maintain its historical integrity by using white pine instead.

The school said cost drove its earlier plan to use vinyl siding and modern windows on the Greek Revival structure, which was built in 1821 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After meeting with town officials, state preservationists and others, USM looked at how it could restore the building, stay within its budget and still satisfy critics’ concerns, said Dick Campbell, USM’s chief financial officer.

“We’re holding off on some other parts of the project and may have to reallocate some funds,” said Campbell.

The budget is still being worked on, and the final plans, which include replacing the windows and duplicating the original shutters, are being discussed with the architect and will be explained at a meeting on Aug. 13.

The building was used as a meetinghouse and the Gorham town hall until it was sold in 1961 to the former Gorham Teachers College. It was used as a chapel before the art gallery was housed there.

The renovation was set to cost $320,000 and the university originally said that using new wood siding or reusing the original siding was not financially feasible. The renovation plans aimed to mimic the look of the original building by using custom-milled trim to hide evidence of the vinyl siding, and old photographs to craft the shutters.

Robert Bertram, the executive director of facilities management for USM, said the price for the wood siding is being estimated, but he expects it to cost $20,000 to $30,000 more than the vinyl siding.

“There’s no question about it, it will not last as long (as vinyl),” Bertram said, adding that white pine is not a particularly durable wood.

While the original exterior was white pine, Bertram said, the quality of white pine has decreased and what’s available today will not last as long as the 19th-century version.

The vinyl, Bertram said, would have needed little maintenance, but the wood will need to be repainted every five to seven years.

The university temporarily suspended work at the site in July after preservations grew concerned that the vinyl siding would disqualify the building from the National Register of Historic Places.

Earle Shettleworth Jr., director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, led the push to convince USM to use wooden siding with a historically accurate three-inch reveal.

“I’m satisfied,” Shettleworth said of USM’s new plans. “This is the first step to restoring the exterior of the building.”

Shettleworth also suggested that USM focus the repairs on the sides and back of the building. The front of the building, he said, is protected by the portico and columns and does not need to be replaced.

Hilary Basset, executive director of Greater Portland Landmarks, agreed that installing wood siding is a good step. Basset, however, hoped the original windows, which are in storage, also would be restored and replaced.

“This is a positive first step, but to get those beautiful windows back would be outstanding,” she said.

Judie O’Malley, a USM spokeswoman, said the university is trying to satisfy historical interests while staying within budget.

USM and other colleges in the University of Maine System have been making spending cuts to offset budget shortfalls brought on by reduced state funding, declining enrollments and a tuition freeze.

The university started the project last winter and hopes to finish residing the building by the start of school at the end of August.

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