None of the four buildings at Forest Avenue and Preble Street Extension should be demolished to make way for a CVS mega-pharmacy.

I understand that Portland’s Historic Preservation Commission is evaluating the architectural significance of those buildings. However, as a former nine-year trustee of the Maine Historical Society, I suggest that Portland’s City Council needs to consider the history of one of the businesses located there: Forest Gardens.

The building where Forest Gardens is located was built in 1922. Since 1936, shortly after the end of Prohibition, that building has housed Forest Gardens, now one of Portland’s oldest neighborhood bars.

Generations of Portland residents and workers have patronized that establishment. My dad brought me there with him on Saturday mornings in the 1950s.

By the time I became a student at what was then the University of Maine at Portland, the Gardens had become a college bar. It was my second home, and longtime day bartender Tina Bass was a second mother to me, as she was to many students.

The Gardens later became more of a sports bar, supporting both women’s and men’s rugby teams, softball teams and other local athletic teams. Now, the Gardens is still sports-oriented, although its primary clientele has aged considerably.

Unlike the spiffier bars in the Old Port, there’s been a community at the Gardens for generations. That community can be seen with over 600 likes of the Save Forest Gardens Facebook page gained in less than a week. It is like “Cheers” in that everyone knows your name. Most of Portland’s old-time neighborhood bars have closed. It would be a shame to lose the Gardens.

On an architectural note, replacing those four buildings would devastate the streetscape on that part of Forest Avenue while replacing several locally owned and operated businesses that employ more people than an out-of-state-owned mega-pharmacy will.

Gary W. Libby


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