The Falmouth Town Council is weighing whether this historic farmhouse, located at Tidewater Farm, is worth saving. File

FALMOUTH — Expert preservationists believe a historic farmhouse at Tidewater Farm can be saved, but no one knows how much it would cost to fix the building, thought to have been built prior to 1800.

The Town Council is now weighing a $23,000 expenditure for a study to more clearly determine if the farmhouse on the Presumpscot River estuary is truly salvageable or should be torn down to make room for a new Falmouth Land Trust headquarters, as originally planned.

The town purchased the 2-acre site, which also includes an adjacent barn, from Tidewater Farm developer Nathan Bateman earlier this year after Bateman said he no longer had a use for the parcel.

As part of the purchase, the town agreed to sell the site to the land trust while taking on the cost of tearing down the farmhouse and barn. Invasive plants that are starting to take over would also be eliminated.

The newel posts on this stairwell show the farmhouse was built in the Georgian style. Courtesy / Maine Preservation

However, before the agreement became official, members of the Falmouth Historical Society came forward and urged the Town Council to reconsider razing the farmhouse, which they feel has significant historic value.

Local historian Ford Reiche then stepped forward and asked Maine Preservation to take a look at the building. The Yarmouth-based nonprofit’s mission is promoting and preserving historic places to strengthen the cultural vitality of communities statewide, according to its website.

An initial spot evaluation of the farmhouse took place this past winter and in March, Greg Paxton, Maine Preservation’s executive director, told the Town Council that the Georgian style house can be rehabilitated, although it would need all new plumbing, heating and wiring.

Paxton said the house, which is more than 200 years old, is “surprisingly sound” and also has some key original features.

“This house is really a testament to good building technique, the likes of which, frankly, we’ll never see again,” he said.

But at Monday’s meeting councilors Janice De Lima and Jay Trickett, in particular, questioned the value of the proposed study and said they didn’t want to force the land trust into saving the farmhouse because it could turn out to be more costly than building new.

Jenny Grimm, executive director of the land trust, was not at the meeting, but told the Forecaster Tuesday that she sees the proposed study as the town acting responsibly in terms of better assessing the farmhouse’s actual historic value.

The farmhouse at Tidewater Farm has many original features, including this Norfolk latch. Courtesy / Maine Preservation

On Monday, Councilor Caleb Hemphill argued that the building has “significant historical elements” and the town has a responsibility to look into whether there would be any value in preserving the farmhouse and incorporating it into the proposed land trust headquarters.

“We own the property and we were approached with questions about whether we’d done enough due diligence,” he said.

Town Councilor Tommy Johnson, a former president of the land trust board, agreed and said the farmhouse is “an asset that’s now owned by the town.” The proposed study, he said, would allow it to “investigate whether there’s any value” in saving the building.

But Trickett said, “I can’t justify spending money (for the study) especially if there’s no real constituency for wanting the farmhouse preserved.”

He also argued that the council didn’t have all the information it needed in order to make an informed decision. So councilors agreed to table a vote until their Oct. 16 meeting, when they could again hear from Maine Preservation or Reiche.

In March, Paxton highlighted several elements of the farmhouse that point to its historic value, including original Norfolk latches, raised paneling near the fireplace, a fan-shaped shutter over the front door and narrow newel posts on the stairwell to the second floor. Other key features include the discovery of handmade nails in the attic, he said.

“There’s a remarkable amount of originality in the house and miraculously the roof is not shot and the (support) beams are actually in pretty good shape,” Reiche said. “We believe you should give (the farmhouse) a second chance.”

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