Maine Preservation has listed the Tallman House in Bath among its 2019 list of endangered places. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BATH — The Tallman House could use a little love.

That’s what Maine Preservation states in its 21st list of the Most Endangered Historic Places in Maine, which the nonprofit organization announced earlier this month. The 982 High St. Federal and Greek Revival-style building, is one of nine “irreplaceable historic treasures” across the state that Maine Preservation seeks to improve and protect.

The Tallman House is named for Henry Tallman, a Maine attorney general and Bath Municipal Court judge who modeled the home in the 1820s. It has been vacant more than four years, and Bath’s tax assessor lists its owners as James and Gabriela Lake, who purchased it in 2003 for $375,000. The 4,436-square-foot house’s current assessed value is $470,700.

Ali Barrionuevo, real estate manager with Maine Preservation, said in an interview Sept. 19 that she reached out to the owners, but that they now live in Europe, and James Lake recently died. Barrionuevo has been informed that the deed has transferred to the U.S. Bank National Association, that Select Portfolio Servicing has paid the property taxes in recent years, and that the Lakes might be paying that servicer.

The “Most Endangered” list’s purpose “is not to shame or bring negative attention to anyone, rather it’s to shine a light on difficult situations and hopefully find a community-based solution to the situation,” Barrionuevo said. “We typically look to list properties that are threatened but that also have local advocates looking to find a way forward to save a property and return it to usefulness. We hesitated to nominate this property as there’s no real group who can do something, but decided to do so in an attempt to exert pressure on the bank to take action.”

The organization this week reached out to Select Portfolio Serving, in the hopes of facilitating the property’s foreclosure and sale to an entity that will stabilize and restore the house.

Barrionuevo called the house “a lingering illustration of the impacts of the last economic recession, and the sometimes lack of forward momentum on the part of mortgage companies to return homes to the market in an expeditious manner.”

Barrionuevo said she did hear back recently through Facebook from Gabriela Lake, who said she’d be in touch. The Forecaster was unable to reach her.

Since the taxes are being paid, and the house presents no nuisance or danger to the community, there is limited legal recourse, Barrionuevo said. In the 23 years the list has existed, 60 buildings, including the Winnegance Store in Bath and the Halfway Rock Lighthouse in Harpswell, have been saved, while 36 are undergoing preservation efforts, and 20 have been lost, according to Maine Preservation.

The house, which features floor-to-ceiling windows, a large cupola and a wrap-around porch, has a curved Federal-style staircase, a kitchen beehive oven, black and white marble fireplaces, and “unusual pocket doors that are raised like window sashes,” Maine Preservation states.

Scott Davis, Bath’s codes enforcement officer, on Monday called the Tallman House “the house that begat the Vacant Buildings Ordinance,” due to local concern over the state of the building. The city adopted those stricter rules governing vacant residential and commercial buildings a year ago.

Safeguard Properties, a national property management organization, has been mowing the lawn for the bank, Davis said. The house’s northeast and southwest chimneys have loose bricks and need to be repaired, as do some broken windows, but tracking down the owners has been difficult, Davis said.

The house also needs a new roof, according to Maine Preservation.

“As vacant buildings go, that one really isn’t that big a detriment to the neighborhood,” Davis said, since the chimneys are too tall to be seen by passing traffic, and the boarded-up windows are behind the building, away from the street.

“That one, though, is such an architectural beauty, that I really hope someone ends up with it and restores it,” he said. “That thing’s worth fixing up. Not all vacant buildings are created equal.”

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