Stimson Memorial Hall has been vacant for a decade. Jane Vaughan/Lakes Region Weekly

GRAY — The new owner of The Stimson Memorial Hall, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, hopes to preserve it and turn it into a center for business incubation, innovation, cultural arts and family activities.

Will Boyle, co-owner of Loon Island, a Cumberland real estate holding company, purchased the building, located at the start of Route 26 in downtown Gray, from the Liberty Foundation for $200,000. The historic hall, built in 1900, has been vacant for years and rapidly deteriorated.

Everything in the basement is destroyed by black mold,” Boyle said. “It’s an environmental hazard inside that building right now. It’s an absolute shame.”

One of the building’s four front pillars is being supported by beams. Jane Vaughan/Lakes Region Weekly

A referendum in 2013 asking taxpayers to approve $500,000 in spending for repairs did not pass. In late 2014, Gray began obtaining bids for demolition of the neglected hall with an agreement to list the property for sale for a short period of time, which led to its purchase by the Liberty Foundation.

Boyle envisions a cultural arts training center with artistic performances, social programs, a business incubation fair and other special events.

Renovations would include cleaning up the mold; electrical, heating and plumbing updates; the replacement of the handicap ramp; restoration of the front steps; and other projects.

“We’re extremely excited that someone has come forward to purchase (Stimson) and develop it,” Town Planner Kathy Tombarelli said. 

Loon Island has also purchased the abutting property, 13-17 Main St., as well as 59-61 Portland Road. Boyle said he wants “to enhance the village in Gray, and Stimson is a part of that.”

He would like to tear down the old town hall, located next to Stimson, and erect a four-unit commercial building, including a restaurant, with residential units.

Boyle is no stranger to developing in Gray; two years ago, Loon Island purchased the town’s old post office and renovated it.

The building shows signs of rot and decay. Jane Vaughan/Lakes Region Weekly

Because Boyle is requesting a change of use for Stimson Hall,  he will have to bring his proposed project before the Planning Board for site plan review, although he feels this is unnecessary.

From a zoning perspective, it’s a structure that has been vacant for quite a few years and a new use is being proposed. And even though it’s a use that it has historically been used for, that was many years ago,” said Community Development Director Doug Webster. 

Galen Morrison, president of the Historical Society, said the hall was originally a library and has also been the home of the Historical Society and a church, but it has not been used since 2009.

“The building is basically falling apart,” Morrison said. “It’s a historic landmark that people would be very sad to see torn down.”

Boyle has met with Webster, Tombarelli and Town Manager Deb Cabana to discuss future plans.

We’re looking forward to seeing more information and moving forward on making this come to pass,” Tombarelli said. 

Cabana hopes to set up a meeting with Boyle, the Town Council and department heads to “start throwing out ideas.”

“It may or may not be that everything (Boyle) hopes to do is currently allowed under the ordinance,” Cabana said.He has very creative desires and uses for the property that the property as the ordinance as currently written may not support.”

Boyle is concerned that the town may require certain aspects, such as an elevator, that would make his vision cost-prohibitive: “That hall is going to be run as a nonprofit. Spending $150,000 on an elevator is not something I’m willing to do.” 

His project has already been stalled since the property is being held in escrow over back taxes owed on it.

Boyle hopes that the matter will soon be cleared up so that he can begin work on the building.

Stimson’s days are numbered. It’s in terrible, terrible shape,” he said. “I want to revitalize the downtown and bring in good businesses to the downtown that compliment each other and clean up things on the Main Street, if the town is willing to work with me.” 

The Liberty Foundation could not be reached for comment.

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