The old Morse High School at 826 High St. may be turned into housing and mixed-use space, according to City Manager Marc Meyers. The northern side of the building could be home to a new fire station. John Terhune / The Forecaster

Bath officially took over the old Morse High School on April 1, marking another step forward in the city’s plan to convert part of the building into a new fire station.

City officials will soon solicit development plans for the rest of the building, which could become housing and commercial space.

“The former Morse High School building is a cherished place in our community, and we’ve certainly appreciated the amount of public feedback that we’ve received thus far in preparing for redevelopment,” City Manager Marc Meyers said. “I think this is a rare opportunity for the city and look forward to what takes place moving forward.”

The Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors approved transferring ownership to the city last week.

Constructed in 1929 after a fire destroyed the original Morse High School, the building served area students for nearly 100 years before classes moved to a new, $75 million school last February.

Since 2019, city officials have worked with the public and the architecture firm Harriman on alternative uses for the building.


Participants in an October 2020 survey favored building a fire station and housing units over alternative plans focused only on housing or mixed-use space.

Fire Chief Lawrence “Buddy” Renaud said the city’s fire station at 864 High St., which was built in 1958, is too small for the department’s staff of 25.

Bath’s Fire Station is due for an upgrade, according to Fire Chief Lawrence “Buddy” Renaud. John Terhune / The Forecaster

“With all the new requirements, regulations and services that we are providing out of here, the building has just been tough at best,” Renaud said, noting the department now answers more than three times as many calls each year as it did when he joined in the 1980s. “We’re definitely constrained here. The noose is tight.”

Should the city council support the construction of the new firehouse as expected, the measure will likely go to referendum this November, Meyers said. If voters approve the project, construction could begin in the second half of 2023 or 2024.

Meyers said his team is still developing a cost estimate for the project. An October 2020 study from Harriman estimated it would be just over $14 million.

The city will request proposals this summer for developing the rest of the building, according to City Planner Ben Averill. Although the project’s timetable remains fluid, Averill said he hopes the council will have time to review proposals and reach a purchase agreement by the end of the year.

City staff expect housing will be a key part of the development, but they do not know the quantity, size, or cost of the new units. Besides housing, developers may include offices, mixed-use spaces or green spaces in their proposals, according to Averill.

Though the future of the space remains undetermined, Averill said he was optimistic it would present a boon for Bath.

“It’s certainly not often that we have this large of a beautiful historic building that’s being redeveloped,” he said. “Regardless of where things go, I think it will have a huge, positive impact for the city as a whole.”

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