A former Gorham town office at 28 School St. stands empty now after over 50 years. File photo

Gorham is trying to figure out what to do with a town-owned property at 28 School St. that the historical society has vacated recently after nearly 50 years.

The building needs “major, major” improvements, Town Councilor Virginia Wilder Cross said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“This structure is in very bad shape,” Wilder Cross said. “It is one of our beautiful old buildings.”

The town has the building and its lot in Gorham Village valued at $229,600 and pegs the estimated replacement cost at $344,966.

The Gorham Historical Society packed up for greener pastures and is unpacking in a larger space in the reconstructed 200-year-old Mosher barn at Shaw Cherry Hill Farm on lower Main Street, where the society will re-open its archives in the spring.

The society moved into the brick building at 28 School St. rent-free after the town relocated its municipal offices from there to the then-new municipal center at 270 Main St. in the mid 1970s.


Town Councilor Suzanne Phillips, who is also the historical society president, said its former headquarters has a mold issue and the foundation is cracked.

But Phillips said somebody could make this building “nice and beautiful.”

The board voted 6-0 with Chairperson Lee Pratt absent to have town staff release a request for proposals to “qualified contractors to develop, rehab and or further utilize” the building.

A town facility study recommended selling it and Town Councilor Seven Siegel wants staff to also look at potential municipal reuses if the building doesn’t sell.

The Town Council ordered town staff to recommend a final course of action. The town could place restrictions on the building to ensure it retains its historical significance.

The brick structure was built in 1843 and completed in 1845 at a cost of $750. It was first occupied by Maine Mutual Fire Insurance Company which bought the lot from Simon McLellan.

Much later, it housed town offices for many years. In the 1950s, a scandal hit the town when it was believed some $40,000 was missing from town coffers. The building also survived a fire about that time.

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