Congress Square Plaza clock in Portland, South Portland buildings on 'places in peril' list

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PORTLAND — A historic icon threatened by the pending sale of Congress Square Plaza has joined the list of “places in peril,” a roster of endangered Portland-area sites compiled by preservation advocacy group Greater Portland Landmarks.

The Union Station Clock, which is housed in the plaza, and six other properties are in the second annual listing of landmarks “in danger of being irreparably altered or destroyed,” according to a press release from the group.

For more than 70 years, the clock capped the tower of Union Station, the St. John Street railroad terminal demolished in 1961. The loss of the station to make way for a strip mall was widely condemned, and sparked the historic preservation movement in Portland.

The clock recently became a negotiating point in the controversial sale of about two-thirds of the plaza to RockBridge Capital, developer of the former Eastland Park Hotel. RockBridge is hoping to acquire the space to build an event facility adjacent to the hotel, which is now under renovation.

On Sept. 17, the City Council approved the sale agreement, which requires RockBridge to pay for crating and storing the clock. But the city has no plans yet for relocating the timepiece.

In addition to the clock, new entries on the Places in Peril list are:

• Fort Gorges, Hog Island, Portland. Built in 1864 from local granite, and named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the fort is deteriorating as a result of its harsh marine environment. Lack of access to the fort makes preservation difficult, according to GPL.

• Various historic buildings, South Portland. South Portland includes seven districts filled with historically rich structures, but they are threatened by new development, demolition and neglect. The city has no local regulations protecting the buildings, and only three buildings in South Portland are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

• Ingraham Carriage Barn, 79 High St., Portland. The structure is a surviving example of a now-rare type of building, an urban carriage barn. Built in 1800, the barn retains its original details, but is vacant and structurally compromised. Without immediate attention, the building is likely to be lost, according to GPL.

• Lincoln Park, Congress and Pearl streets, Portland. Constructed in 1866, it is the city’s oldest park. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, but has been damaged by Maine winters and years of neglect. Portions of the park were paved over when Franklin Street was expanded during the 1960s, although the city is considering returning the park to its original dimensions.

• Neal Dow House, 714 Congress St., Portland. Erected in 1829, the house is now a museum presenting the life of its former resident, Neal Dow, a nationally prominent public figure during the 19th century. But the building is largely unknown and needs long-term financial support to survive, the GPL release said.

• Western Cemetery, 4 Vaughan St., Portland. The city’s second-oldest cemetery, it dates to 1830. But it has suffered from neglect, deferred maintenance and vandalism. It joins the list after the city’s oldest burial ground, Eastern Cemetery, was named to the list in 2012.

“These properties help define greater Portland,” said GPL Executive Director Hilary Bassett. “In every case, the properties we’ve identified are prominently visible or have such historic significance that we must advocate for their protection and preservation.”

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.