Downtown Brunswick buildings added to national historic register

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BRUNSWICK —  A portion of Maine Street has been accepted into the National Register of Historic Places, the Brunswick Downtown Association announced.

The register, which is part of the National Park Service, is the “official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.”

The “Brunswick Commercial Historic District” was officially listed Jan. 12, according to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. The district includes 34 buildings in the area of Maine Street between Mason and School streets.

The listing is significant “to our community, the state and the nation,” BDA Design Committee Chairwoman Claudia Knox said during  the announcement at the group’s Jan. 28 annual meeting. “(These) various buildings … have value because they show us who we have been, and who we now are.”

The buildings are now eligible for federal and state tax credits that will cover up to 45 percent of the cost of renovations, Knox said.

Otherwise, “there are no requirements or restraints” on new construction, she said, and all local ordinances still apply.

Knox said it took the BDA and application authors Annie Robinson, a Realtor and architectural historian, and Janet Roberts, a preservation consultant, about three years to get the historic designation approved.

In that time, the BDA went through four drafts of the application and about $5,000-$6,000, according to Knox.

The BDA makes money through donations, membership dues, and grants. The town has also historically funded the BDA; last year, Brunswick contributed $93,000.

Part of the reason the application took so much effort, according to Christi Mitchell, assistant director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, is because the history of each building in the proposed district had to be researched.

“Each building is a puzzle,” she said.

The oldest piece in the puzzle is the building that now houses Joshua’s Restaurant and Tavern. Known as the Johnson/Poland or Riley Block, the original structure was built before 1831, with an addition built in 1875, according to the historic district application.

Other significant buildings are the Colonial Revival-style Tondreau building, “which appears much as it did when constructed in 1926,” and the 1870 Lemont Block on the corner of Maine and Pleasant streets, with its prominent mansard roof.

The BDA hopes the national listing will bring more people to visit downtown Brunswick. Mitchell, of the state preservation commission, said in her experience the exposure from being on the national historic register has been a boon for “quite a few communities in Maine.”

“Heritage tourism is really important,” she said.

The new Brunswick Commercial Historic District joins the one-block Lincoln Street Historic District and the Federal Street Historic District, which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

In her closing remarks, Knox said that the listing reflects a sense of “civic pride.”

“(This) is as much about the present and future as it is about the past,” she said.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

The Johnson/Poland Block, which now houses Joshua’s Restaurant and Tavern, is the oldest building in the newly designated Brunswick Commercial Historic District.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.