Evergreen Cemetery wall restoration rocks on in Portland

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PORTLAND — It’s more than a rock pile just inside Evergreen Cemetery these days.

It is history waiting to be rebuilt.

“To be working roadside is amazing,” Jason Wilson said Nov. 9. “I never realized how many people come through here.”

Wilson spent the week building sections of a cinder block wall about 200 feet long on Stevens Avenue near the entrance to Evergreen’s Wilde Chapel. It’s a sturdy wall, built on a below-ground concrete base.

It is also the first stage of restoration of the cemetery wall that had fallen on hard times. By Thanksgiving, the cinder blocks will be invisible, as workers from Seabreeze Property Services rebuild the stone wall over and above them.

“We are psyched to have the opportunity to do it,” Seabreeze Vice President Larry Lindgren said. “You don’t get any more public than this.”

Lindgren said the wall had last been fully repaired in 1947. At a City Council Finance Committee meeting last March, Deering Center neighbors and members of the Friends of Evergreen Cemetery implored City Manager Jon Jennings to find the remaining $30,000 needed to fund repairs.

The city had already allocated $70,000 in 2014, but city Parks Director Ethan Hipple said bids were coming in at $100,000 for the work. On Nov. 9, Hipple said the work will cost almost $92,000.

City Cemeteries Manager Joe Dumais said the current work uses the same procedures as work done on portions of the wall in the past.

“A cinder-block wall is constructed on the interior on a newly poured concrete foundation. Then a replacement wall utilizing the stone from the original wall is built to match the original, and is anchored to the cinder block interior wall,” Dumais said in an email.

Simply put, but complicated in execution. Lindgren said all the stones removed were put on pallets close by and the capstones for the wall sections were numbered.

Old mortar was chipped away, but the rebuilding requires specialists, and a sample wall has been built to show how things will come together.

“The artsy part comes in when you take the original stones and make the mosaic,” Lindgren said. “Those guys must like doing puzzles.”

Wilson said he has done masonry work throughout the city, including in the Old Port, but rarely at this level of visibility.

“Most of the time, we are up,” he said. “Nobody really looks up.”

Replacement stones and mortar will be color-matched to original work, Dumais said, as well as matching the original joint profile. 

Dumais said the city will replace sidewalks abutting the wall next spring.

Lindgren said the 1947 repairs did not include a core inside the wall like the cinder blocks, and the support the interior wall provides should make the work last at least another 70 years.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Original stones from the Evergreen Cemetery wall in Portland are placed on pallets close to where they were removed, and capstones are numbered, so the wall can be rebuilt to its original appearance.

The cinder block wall and concrete foundation at Evergreeen Cemetery is built to provide better support for the stones and caps from the original wall along Stevens Avenue.

Age and a lack of interior support led to the deterioration of the wall at Evergreen Cemetery, seen in March.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.