Farmers, customers warm to historic Bath freight shed

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BATH — It’s a place steeped in history, with a clear view of the future.

Bath’s last 19th century waterfront freight shed, recently given new life by the Bath Freight Shed Alliance, is the construction site of the Virginia, a replica of a historic pinnace built not far away at the Popham colony in 1607-1608.

And it is now home to the Bath Winter Farmers Market.

The market, formerly housed at the United Church of Christ on Congress Avenue, opened at the Commercial Street freight shed Nov. 3. It runs Saturdays through April from 9 a.m. to noon.

Each Saturday a different community group will be showcased at the shed, along with the market.

A Kickstarter website campaign to rewire and winterize the building was launched Feb. 22 with a goal of moving the market by Nov. 1; the campaign gained 237 backers and reached its $18,000 goal by March 31, according to the website. Students from the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center completed the building’s electrical work.

Wiebke Theodore founded the Bath Freight Shed Alliance with husband Steven Theodore – they are partners of Theodore & Theodore Architects in Arrowsic – as a means of making the shed a resource for the community. She earned Bath’s Community Spirit Award last month for her work, and the Community Project Award went to the alliance.

The alliance includes arts groups, the Bath Farmers Market, Maine’s First Ship, Regional School Unit 1, the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and Main Street Bath.

Robin Chase, president of the farmers market and owner of Whitefield-based Chase Farms, praised its new location. The first Saturday aligned with the “early bird” sale held annually by Bath stores, and since the crowds were downtown, the shed was right in the neighborhood.

Chase said she was pleased to find that the second week was “a great market,” with a boost in sales compared to the previous year, thanks to the new location.

“So much work went into this place,” she said. “I’m just so impressed with the amount of community support we got for this.”

Replacement of a 170-foot-long sill on the water side of the building was a major project that started the summer of 2010.

“As soon as we raise money, we put it directly into the building,” Theodore said on Monday. “We have had no overhead. Basically it’s been a very direct process, partly because of … the volunteer effort.”

Improvements to the roof, which occurred this summer, was another big endeavor. When Theodore & Theodore was based in the nearby Customs House, “we could look down on the roof of the freight shed, and we could see holes in it,” she said. “And clearly if there wasn’t going to be a new roof on it, the building was not going to survive much longer.”

The alliance’s next major undertaking will be restoration of the shed’s exterior, which would compliment a planned sidewalk project along Commercial Street.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sidebar Elements

Heather Donahue of Balfour Farms, left, speaks with a to the Bath Winter Farmers’ Market, a gathering held Saturdays at the city’s historic freight shed.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.