Portland, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth properties on annual list of endangered places

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PORTLAND — In support of its mission to preserve and revitalize the region’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes and parks, Greater Portland Landmarks has released its fourth list of Places in Peril.

The goal of the list, which includes properties in Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, is to “call attention to the threats facing character-defining, historically significant properties in greater Portland,” according to Hilary Bassett, the executive director for Landmarks.

Seven specific buildings or neighborhoods are “at critical points where they could be permanently lost or diminished,” the organization said in a press release.

This year’s places in peril within Portland city limits include the Portland Motor Sales Building at 411 Marginal Way, which houses a U-Haul, the Dunn Memorial Church at 4 Brentwood St., and the homes and places of business for the city’s 19th century African American community.

“These properties help define greater Portland,” Bassett said, and “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.”

The idea behind the places in peril list is not only to highlight significant historic structures, but also to leverage support, particularly for property owners, to “as much as possible protect the properties for the future,” Landmarks said.

Since the first list was released in 2012, Landmarks has assigned imperiled status to 26 properties. Five from the original listing are considered protected or saved, and five others have made progress toward preservation, the organization said.

The motor sales building is one of Portland’s “most well-known mid-century modern buildings,” which can be identified by “its iconic folded roof,” the Landmarks press release said.

This property is vulnerable to redevelopment because it’s located in an area of rapid regrowth and “because this style is typically undervalued and there are no preservation protections for this building or neighborhood,” Landmarks said.

The Dunn Memorial Church “is an architecturally significant structure and well-known visual landmark on Stevens Avenue,” according to the press release, and it’s also one of the few buildings in Portland designed by noted Bangor architect Victor Hodgins.

Among the threats to this building is the estimated $1.5 million needed to repair the church’s bell tower, as well as extensive structural damage due to the improper use of mortar, Landmarks said.

In the historic former African American neighborhoods, the press release said there are only a few buildings left that tell “the story of the small but thriving community of African American citizens … that contributed to (the city’s) robust history.”

Three areas in particular, are under threat, according to Landmarks, including Newbury Street, Lafayette Street and the St. John-Valley Street neighborhood.

The land values are so high “that these neighborhoods are experiencing intense redevelopment, including tear-downs for new construction,” the press release said.

“Most (of these buildings) have not been researched and are not within existing historic districts, with the exception of the Abyssinian Meetinghouse, a locally-designated landmark.”

Outside of Portland, Landmarks identified Mahoney Middle School in South Portland and the Bowery Beach School in Cape Elizabeth, which also made it onto Maine Preservation’s 2017 list of Most Endangered Historic Places.

Mahoney Middle School was built in 1923 and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Buildings. It’s located on a 15-acre lot at the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street and was designed by the noted Maine architectural firm of Miller & Mayo, Landmarks said.

The school is “a showcase for the Beaux Arts style of architecture, (which was often) preferred for important civic buildings,” according to the Landmarks press release.

The specific threat is that South Portland may replace the aging school or abandon it and build a new consolidated middle school. 

“Depending on the consultant’s recommendations, the future of the building is at risk. No preservation protections exist on the building to prevent demolition or to ensure its rehabilitation,” the press release said.

The Bowery Beach School, which was built in 1855 and altered in 1985, is at 11 Wheeler Road and is home to the Cape Elizabeth Lions Club.

It’s “one of the last remaining (structures) that characterizes the one-room schoolhouses in the region,” Landmarks said.

Unlike other one-room schoolhouses,” this building has been located on its original site since construction and contains most of its original features and architecture.”

However, “a structural assessment shows the building’s framing needs repair from rot and rodent activity and the current owner’s lack of funding threatens their ability to maintain the structure,” the press release said.

“Landmarks will continue to monitor the endangered properties in hopes that they can be removed from the list in the near future,” the release added.

“We’ve seen over the last 20 years how important historic preservation has been to the economic growth of Portland and retention of property values,” said Ed Gardner, a Landmarks trustee.

“Saving these properties can only enhance the vitality of greater Portland.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The Portland Motor Sales Building at 411 Marginal Way was built in 1963 and is one of one of Portland’s most well-known modern mid-century buildings.

Dunn Memorial Church “is an architecturally significant structure and well-known visual landmark on Stevens Avenue” in Portland, according to Greater Portland Landmarks. The church is in peril because of the high cost to fix serious structural issues.

Mahoney Middle School in South Portland was built in 1923 in the Beaux Arts style of architecture.