Scarborough makes Dunstan history a priority

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SCARBOROUGH — Owners of historic property may get help from the town to better preserve sites and structures.

As a first step, the ad-hoc Historic Preservation Committee plans to hold a forum for owners of structures of historic interest.

The outreach meeting, to be held in Council Chambers on Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m., would provide the opportunity to discuss how the town can better support and preserve historic sites and homes. 

“We’re looking for ways to help them,” HPC Chairman Craig Friedrich said in a recent HPC meeting. “Rather than try to invent ourselves how to do preservation, let’s have people tell us.”

The HPC particularly hopes to engage owners of property in the Dunstan area. Committee members said recent zoning changes, traffic improvements, and coming economic development put the neighborhood’s historic buildings, such as the Dunstan School and the Southgate House, at risk. 

“There’s a lot going on in Dunstan at the moment,” committee member and Town Councilor Jessica Holbrook said. “It’s really primed for development.”

The Long Range Planning Committee held a meeting Sept. 8 of residents and business owners in the Dunstan area to discuss the area’s future economic development. Although the dozen participants agreed the town should protect historic buildings in the area and foster the area’s former village identity, most felt the town should first continue improving traffic patterns along U.S. Route 1.

The future meeting with property owners is a component of the HPC’s larger goal of identifying the town’s existing historical monuments and producing a list of the most significant sites and structures the town may want to acquire.

The committee is still in the process of composing the list, but several proposed criteria would be age, historic events, historic people, and threat of destruction attached to each site.

Danish Village

At their meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 2, HPC members said they will meet with developers of the new Southern Maine Hospice center on U.S. Route 1 about possibly preserving aspects of the historic Danish Village that once stood where the center plans to build.

The site was home to a popular motel and village in the early 1900s, designed after the village of Ribe, Denmark. Though much of the village has been destroyed, relics including an old fountain and a brick archway still remain in the woods just off of U.S. Route 1, behind Big 20 Bowling Center. 

Through discussions with town officials and the Planning Board earlier this summer, developers agreed they would consider incorporating the archway and fountain into their design for the hospice center. In their discussion, the HPC hopes they can determine how preservable the arch and fountain are. 

If preserving the structures proves impossible, the HPC hopes it can help developers mount a plaque to commemorate the area’s historical significance. 

Town officials will meet with Dave Perkins, Southern Maine Hospice chairman, and others from the hospice development project, on Sept. 15, in the town manager’s conference room at 4 p.m.  

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.

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Remains of the Danish Village motel, built in the early 1900s off U.S. Route 1 at Oak Hill in Scarborough, may be preserved or commemorated by developers planning to build a hospice center on the property.

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