Topsham to use grant for architectural survey

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TOPSHAM — The town will soon conduct an architectural survey of its historic district, thanks to a grant from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Aug. 6 to award the work to Topsham resident Scott Hanson, who runs Hanson Historic Preservation Services and serves as a preservation planner for the city of Portland. His was the only bid received before deadline that did not exceed the $4,700 grant, according to Rod Melanson, the town’s natural resource planner.

“I know that this person has done really good work for Portland,” Melanson said.

Hanson, who served as vice chairman of the Topsham Historic District Commission from 2003 to 2006, presented a $4,700 budget that includes $1,250 for 50 hours of site visits, photographing and mapping; $2,000 for 80 hours of historic records research; $1,250 for 50 hours of writing of descriptions and a final report, and $200 for photography.

Selectman Michelle Derr said the budget looked fair and called it  “excellent.”

Hanson will survey about 160 residential and commercial buildings, 120 of which are within the historic district. The rest are just outside its boundaries, along Main and Summer streets.

Topsham’s match for the grant is all in-kind, comprised by time spent on the project by Melanson and the Topsham Historic District Commission.

Melanson said Topsham conducted a “reconnaissance-level” survey in the early 1980s, which provided a small amount of information as a starting point to the Historic District Commission when it reviewed applicable projects.

“This will go a little bit more in depth,” he explained, “although it’s not the highest-level survey.”

Melanson said Topsham’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan called for the survey so that the town would “better understand our historic resources.”

The town ordinance includes a process for expanding the historic district, Melanson said, explaining that the survey will provide information on whether the district’s boundaries should be changed.

The Maine Historic Preservation Commission is providing the grant funds through the Certified Local Government program, Melanson said.

The study is to begin this month, with the report expected during the winter.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

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.