Yarmouth launches study of town's historic buildings

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YARMOUTH — The town is looking for volunteers to assist in an architectural study of buildings that will help recognize, preserve and enhance the community’s historic resources. 

Town Planner Alex Jaegerman said the survey will help decide what, if any, measures should be taken to protect, preserve, or renovate certain buildings.

The study will survey homes, civic structures, and commercial buildings. 

Volunteers will take photos of any building in the town’s central Village that is over 50 years old and collect information about the building’s age, condition and architectural style. This work and information will build on surveys conducted by the Village Improvement Society in the 1970s and will be added to the state’s Historic Preservation Commission Database of Cultural and Architectural Resources. 

Katherine Worthing, Yarmouth Historical Society executive cirector, said they hope to get about 20 volunteers and already have about a dozen.

The Village – whose core is along Main Street and its connecting streets, starting just beyond the intersection of West Main Street and Sligo Road and continuing along Lafayette Street to Gilman Road – has an estimate of 550 structures built before 1965. Well-known historic structures in the Village include the library, fire station, and the old meetinghouse. 

“Yarmouth has so many historic neighborhoods and structures,” Worthing said. “It’s so great to be collecting information on them so that down the road 50 years, even 25 years, when people have questions about a certain (place), we’ll be able to provide that information.” 

The project is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2018, and is being funded in part by a nearly $12,900 matching grant from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. The money will be used to provide cameras for volunteers and to hire a preservation consultant to marshal and train volunteers.

The consultant will report to a committee that includes representatives from the Planning Department, historical society, Village Improvement Society, Maine Preservation, Greater Portland Landmarks, and citizens who are active in historic preservation.

The survey is the first phase in a multi-year town initiative to document historic architectural resources within the town, highlighted in the town’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan. 

Once this phase is completed, other areas will be surveyed. Jaegerman said Cousins Island and Littlejohn Island will eventually be surveyed, too. 

Worthing said she anticipates the study of the entire town will take about five years. 

“(The study) is really central to (the historical society’s) mission to help preserve historical resources and provide (data on) them to those coming in for research,” Worthing said. 

The study stems from a series of public hearings and a community-wide survey in which residents said they support preserving the town’s historic character.

Because of this, the Comprehensive Plan calls for completing a survey of potentially historic buildings and structures and developing a list of “locally significant historic properties and conducting a design analysis of historic buildings to catalog the key elements that need to be considered in the modification of historically significant buildings.”

Jaegerman said specific preservation plans have not been discussed, but accumulating the data will begin the conversation. 

“The town prides itself on historic character,” Jaegerman said in a press release. “Understanding our historic resources will position the town to make informed and careful policy decisions to ensure that the historic character that contributes to the function and character of the town is protected and enhanced in the face of projected growth and change.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Merrill Memorial Library is one of an estimated 550 Yarmouth Village buildings over 50 years old that will be studied in an architectural survey of historic structures. 

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