Residents Consider Restoring Town House
December 26, 2011 -
Belgrade-- A group in town wants residents to consider restoring the 1815 Town House.
Nancy Mairs, town historian and member of the Belgrade Historical Society, said people would first have to weigh in on the decision.
The building could have many uses, including as a place for the historical society to meet and store its collection of artifacts.
"We won't have anything that we're sure we can act on until people have said they want to do it," Mairs said. "Whether we use it or not, we believe it should be preserved."
Mairs said the town has done a good job preserving the exterior, but the interior needs work. The old walls have been covered up and Mairs said she's not sure what's underneath.
"There are a lot of ways to restore buildings, back 50 years or to the day it was built," she said. "We'll need to know what people would like to see."
Mairs said it would be a community project if residents approve of the idea at the next town meeting. Town Manager Greg Gill said select board members may include a warrant article asking residents for permission to move forward with the project.
The historical society has sought advice of three consultants, including Les Fossel of Old House Restoration in Alna, and a representative from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. She said all three consultants agreed that the building should be restored and used to celebrate Belgrade's history.
"That's being looked at, but nothing been decided on it yet," Gill said.
Mairs said the term "town house" was common in early settlements. The town house was a place to do town business. Sometimes church services were held in the buildings, she said.
The little white building with a green roof is almost empty now except for a large water tank the town used to supply water to the cemetery.
"It's not being used. It hasn't been for quite a long time," she said. "And it takes up a lot of space."
For years an old hearse was kept in the town house, she said.
Mairs said as far as she knows only two Maine town houses are older than Belgrade's and they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"We did apply for that a few years ago, but there's been too many changes inside," she said. "That's why we should consider going back to at lease what it looked like earlier, whether 1815 or some other period remains to be decided upon. (Townspeople) have to agree on what they would like in there."
She said there is no heat source in the town house so it wouldn't be a good location for storing old documents.
Mairs said the historical society is willing to write grants to raise money for the project.
She is searching for old photographs of the town house before the porch was added in the 1930s.
"We think it had two front doors so it would have looked quite different," she said. "If people saw the picture the way we think it looked they might not recognize it as the town house. It would be so different."
Anyone with a photograph can call Mairs at 465-7924.
Mechelle Cooper, Morning Sentinel, December 2011
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