A group dedicated to saving Maine’s historic public structures has issued its annual list of threatened properties, which includes three coastal communities.

Maine Preservation, a statewide, membership nonprofit based in Yarmouth, works “to promote and preserve historic places, buildings, downtowns and neighborhoods, strengthening the cultural and economic vitality of Maine communities,” according to its website. It envisions “a Maine where vibrant, active communities value and sustain their historic character.”

The group’s annual “Most Endangered Historic Places” list for 2014 includes the City Hall clock tower and Lincoln Mill clock tower in Biddeford; the Sewall Mansion in Bath, and the Belfast Opera House. Buildings in Anson, Buckfield, Gardiner and Skowhegan also were included in the list.

The list highlights historic properties in danger of destruction to boost local restoration efforts and focus statewide media attention on those endangered properties, said Greg Paxton, Maine Preservation’s executive director. Restoring existing structures is important not only to retain their historic value, he said, but restoration projects often boost the local economy.


George Collord, a local industrial historian, wants to return the Lincoln Mill clock tower to the top of the Lincoln Mill building in the center of Biddeford. The clock served as a timepiece for folks all over the city who could look up and see the 7-foot-long hands.

“A designated person from the mill climbed the staircase into the belfry and up the ladder into the clock room, probably 100 feet off the ground,” Collord said, “and would wind the weights that drove the tower clock once a week. That took place for over 100 years between 1850 and the 1990’s.”

The 4,000-pound bell in the tower was rung every morning about 7 a.m. to call people to work.

Biddeford was once a major textile production center, he said, and a major producer of textile machines which were shipped all around the world.

Collord purchased the Lincoln Mill clock tower and moved it to a safe place on the Pepper Mill Campus earlier this year until he can raise the funds to have it restored. It needs extensive repairs, he said. Anyone interested in donating towards the cost of the restoration or who wants more information about the project can contact him at gcollor1@maine.rr.com.

“It will be like no other clock tower in New England, once it’s restored,” he said.

Biddeford’s City Hall clock tower, often referred to as the downtown’s most prominent icon, also is in need of much repair. It was designed by Portland architect John Calvin Stevens in 1894 when the new city hall was built to replace one destroyed by fire.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Biddeford residents voted down a $3 million bond measure for building repairs in 2012; the money would have included repair of the City Hall clock tower. It was estimated then that repairs could cost close to $2 million.


The 17-room Sewall Mansion, built in a late federal style in 1844, was purchased in 1894 by wealthy shipbuilder Arthur Sewall as a wedding gift for his son. That same year, the home was redesigned in the Colonial Revival style by architect John Calvin Stevens. It was later occupied by the Maine Maritime Museum, which turned it over to a member of the Sewall family in 1982.

It was then sold to a private owner in 2008, but foreclosed on about two years ago and has been vacant since then.

The house is currently listed on Realtor.com for $244,900, significantly less than its appraised value of $900,000.

Lorena Coffin, executive director of Sagadahoc Preservation Inc. , said there are some leaks in the roof but the house “is not in dire shape.” She added that “it could get there quickly if it’s not acquired and rehabilitated.”


The Belfast Opera House also is in urgent need of repairs and was closed down a number of years ago. Mike Hurley, a city councilor and former mayor, said the repairs needed there involve life safety issues, including the need for a sprinkler system.

“The Belfast Opera House is a poster child of other similar kinds of historic places that need preservation,” Hurley said.

Hurley said there’s been a lot of talk among residents about the lack of a local gathering place. Restoring the opera house, whose auditorium is on the second floor of the late 19th century Hayford Block building, could become that space, but the structure needs extensive repairs.

“Years ago there was a covered walkway between the opera house and the livery stable,” said Hurley. “People parked their horses and buggies and walked across the covered walkway so they didn’t have to get their feet wet. It reeks of history,” he said of the building.