AUGUSTA — Larry Fleury, the only bidder to make an offer for the historic but run-down former millworker house at 25 Bond St., sees a future in its history.
Fleury already owns, and has renovated, four row houses on the opposite side of the short but busy Bond Street, which also housed workers from the former Edwards Manufacturing mill. He was the only one willing to cough up any money — in this case, just a dollar — for the city-owned property.
Fleury bid $1 for the mustard-colored, single-family home at the head of the street, was the lone bidder, and was the only one to even tour the building Jan. 7, after the city offered it up for sale.
A proposal to accept that bid goes to city councilors tonight at 7 at its meeting in council chambers at Augusta City Center.
The sale conditions require any new owner to preserve the historic structure, something Fleury wants to do anyway. He owns more than 20 properties in the city, primarily apartment buildings in the downtown area, and lives just across the street from the foot of Bond Street at 35 Water St.
“That’s what I want to do with the building: rehabilitate it, and keep that historic look, regardless of what the city puts in as deed restrictions,” Fleury said. “I don’t want a hole on Bond Street; it’s a place of historical significance.”
Zachary Violette, a Boston University student from Augusta studying for a graduate degree in historical architecture, recently researched the building and its history and presented a report to the city.
The building, according to Violette, was built on rented land in the 1870s as an income property. It was later bought, and owned throughout much of its existence, by local mill owner Edwards Manufacturing Co. The company bought the house and more than 400 surrounding acres in 1882 as part of an expansion that would see it become the city’s largest employer. The mill then rented the building out to employees and their families.
In his written assessment after touring the building, Violette wrote, “The corporation, therefore, effectively controlled both the livelihoods and living conditions of its employees; the material manifestation of this control is the rigidly unified streetscape of tenements along Bond Street, built in the 1880s. The smallest of three such clusters of mill tenements in Augusta, it is the only one that remains.”
While the street has been largely torn up for about a year as part of an ongoing Greater Augusta Utility District project, Fleury said Bond Street could be a nice, historic-looking street. Like the house at 25 Bond St., however, the area needs some work.
“It’s really a nice-looking street, if you have rose-colored glasses, at this point,” Fleury said. “The guy who owns the place next to the store (Kennebec Market) is fixing it up. When he’s done, and I do at 25 Bond what I did across the street, that’s going to be a nice-looking street. I love that historic look, seeing all the chimneys of the row houses lined up. Those row houses, and how they relate to the mill housing and that whole time period, are significant for Maine’s history. I really believe that.”
The city also plans, once the utility district’s contractor repaves the street, to do about $119,000 worth of additional improvements there, including granite-curbed sidewalks on both sides, new streetlights and landscaping.
Fleury said he plans to rehabilitate the house, then rent it out as a single-family home.
He said he realizes the home, which hasn’t been lived in or maintained since the previous owner died in 1999, needs a significant amount of work.
“That’s why I only put a $1 value on it,” he said. “But I wouldn’t take it on if I didn’t think I could complete it.”
He said he’s been rehabilitating old buildings for about 30 years and has taken on much larger projects than 25 Bond St.
Keith Edwards — 621-5647