AUGUSTA — The Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta and Stevens School in Hallowell are among the state’s most endangered historic properties according to preservation advocates.

The properties are among 12 added to Maine Preservation’s Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Properties List, which was announced Thursday.

“These are very well built, solid buildings. There is no reason they could not be repurposed and used,” said Greg Paxton, executive director of Maine Preservation, a statewide nonprofit organization that advocates for preservation of historic buildings and places. “Oftentimes these buildings are a deterrent to development where they are located, because in many cases they are in need of repair. If they are rehabilitated, they’ll serve the exact opposite role — they will be catalysts for economic development. And they are really important beacons of our history.”

The Arsenal was built between 1828 and 1838. In 2000, it was designated a National Historic Landmark, one of 43 in Maine. North Carolina developer Tom Niemann, who planned to redevelop it into new uses including office, retail and dining space, bought it from the state in 2007.

However, the state has filed a still-unresolved lawsuit alleging Niemann has failed to prevent vandalism, theft and deterioration at the riverside collection of buildings. The lawsuit, which has not yet been taken up by the courts, seeks to either have the property returned to the state, or have a $1 million bond and assurances from Niemann he will protect, preserve and develop the property.

The Arsenal is considered by some preservationists to be one of the best and earliest surviving examples of 19th century munitions depots in the country.

“It’s not just a mound of bricks. It’s a great set of buildings on a campus, so I think there is some real potential” for redevelopment, Paxton said.

Maine Preservation noted the theft of historically significant features, including copper piping, cast iron balusters and bronze handrails, has occurred at the Arsenal since the sale to Niemann.

Niemann said he’s hopeful being named to the list could open up additional potential resources to help preserve and restore the complex of eight Greek and Gothic revival granite buildings.

Work on the Arsenal over the last year has included a new roof on the small gatehouse building and electricity has been restored to part of the complex, enabling security cameras to function.

Niemann said he and state officials will get together in October to see if they can work out their differences.

“We’re staying the course, preserving the property, and talking to some interested parties, but we’re into litigation with the state, which has slowed us down a little bit,” Niemann said Thursday. “I’m still optimistic about the potential the site has.”

The state-owned Stevens School complex is for sale, with the state seeking a buyer to redevelop and preserve the multiple buildings on 63.5 acres, which still houses office space and previously housed the Central Maine Pre-Release Center until it moved earlier this year.

Stevens School was originally founded in the 1870s as a school for wayward girls. It has several Colonial revival-style buildings, which over the years have been used as state office space. However, many of them are now empty.

City officials and others have expressed concern the historic property will fall into disrepair because of its underutilization, according to Maine Preservation.

“Any building not being used becomes more endangered, simply because no one is there monitoring it,” Paxton said. “There does not appear to be a long-term plan for the complex. And it’s a large complex to simply put on the market.”

Officials at the state Bureau of General Services, which oversees state property, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Properties List started in 1996 as a way to identify and raise public awareness of endangered historic properties and materials, according to a news release from Maine Preservation.

Earle Shettleworth, state historian, said he believes being publicly identified as “most endangered” on the list has likely helped save some historic buildings in Maine.

“In some cases buildings have been lost, in some cases there’s no change, but in a number of cases buildings’ situations do improve,” Shettleworth said. “I think (the list) is an effective tool and valuable.”

A Maine Preservation database of properties on the list from 1996 to 2012 says 41 properties have been saved, 19 were “in motion,” meaning positive efforts are being made to rescue the property, and 18 remain threatened. Some 15 have been demolished, including the Masonic Hall in China, which went on the list in 1999.

The Gerald Hotel, under renovation in Fairfield, went on the list in 2007 and is “in motion,” but several Waterville-area buildings on the list are considered threatened, including the Hains buillding in Waterville, which went on the list last year, and the Abner Coburn House in Skowhegan and the New Sharon Iron Bridge, which have both been on the list since 1998.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]