AUGUSTA — St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and related church-owned properties are for sale, a move that could displace the city’s food bank, a warming shelter and a pantry that provides soap and toiletries to the needy.

Also for sale is a historic home the church used as a rectory.

And the adjacent St. Mark’s Home, which provided housing for decades after it was donated to the church in 1871 to serve as a home for poor and indigent women, will be given away by church officials, along with a roughly $340,000 endowment. That’s if an organization comes forward with a solid plan to take over the facility and continue its mission of helping people in need.

The proposed sale is expected to force the food and clothing banks, and the essentials pantry and warming center, to move. Depending on who or what type of entity puts in a bid to buy the property, the sale could reshape a prominent parcel between the city’s downtown and a large west side residential neighborhood.

Augusta resident Joseph Riddick, senior warden of the church, said the 40-member St. Mark’s congregation, while now able to pay to maintain the buildings, won’t be able to afford to do so long-term. Also, he and the Rev. Rebecca Grant, the church deacon, said the money they’d spend maintaining and heating the aging facilities will be better spent on the church’s focus of helping needy people in the community.

“This is a building. It’s a wonderful building, but our ministry is people,” Riddick said, standing in the high-ceilinged St. Mark’s Church, beneath its rows of elaborate stained-glass windows and among its wooden pews. “We’re transitioning to a facility for our congregation that we can afford. And the money we use to maintain this campus, we’ll take that money and help people, help those in need. St. Mark’s Church continues and our ministries are going to continue, just in a different place.”

St. Mark’s parishioners already moved their regular Sunday services last year, holding joint services with Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at that 209 Eastern Ave. church.

The ministry still offers, and plans to continue doing so up until the sale, Addie’s Attic Clothing Bank and Everyday Basics Essentials Pantry, which provides the needy with toiletries and other items, at the St. Mark’s parish hall at 9 Summer St., next to the church that stands between Pleasant and Summer streets.

Riddick said those services will continue after the sale, and the church is working with partners to try to find new locations for them.

FOOD BANK STAYS OPEN

The Augusta Food Bank, which provides free food for some 400 Augusta and Manchester households, or around 1,100 people, per month from the St. Mark’s parish hall, also will continue to provide food despite the potential sale of the building.

“We will not interrupt our services,” said Sarah Miller, executive director of the 35-year-old Augusta Food Bank. “They may be provided in a different space, but we’re dedicated to serving our clients.”

In March, local resident and businessman Norman Pomerleau donated a parcel of land at 161 Mount Vernon Ave. as the future site of the food bank.

However, with a need to raise money to build a new warehouse and food distribution center there, the new location probably won’t be ready by the time the St. Mark’s parish hall is sold.

Miller said it will move to temporary quarters if that’s the case.

She said food bank officials already had been planning to move out of St. Mark’s eventually, but the new building and fundraising for it are only in the planning stages.

“We’ll keep doing what we do every day in the meantime, and we’ll get a plan B and plan C in the works,” Miller said. “We’ve known for about a year there was uncertainty about how long this would last. It is not a surprise.”

The Augusta Community Warming Center, run by the United Way of Kennebec Valley with help from multiple other organizations, which provided a safe, warm place for local residents to spend time during the day during the coldest months of the year, just moved to the parish hall last year. It probably will have to find a new location if the church is successful in its efforts to sell off the church property.

Mayor David Rollins is concerned about what could become of the prominent property, which abuts a large west side neighborhood. He hopes the next use of the property will be compatible with the neighborhood. He also noted the next use will have to be allowed under the city’s zoning ordinance.

The property is in the medium-density residential zoning district.

Riddick encouraged any potential new owners, if they plan to use the property in a way other than how it is being used now, to contact the city to see if that planned use is allowed.

Both the church and the rectory are on the National Register of Historic Places.

HISTORIC PROPERTIES

The 1885 granite church is Gothic revival style and designed by Richard Upjohn, a noted architect of church buildings in the eastern United States in the 1800s, including Trinity church in New York City. Upjohn’s brother was St. Mark’s rector at the time.

The church rectory at 11 Summer St., known as the Weston-Fuller home, was the boyhood home of Melville Fuller, the eighth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The clapboard home, according to church documents, was originally on the piece of property where the church stands now. It was moved when the current church was built in 1885. A previous Episcopal Church was built next to where the current church is now in 1840.

The Weston-Fuller home has four bedrooms, double parlors, a dining room and a kitchen. It totals just under 3,000 square feet. It is assessed by the city as having a value of $178,800, and is on a 0.33 acre lot. City records indicate it was built in 1820.

Riddick said the 16-bedroom, 4,000 square-foot St. Mark’s Home previously was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well but had to surrender that designation following renovation that included removing wraparound porches from the home, which made it ineligible for the register.

It was built in 1801 and bought by the Lambard family in 1871 and given to St. Mark’s.

In 2013 the home’s charter was altered by state legislation to allow it also to serve men. It closed in October 2014, because of a dwindling number of residents.

A 2015 documentary focused on two Augusta women who were forced to find a new place to live when St. Mark’s Home closed.

What to do with the home became a matter for the courts after its closure, partly because of clauses in the property deed that indicated it should revert back to the Lambard family if it was no longer being used to fulfill its mission of serving as a home for poor women.

Riddick said the church, after tracking down Lambard heirs, reached a settlement with them and resolved the court proceedings. Now “St. Mark’s owns it free and clear,” he said.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

The church is seeking an organization to take over the St. Mark’s Home building at the corner of Pleasant and Winthrop streets and commit to a mission of using it to help people in need. A $340,000 endowment, for that same purpose, comes with it.

Riddick said the home is old but was well-maintained and has undergone many updates. He said it is in “move-in” condition.

Riddick said multiple organizations have expressed interest in taking on St. Mark’s Home, even before a request for proposals for all the properties was released last week.

“We’ve had a number of organizations interested in just the home, and some interested in the entire property,” Riddick said. “So we know there is interest in the property. The preference is somebody would buy the church and use it for worship. I’d love to see that. But we have to be realists in 2016.”

Riddick said the church could be a great new home for a new congregation, though only certain theologies are likely to be a good match for the building.

Nothing in the sale documents requires any of the property’s buildings to be preserved, so, ultimately, they could be bought and torn down to make way for other development.

“Somebody may want to tear down the church building, and if they do, we have to move on,” Riddick said, noting it “breaks my heart” to say that.

He said a New York company has made an offer to buy all the church’s interior architectural features, including its stained glass windows, pews and other items. He said they’re holding off on accepting that offer until they see what they get for proposals to buy the property. He said selling off those items could result in a new church being built somewhere, where the interior would look much like the old St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

Riddick said the church has the option of rejecting all offers. If local church leaders decide to accept an offer, the proposed sale would go to the Episcopal bishop of Maine, and a standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, for review and potential approval.

Offers to take over the St. Mark’s Home building are subject to review and approval by the state attorney general’s office.

Money from the sale would be used to fund the ongoing operations of the church.

Riddick said the church has had all the buildings appraised, but he declined to reveal the values prior to the sale.

The St. Mark’s church building still hosts special services and funerals. As Grant said when regular Sunday services moved to Prince of Peace, church officials made a commitment to parishioners that they could have their funerals at St. Mark’s if they wish, for as long as the old building remains consecrated as a church.

“It’s bittersweet,” Grant, deacon at the church since 1995, said of selling off the ornate, memory-filled church property. “But at the same time, as a deacon, I truly believe the church should be out in the world.”

Applications to buy the property are due by Aug. 18.

Riddick said the long-term plan is to merge, by 2018, the St. Mark’s and Prince of Peace congregations into one.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj