WATERVILLE — A 108-year-old downtown building that was built by Waterville Savings Bank is considered one of the most endangered and threatened historic resources in the state.

Maine Preservation on Tuesday named the vacant building at the corner of Appleton and Main streets to the 2012 Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Resources list.

“It’s a very solid building — very well-built and of a large scale as well,” said Greg Paxton, executive director of Maine Preservation. “It also has attractive features, both on the exterior and on the interior. I think it has great potential.”

The four-story brick building at 173 Main St. had a variety of uses after the bank moved from the site in 1939. Lawyers’ offices, a printing business and Judy’s Hair Styling Salon are among them.

Remnants of the salon, including mannequins with wigs, can still be seen in the window.

Robert C. Hains of Portland and formerly of Waterville bought the building in 1986 from Lewis Lester Levine, an attorney who had his office there.

The building has been a high priority for Hains and others who want to see it redeveloped.

The Waterville Main Street program, the city and Waterville Development Corp. have worked with Hains to market the building but there have been no buyers.

Hains says the structure is as solid as the day it was completed but the infrastructure needs work — including windows, a new elevator in a new location and other work. He said he wants to either sell the building for redevelopment or be part of a project to redevelop it.

Both he and Shannon Haines, executive director of Waterville Main Street, say it would be a great building for a boutique hotel or for retail uses on the first floor and residences on the upper floors.

“I love the building,” Haines said Tuesday. “It has a lot of original woodwork and fixtures — it’s a gorgeous building.”

But the building is a challenge for downtown revitalization efforts because the cost of renovation exceeds the amount one could charge in rent to pay for the investment, she said and other sources of revenue must be investigated, including grants, historic tax credits and new market tax credits.

The city’s assessor’s database lists the value of the land and building at $134,400.

It was designed by architect W.M. Butterfield, who was born in West Waterville in what is now Oakland, according to Hains.

Waterville Savings Bank moved into the building in 1904 and then moved to a larger space in 1939, according to both Maine Preservation and Waterville Main Street websites.

The building, intended to be fireproof, has reinforced concrete floors and a gray brick and limestone exterior.

“The four-story landmark retains a variety of architectural details that make the building highly significant,” Maine Preservation’s website says.

But after 15 years vacant, it is threatened by neglect and damage from a leaking roof, it says. Water and electricity is shut off to the building, making the fireproof design vulnerable.

“Because the building is privately owned, options for reuse and preservation are limited,” the site says.

Paxton said putting the building on the endangered list raises visibility and public recognition of its significance.

Some people regard historic preservation as just about museums, but over the last 40-plus years it has included downtown areas and historic neighborhoods, he said.

The Waterville building has beautiful woodwork inside and historic features that would make it an attractive and unique rehabilitated building, he said.

If it stays vacant, it would deteriorate further.

“Buildings left over a long period of time can get to the point where it’s very difficult to be feasibly rehabilitated,” he said.

Preservation is often thought of as returning something to its past, but the non-profit Maine Preservation’s focus is about sparking revitalization and investing in existing assets in communities, Paxton said.

Of 105 sites placed on the most endangered list since it was launched in 1996, 36 have been saved, he said. Examples include The Pennell Institute in Gray, an academy slated for demolition and placed on the list in 2008, according to Paxton. It was ultimately rehabilitated and turned into the town hall, he said.

Bangor Waterworks was placed on the list in 1999 and later transformed into affordable housing, he said.

Paxton said sites are chosen for the endangered list after they are brought to Maine Preservation’s attention.

“We don’t do these listings in consultation with the owners. We inform them ahead of time and develop our list internally. We don’t reveal (who) nominates them. It’s a process where we really vet the building ourselves and we do it with our professional staff and our executive committee makes the final decision.”

Maine Preservation sees all the sites as key community assets that will help not only the individual building, but the area around it, he said.

St. Francis Catholic Church on Elm Street, which is being torn down to be replaced with housing for the elderly, was one of the buildings Maine Preservation considered for the list, he said.

“We really debated it and we’d hate to see it go,” he said. “We have a variety of options from around the state, so we try to pick a representative sample.”


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