GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine has backtracked on plans to install vinyl siding on a 193-year-old building on its Gorham campus, heeding preservationists’ calls to maintain the structure’s historical integrity by using white pine in the renovation project.

The school cited financial considerations in its plan to use vinyl siding and modern windows on the Greek Revival structure that was built in 1821 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After meeting with town officials, state preservationists and others, the school looked at how it could restore the building while staying in budget and satisfying conservationists’ concerns, said Dick Campbell, USM’s chief financial officer.

“We’re holding off on some other parts of the project and may have to reallocate some funds,” said Campbell, who planned to tell the contractor of the change to white pine siding with a three-inch reveal.

The budget is being finalized, and the final plans, which include replacing the windows and duplicating the original shutters, are being discussed with the architect and will be laid out at a meeting on Aug. 13.

Currently an art gallery, the building was used as a meetinghouse and town hall until it was sold in 1961 to the former Gorham Teachers College and used as a chapel.

The renovation project was set to cost $320,000 and the university originally said that using new wood siding or reusing the original siding was not financially feasible. The renovation plans aimed to mimic the look of the original building by using custom-milled trim to hide evidence of the vinyl siding and old photographs to craft the shutters.

Robert Bertram, the executive director of facilities management for USM, said the price for the wood siding is being estimated, but he expects it to cost $20,000 to $30,000 more than the vinyl siding.

“There’s no question about it, it will not last as long (as vinyl),” Bertram said, adding that white pine is not a particularly long-lasting wood.

While the original exterior was white pine, Bertram said the quality of white pine has decreased and what’s available today will not last as long as the 19th-century version.

The vinyl, Bertram said, would have needed little maintenance, while the wood will need to be repainted every five to seven years.

The university temporarily suspended work at the site in July after conservationists grew concerned that the vinyl siding would disqualify the building from the National Register of Historic Places.

Earle Shettleworth Jr., director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, led the push to convince USM to use wooden siding with the historically accurate three-inch reveal.

“I’m satisfied,” Shettleworth said of USM’s new plans. “This is the first step to restoring the exterior of the building.”

Shettleworth also suggested that USM focus the repairs on the sides and back of the building. The front of the building, he said, is protected by the portico and columns and does not need to be replaced.

Hilary Basset, the executive director of Greater Portland Landmarks, agreed that installing wood siding is a good step. Basset, however, was hoping the original windows, which are in storage, also will be restored and replaced.

“This is a positive first step, but to get those beautiful windows back would be outstanding,” she said.

Judie O’Malley, a USM spokeswoman, said the university is looking to compromise on the gallery’s renovations while staying within budget.

USM and other colleges in the University of Maine System have been making budget cuts to offset financial woes brought on by reduced state funding, declining enrollments and a tuition freeze.

The university started the project last winter and hopes to finish residing the building by the start of school at the end of August.

Chelsea Diana — 791-6337

[email protected]

Twitter: ChelseaDiana_

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