AUGUSTA — A Chapel Street residence officials and neighbors said was historically significant and a key part of the neighborhood was demolished Thursday by contractors working for Kennebec Savings Bank.

Bank officials said they considered alternatives to demolishing the apartment building the bank owned at 53 Chapel St., including moving it, renovating it or converting it to office space, but none of those were viable options.

Andrew Silsby, president and chief executive officer of the Augusta bank based in the historic Tappan-Viles House just off Memorial Circle, which is accessible by entrances on State Street and Chapel Street, said the bank wants to hold on to the property as part of its longer-term plans. Renting out the apartments at 53 Chapel St. had proved to be a money-losing proposition, and moving the building or renovating the structure to meet current codes or for office space would be too costly, he said.

Silsby said having the building raised off its foundation and placed on wheels, so it could be moved, was estimated to cost $70,000, not including the cost of moving it to a new location.

“Ultimately we determined we need to take the building down rather than leave it boarded up,” Silsby said Thursday as an excavator was tearing the building down. “We went through the process. We paused and looked at other alternatives.”

The demolition of the building was delayed 90 days after the Augusta Historic Preservation Commission, under the terms of the Demolition Delay Ordinance adopted by the city in 2012, determined the building was historically significant. The ordinance requires the owners of properties seeking to demolish them to wait 90 days if the commission deems them potentially historic and they are more than 50 years old. Once those 90 days have passed, building owners are free to demolish them.


Lorie Mastemaker, the commission’s chairwoman, said by email the commission determined 53 Chapel St. was historically significant, meeting two of the four criteria the commission uses to make that determination.

She said the building “makes a positive contribution to the street scape in terms of scale, form and materials, relates well in its context with neighboring houses on Chapel Street and the surrounding area, forms a critical part of the Winthrop Street neighborhood fabric and character, and is a contributing building to the proposed Winthrop Street local historic district.”

However, the 90-day waiting period expired last month and Kennebec Savings went ahead with the demolition Thursday.

Some Chapel Street residents, members of the West Side Neighbors group, wanted the building to stay but said they understood why the bank wanted to remove it.

“I’d say all of us from the west side, particularly myself as an abutter, feel the building served as a bulwark citadel against all the noise and traffic that exists coming off Western Avenue,” said John Wlodowski, who lives on the opposite side of the bank’s Chapel Street entrance from the demolished building. “We regret the loss of the building and the loss of neighbors who could help serve as the eyes and ears of all of us. It affects the culture of the neighborhood when you end up with a vacant spot.”

Wlodowski and other West Side Neighbors members met with bank officials and, though they’d have preferred the building be saved, said they still consider the bank a good neighbor.


“At the end of the meeting everyone sort of recognized, given the facts presented to us, it appeared the demolition was justified, from the bank’s point of view,” said Wlodowski, a customer of the bank. He praised the bank’s work on Western Avenue, where it tore down a motel and replaced an old gas station with green space surrounded by stately fences. “They’ve been good neighbors,” he said.

City assessing records indicate 53 Chapel St. was built in 1900. The bank purchased it for $157,000 in 2013.

Chapel Street resident and West Side Neighbors member Tim Bolton said he had mixed feelings about the building’s demolition. He said it would have been good to save the building and get some good tenants in it, but he understands that banks don’t want to be landlords.

“I worry about them chipping away at the historic neighborhood between Bridge Street and Western Avenue. Some of the oldest houses in Augusta are in there,” Bolton said Thursday as a McGee Construction excavator broke 53 Chapel St. up and tore it down. “But generally Kennebec Savings Bank has been a terrific corporate citizen. They did a beautiful job with that awful Gulf station. They’ve done some really good things but are a profit-making institution.”

Taking the two-story, four-unit apartment building’s space at the site, for now, will be a small green space with plants and other landscaping, and a planter Silsby said they hope to make from the foundation of the 53 Chapel St. building.

“In a week or so you won’t recognize what’s there,” Silsby said. “We’re going to put a big granite planter in and do our usual gardens and green space there. We think it will complement the neighborhood.”


Longer-term, the bank is eying the space as part of a “vision” to help improve traffic flow at the bank’s headquarters and help prevent drive-up window traffic from occasionally backing up onto State Street, as it does now on Friday afternoons. He said the trend, in society, is more people are going to drive-up windows than parking and going into banks to conduct business.

Silsby said the bank’s long-term vision for improving traffic flow at its site could include moving the Chapel Street entrance to the bank’s parking lots closer to Western Avenue and putting in more of a buffer between the bank and the rest of the Chapel Street neighborhood. He said the drive-up window could be moved, and the bank’s property bordering Western Avenue, now a parking lot, could be used to improve drive-up window traffic flow.

“There is always a rub, a little inherent conflict, between the edge of commercial properties and residential areas,” Silsby said. “There is going to be a difference of opinion, but I feel we’ve been respectful. We tried to be good corporate citizens.”

Code Enforcement Officer Rob Overton confirmed Wednesday the demolition delay period had passed and Kennebec Savings Bank’s demolition permit had been approved.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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