ANSON — Bill and Lori Messer were trying to sell their house in Embden when their real estate agent approached them about buying the old Anson Town Office.

The town moved out of the 97-year-old, 5,600-square-foot building about two years ago because of mold, water and rodent problems.

“My Realtor said, ‘Boy, do I have a place for you,'” said Bill Messer, 56. “When he told me it was the Anson Town Office, I said, ‘What would I do with that?'”

The answer he’s found is: a lot.

Since closing on the building last week, the Messers have started remodeling the upstairs, where they plan to host a weekly country music open-mic event. Bill Messer has worked on country jamborees at the Embden Community Center for about the last year and a half and said he plans to hold similar jam sessions at the new building.

They also plan to use the space for events and possibly concerts and to renovate the building’s lower level to house an apartment and offices.

In doing so, the Messers have begun the process of saving one of Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Places, according to Maine Preservation, a nonprofit statewide historic preservation group. The building was included on the organization’s list of endangered historic places in 2014, about six months after the town’s administrative offices moved out.

“It’s very exciting news,” said Greg Paxton, Maine Preservation’s executive director. “I know (the town) was puzzled over what to do, and one of the first things we had suggested right from the start was the possibility of selling it and using it for other purposes.”

The building dates to 1918, when it was built to replace one that was destroyed in a fire. It has served a variety of purposes over the years, including as a fire station, a meeting place, town offices and the offices of the International Sunshine Society, a philanthropic organization, according to Maine Preservation.

The Messers are fulfilling lifelong dreams of owning their own business, said Lori Messer, 44. They plan to do most of the renovation themselves. Lori Messer is a nurse who works in Rockport and lives there part of the week. She said she plans to help her husband paint and remodel on her days off.

Bill Messer has been out of work for the last few years after a diagnosis of throat cancer, which is in remission, but he said he has the construction knowledge to make most of the repairs to the building himself.

Anson’s administrative offices moved out of the 62 Main St. building in July 2013 because of a mold problem affecting air quality.

At the Town Meeting in March 2014, voters rejected a $35,000 proposal to clean and make repairs to the building, opting instead to approve $100,000 for the purchase of a new building the following June.

Bill Messer said this week that the mold problem has been eradicated and that he thinks it had stemmed from some damp papers that had become moldy in the basement. He also said water is leaking in the basement, and he is working on repairing that.

The town originally had listed the property for sale over the summer for $56,000. That price was lowered to $40,000 in September. Soon afterward, the Messers offered the town $25,000, and the town accepted the offer.

“Someone with vision could do something with it,” Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Arnold Luce said. “It’s not really a worthless building. There’s a lot of potential for it.”

Since 1996, Maine Preservation has listed 113 properties as endangered. The properties are never removed from the list, but they are assigned statuses that range from demolished or collapsed to saved.

Since the list’s inception, 53 properties have been saved through sales, Paxton said. For now, the former Town Office building will be listed as in motion, a status that indicates there are efforts being made to save it. When the building is finally re-purposed and in use, its status could move to “saved.”

“That’s when we know it’s secure,” Paxton said. “Nothing is secure forever, but it can be secure for now.”

He said the best way to see that a building is preserved over a long period of time is to ensure that it is being used.

“That means someone will be in the building frequently and will notice things, little things that need to be done,” he said. “Those little problems can turn into big problems if no one is in the building and no one is noticing.”

The Messers have already started to notice lots of little things, and they’re working at fixing them. They hope to finish the repairs to the upstairs of the building within the next few weeks, so they can start hosting jam sessions and music events, before finishing the apartment and offices downstairs.

When they’re done they’ll hang a sign: “Messer Hall, building of dreams.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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