HALLOWELL — The vice president of the city’s nonprofit historic preservation organization said this week that Linda Bean’s interest in acquiring the historic Dr. Hubbard Museum presents the city with a unique opportunity he doesn’t think it should pass up.

Gerry Mahoney, of Row House Inc., said having Bean take ownership and responsibility of the Hubbard would put the museum in the hands of someone who has been a steward of Hallowell history for more than 50 years.

“If you want to question her motivation, I’d say that the town owes her a big debt of gratitude,” Mahoney said Wednesday during an interview at Hubbard Free Library.

But earlier this week, as concerns mounted, the city decided to delay a decision on whether to include the Hubbard Museum as part of the deal with Bean to relocate the historic Dummer House to make way for a new municipal parking lot.

Mayor Mark Walker said Monday that the council will consider the transfer of the Dummer House and the Dr. Hubbard Museum as separate transactions. Walker said deciding on the museum proposal will be delayed until a more complete process is undertaken.

Bean, the granddaughter of L.L. Bean’s founder and the owner of the Dummer House and adjacent land bordered by Second and Central streets, said she started discussing the Hubbard in order to restore it and turn it into a historic museum area — with the Dummer House — along Second Street.

“I’m doing it because it makes logical sense,” Bean said. “(Second Street) could become very attractive as a historic streetscape.”

Bean has a collection of early Maine pottery and clocks, Mahoney said, and having those items on display in Hallowell would be a boon to the city.

“There’s a lot of moving parts, and it’s an important part of Hallowell history,” Mahoney said.

For several decades, the Hubbard Museum has housed artifacts and mementos from the life of John Hubbard, a doctor and the 22nd governor of Maine. The Hubbard museum’s previous owner donated the items in the museum to the Maine State Museum, and it was discovered recently that mold has damaged much of the collection.

Laurie LaBar, the chief curator of history and decorative arts at the state museum, said the artifacts were removed from the Hubbard museum last month and are undergoing restoration. LaBar said she’d see no problem with loaning items for display at the Hubbard, provided the building gets restored and changes are made to the security and environmental conditions, mainly adding heat.

“Linda is a good friend, and she’s really helped us in the past, so there’s no way we’d say we weren’t going to do something for Linda,” LaBar said.

Some of the artifacts that could be displayed in a future Hubbard museum include photographs and medical equipment including a doctor’s bag, an enema syringe and a tourniquet.

Rudy said that part of the appeal of Bean’s proposal is that the city would not have to pay to heat or cool a building that the city only uses for four hours a year on Old Hallowell Day. The historic collections would have a higher and better community use if the office was open to the public more often, he said.

“Linda seems to be proposing to do just that,” Rudy said. “The convenants we have proposed for the sale would make sure the space was maintained for this purpose.”

Bean has agreed to move the Dummer House and sell the remaining property to Hallowell, and Bean and the city have agreed on a $147,000 price for the remaining parcels of land.

PUBLIC ASSET

At Monday’s council meeting, several Hallowell residents questioned the city’s willingness to turn over possession of an important piece of Hallowell history without much public discussion.

Jane Orbeton, a member of the Hallowell Planning Board, said she was concerned that there wasn’t a public dialogue before Monday about the transfer of ownership of the Hubbard museum.

“The sale of a public asset requires a public process that gives people an opportunity to find out why the city is selling and what the city is getting in return,” Orbeton said. “It’s a public asset, and a decision on what should be done with one should be done carefully and with full information.”

There has been discussion about the Dummer House becoming a museum, and Bean, 76, said if this deal happens, the Hubbard would be a second museum space for the historical collections that many people in Hallowell and around Maine could offer.

“From the beginning, Bean has been a moving force, and she advocated for the preservation of these buildings in the 1960s,” Mahoney said.

If an agreement is finalized, Bean would continue to own the Dummer house when it moves to its new location — on the corner of Second and Central streets — and Preservation Timber Framing in Berwick will handle the move and rehabilitation of the historic building. The city’s part of the project will be funded using $300,000 allocated in a $2.36 million bond package approved by voters in April.

PARKING NEED

There is a sense of urgency to get at least the Dummer House part of the transaction completed as soon as possible. The city has repeatedly stated its goal of building a municipal parking lot on the Dummer House footprint before the Maine Department of Transportation begins a six-month reconstruction of a 2,000-foot stretch of Water Street in Hallowell’s busy downtown.

Orbeton said she would think that moving the Dummer House, even from one piece of land to another owned by the same person, would need to come before the Planning Board. Mahoney said this issue should have come before the board months ago, if that’s what is needed, because the Planning Board process is cumbersome and could significantly delay the project.

Rudy said that the project would go before the Planning Board, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it would delay anything. Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide said it the project would require a certificate of appropriateness because the Dummer House is in the historic district.

“We’re working on those details now,” Ide said. He said he expects an approval to be granted at the next Planning Board meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 20. He said the board may hold a special meeting sooner to approve the project earlier than the end of December.

The mayor said the plan is to move forward with negotiating the deal for the Dummer House, and the council will continue to discuss plans for the Hubbard museum because there isn’t as much of a need to make that deal happen quickly.

The agreement with the city, as it’s currently written, stipulates that Bean would have to maintain the Hubbard museum at the same level or better than the city currently does, and Rudy said there’s no reason to think Bean isn’t up to the task. Rudy said the city spends about $1,100 to maintain the Hubbard each year, so it would save that money if the responsibility became Bean’s.

Bean said that at her age, she wouldn’t be maintaining the properties alone, and she said it would probably be managed by a historical entity.

Councilor Kara Walker said she thinks everyone wants assurances that the Dummer House and Hubbard remain as museumlike properties.

Mahoney and Carolyn Manson, the president of Row House, spoke to the council Monday about the opportunity the proposed deal gives downtown Hallowell. Mahoney said there is an opportunity to make historic preservation a priority and to make significant improvements to the city’s historic district.

“If you can separate the two transactions out, that’s a good thing, because everybody will have the opportunity to give their opinion,” Mahoney said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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