AUGUSTA — The former District Court building near Memorial Circle is being razed, but the new owner has no immediate plans to put up anything in its place.

Excavators bit out large chunks of the structure Friday morning, reducing the building to a shell framed by concrete blocks. Hard-hat-wearing workers watched the progress as a small annex — which was added in July 2005 — was removed from the building. The entire structure was surrounded by a cyclone fence, and red tape across the driveways discouraged motorists from turning in.

Kennebec Savings Bank, a close neighbor on State Street, bought the property last month and applied for a permit to demolish the structure.

Andrew Silsby, the bank’s president and CEO, said when the bank first considered it, the property was priced at $695,000. The asking price was later reduced, and ultimately the bank paid $325,000 for it.

Silsby said a good deal of asbestos mitigation had to be performed before the building could be demolished, and that Quirion Construction was hired to do the razing after the bank sought bids from a half dozen local contractors.

On Friday, a series of dump trucks hauled off debris. Large containers on site held scrap metal and other items.

Under the terms of the city demolition permit obtained by the bank, the work has to conclude by the end of January.

The building at 145 State St., which was erected in 1970, stood on just under an acre in a high-traffic area of the city near the western end of Memorial Bridge. The state purchased the site in 1968 from America Legion Fitzgerald-Cummings Post 2, giving the Legion six months to vacate it, city records show.

Originally the building had been the Chandler House, built by Joseph Chandler. The short street that runs along the south side the building remains Chandler Street.

The city’s Historic District Review Board signed off on the demolition permit last month after no objections were raised and the building was “identified as noncontributing in the Winthrop Street Historic District.”

The former district court building had been vacant since early 2015, when its functions and personnel were transferred over to the Capital Judicial Center, several blocks to the north. The new court building consolidated a number of state Judicial Branch functions.

The brick-sided, utilitarian-looking Augusta District Court building, with one courtroom on the main floor and one in the basement, served for 35 years as the starting point for most criminal and many civil cases in the southern half of Kennebec County.

The front entrance carried the “Southern Kennebec” name.

On many days, the parking lot proved too small to accommodate the vehicles of those who needed to do business there.

Along with the two windowless courtrooms, the building held small offices and meeting rooms as well as cordoned-off areas for the clerks.

Corridors and anterooms were so cramped that defendants mixed with victims and plaintiffs, and shackled juveniles sat in a row on chairs awaiting to be escorted by officers into the courtroom.

The multiple entrances proved to be a security headache for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office deputies charged with entry screening and with keeping order both in the public areas and in the courtroom.

Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley recalled those conditions in a speech she gave when the new courthouse debuted in March 2015:

“You’ve heard me say the situation before was horrible; it was absolutely unacceptable,” she said. “It was very dangerous. We were lucky it didn’t have any tragedies.”

The state had attempted to market the structure since 2015, and it was briefly envisioned as a home for the Kennebec County Registry of Deeds.

Records at the city assessor’s office show the building was valued at $371,000 in 1977, with an additional $30,000 in land value. However, the state-owned property was tax-exempt.

More recently the property was assessed at $568,900.

Silsby now noted it would return to the tax rolls.

David Heidrich, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which sold the property, said the state received $304,909. “The proceeds from the sale were deposited into the State of Maine’s Capital Repair and Improvement Fund,” he said in an email. “As the name implies, this account is used to support the cost of maintaining state-owned facilities.”

He added, “We’re pleased that this property will return to the city of Augusta’s tax rolls and wish Kennebec Savings Bank well in their ownership of this parcel.”

Silsby said it was seen as an opportunity for the bank because the structure was vacant.

“Our long-term plan for the property is not determined yet,” Silsby said. “Hopefully the Planning Board will allow us to put up a wrought iron fence.” A black wrought iron fence surrounds the bank’s property where it borders Memorial Circle.

Silsby said he expects to see green space and possibly flowers and that he hopes the larger trees can be saved. “We try to be pretty good corporate citizens,” he added. “We will maintain the existing parking lot that was used for the courthouse and then just pause.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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