READFIELD — The town is likely to lose a piece of its history — in the form of an 1825 brick house that sits on Saunders Manufacturing property on Nickerson Hill Road.

The Dudley Haines II house, which served as the company’s administrative offices for years, is slated to be demolished — a fate members of the Readfield Historical Society hope can be somehow avoided.

Saunders Manufacturing was founded in East Winthrop 1946 by Albert “Harry” Saunders. A couple of years after beginning the business in Winthrop, Saunders moved its manufacturing to Readfield, in a wooded location near the family home on Nickerson Hill Road. In later years, “Grampy,” as he was known to employees, used to sit in the first floor kitchen of the home that doubled as administrative offices, waving to employees who passed through.

Fast forward to November 2016, when John Rosmarin and his family — now owners of the business — were selling it. They donated 342 acres of woodlands, streams and wetlands to Kennebec Land Trust, an organization based in Winthrop that manages 5,630 acres of conserved land around central Maine. The land is now known as the Rosmarin and Saunders Family Forest.

Saunders then merged with Midwest Products to become Saunders Midwest LLC.

Now, Saunders Midwest isn’t using the house — the original structure has a sizable wooden addition on three sides — and is preparing to demolish it.

In an email exchange with Readfield Town Manager Eric Dyer, Saunders Midwest President Doug Spitler, said, “The house is no longer in use and has fallen in disrepair even before we purchased the company.”

In the email, Spitler said he had looked at renting it for office space, but was told by local real estate experts there was no market.

“Also the cost to return it to a residence not only raised safety issues but was cost prohibitive to remodel,” he wrote.

Removing the building, Spitler wrote, would provide a safer environment, eliminate heating and repair costs, and lower the firm’s tax liability.

“I discussed the option of selling or donating the house and surrounding land with our ownership as we discussed last week but the issue is that the house sits in the middle of our plant and adjacent to the manufacturing facility,” he wrote on Nov. 12. “We don’t have any current plans for that section of the plant at this time, but having it carved out places several restrictions and limitations on what we could do with our business in the future. This was the overriding concern of our group and feel it would be in the best interest of not only our business but the Readfield community to proceed with our plans to demolish the house.”

Phone messages left for Saunders officials in Readfield were not returned Friday.

On Friday, Dale Potter-Clark, secretary and one of the founders of the Readfield Historical Society, said, “We would all love to see that building saved, and not just the historical society but other people as well.”

“But we don’t have the manpower or the means,” she said. “It’s a small organization.”

Potter-Clark is hoping there might be a way to save it by having it removed from the property.

“I wish there was a miracle on the horizon and maybe someone will come forward and help save it,” she said. “There’s only so much a handful of people with a little money can do.”

Potter-Clark also said she has numerous pictures of the exterior, but added, “I’d like to get some pictures of the interior for historical posterity.”

Dyer and several other town officials, including two selectboard members — Chairman Bruce Bourgoine and Christine Sammons — and resident and Realtor Les Priest, toured the interior several weeks ago.

Dyer said the group looked at possibilities for economic development and for office space.

“It is way too early in my view to come up with a list of what the possible uses could be,” he said. “It was our intent to buy some time, to look at the costs to repair it, and see whether the municipality, through the voters, had an interest in something like that.”

However, he said Saunders itself had concerns about possible conflicting uses in the middle of its manufacturing facility, which is located almost adjacent to the house.

The building is currently used for storage, Dyer said, and would require improvements to be used again for other purposes.

He said Friday that so far no demolition permit has been issued; however, he anticipated one would be sought soon.

“We hate to see a historic building destroyed, we hate to lose the tax base and hate to see opportunities lost,” Dyer said. “We did what we could.”

Town Assessor David Ledew, who also toured the building, said Friday that Saunders owns 38.3 acres at its Nickerson Hill Road location. That includes a manufacturing building assessed at $1.5 million, with almost two-thirds of that value in the equipment itself. The property tax on that is about $29,400 with the current mil rate of $19.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The office/administrative building is valued at $366,000, and that brings in a little more than $7,120 in tax revenue.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: