Downtown Wiscasset storeowners, patrons and town officials are left with unanswered questions after pieces of a Main Street building’s brick façade crumbled on Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday.

No one was injured when bricks peeled off the front of the 163-year-old Wawenock Block building at 67 Main St., but what caused the collapse remains a mystery, Wiscasset Town Manager Dennis Simmons said on Monday.

“There didn’t appear to be any issues with the building prior to this, or nothing had been reported at least,” Simmons said. “My main concern now is public safety. We want to make sure that structure is sound before we let anyone into that area.”

Bricks and mortar rained down on a downtown Wiscasset sidewalk on Saturday and Sunday after pulling free of a brick façade. Photo courtesy of Dennis Simmons

Simmons said the town is “incredibly lucky” no one was injured in the two collapses.

“If this had been August, I think we’d be looking at a different situation,” he said.

Simmons said the building will be supported with scaffolding to make sure the remaining pieces of the façade stay in place before it can be repaired. No one will be allowed in or around the building until then and the building’s two tenants, Wiscasset Bay Gallery and In A Silent Way, a wine bar, will remain closed.

“That area will be off-limits for, I would guess, will be several months,” said Simmons.

Scaffolding needs to be erected outside the building to prevent more bricks from peeling free of the building. Photo courtesy of Dennis Simmons

Mark Robinson, a representative of Doering Brothers LLC, a Florida-based company that has owned the building since the 1980s, said the owners don’t yet know what caused the collapse, when the building will be repaired or what it’ll cost.

Robin said the second and third floors of the building are empty.

Simmons said Doering Brothers LLC owns most of the buildings around the Wawenock Block, which were all built around the same time. Because of this, the owners plan to have all of the buildings inspected to see if any are at risk of collapsing.

Wiscasset Bay Gallery owner Keith Oehmig said he’s thankful the gallery wasn’t open during the collapses but said he’s concerned about how the incident will impact his summer business.

“As a business owner, it’s the first thing you think about,” said Oehmig. “In 2019 we had the (Maine Department of Transportation) construction in front of our building, then we had COVID-19 in 2020, and now this. It has been the three Cs: Construction, COVID-19, and now collapse.”

Oehmig said the silver lining of the situation is the COVID-19 pandemic may have prepared him for keeping his business closed until the building is repaired.

“During the pandemic, we improved our online presence,” said Oehmig. “Our season starts around May 1, so we have a little time to get prepared. At this point, we have to take it one day at a time. This is our 37th year, so I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to get through this.”

The 163-year-old building at 67 Main Street lost pieces of its brick façade on Saturday and Sunday. Photo courtesy of Dennis Simmons

After his gallery was allowed to open last summer, Oehmig said business was surprisingly good. Although the number of people who walked through his door was about 75% of past years, the number of paintings being purchased remained about the same.

In A Silent Way did not return requests for comment Monday.


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