South Thomaston home launches Maine Preservation Revolving Fund
South Thomaston — Determined to save some of the state's most significant historic buildings, Maine Preservation has launched an innovative Revolving Fund Program to identify threatened structures and act to safeguard their future.
The Revolving Fund approach, which has proven indispensable in states such as Rhode Island and North Carolina, will allow Maine Preservation to obtain option-to-purchase agreements for irreplaceable historic properties. Maine Preservation will then market each property to find preservation-minded buyers interested in rehabilitating the buildings. With an acceptable offer in hand, Maine Preservation will execute its option, add a preservation easement to the deed (to prevent demolition and destructive changes), resell the property and "revolve" proceeds back into the program to acquire and protect more threatened buildings.
"The Revolving Fund provides the means to ensure the survival and active use of some of Maine's most important historic buildings," said Maine Preservation Executive Director Greg Paxton in a news release. "We can't recreate these strongly built, durable and stunningly beautiful buildings that are witnesses to history. The old-growth forests from which they were constructed are long gone. So are the owners and craftsmen who built them. And once the buildings are gone, they're gone forever. But we at Maine Preservation won't let that happen. They will become treasured homes for new owners — and inspire others to take on rehabilitation of historic buildings in communities across our state."
Three historic houses built by the founding families of South Thomaston, Buckfield and Madison are among four properties inaugurating the statewide Revolving Fund.
The 1795 Robbins-Anderson House in South Thomaston stands on property purchased by Oliver Robbins in 1765. The residence contains original Georgian- and Federal-style features, as well as Greek Revival and Italianate improvements from an 1870s remodeling. The 5-acre parcel is surrounded by 200 acres of farmland owned by the Georges River Land Trust, which itself adjoins a 750-acre State waterfowl preserve. Across the street is 38 acres of pasture, with sweeping views of the tidal St. George River.
The 1791 Abijah Buck House was built by a French and Indian War veteran who settled in 1777 and led the establishment of the town of Buckfield, which was named after him. The house, which sits on 30 acres with a trout stream and a large barn, is being donated to Maine Preservation by its owner, Keri Jackson of Boise, Idaho. It includes three rooms with high-style Georgian raised paneling woodwork plus original floors, doors, hinges and latches. The house also includes stenciled plaster and five fireplaces, including a nine-foot kitchen fireplace — the largest in a house of this era known in Maine. Paxton calls the Buck House, "one of the most remarkable rural Georgian houses I've seen in the state."
Deacon Benjamin Weston settled his parcel of land in Madison in 1786, and built his Federal-style house in 1817. Incredibly, the Weston Homestead has stayed in family ownership for more than 200 years with few substantial alterations to either the house or its contents. Paxton said, "I've never seen any house this well preserved." Located on the Kennebec River, the property includes more than 280 acres of forest and 50 acres of cropland. Maine Preservation is working with family members and the Maine Farmland Trust to protect the property's historic and environmental significance.
The Revolving Fund also currently offers the George Washington Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall in the Downeast town of Pembroke. The Hall was built by local master craftsman Nathan Foster in 1896 and only recently left the Odd Fellows ownership. "It is an ideal location for an antiques business," said Paxton, "and comes complete with antiques acquired by the former owner for that purpose!"