Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Michael Shepherd email@example.com
HALLOWELL — Residents have begun raising money for the preservation of the city’s fire station, but the money’s purpose won’t be known until the city takes steps to move the department elsewhere.
An antiques appraisal day will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the William S. Cohen Community Center on Hallowell’s Town Farm Road.
The cost is $10 per item or $25 for three items. Proceeds will benefit a city fund for restoration of the city fire station. Appraisals will be done by James D. Julia, Inc., and coins and jewelry are not accepted.
For more information, call the Cohen Center at 626-7777.
City Manager Michael Starn said this week that slightly less than $3,700 is in an account established by the Hallowell City Council in March to recruit private donations to preserve the historic fire station on Second Street, which opened in 1829 as a town hall.
Now the building is known for its leaning white tower once used to dry fire hoses, one of only a few left in New England.
That was added in 1898-1899 as part of the building’s conversion to a fire station, according to a 2012 letter from Earle Shettleworth, Maine’s state historian, to Sandra Stubbs, president of Row House, a city historic preservation group.
Stubbs, a Pleasant Street resident, donated the first $1,000 to the fund, according to a June council agenda. The Saturday antique-appraisal event in Hallowell should boost the fund’s coffers significantly.
“We just thought the citizens should know about these historical buildings that should be preserved,” said Stubbs, who, along with many other residents, has said she wants the building to remain as a museum.
The resolution establishing the fund, unanimously approved by councilors, called preserving the building “a solemn responsibility for the current and future city councils.”
However, for the foreseeable future, the building will be a fire station.
In the past, higher-ups in the city’s mostly volunteer Fire Department complained of the city’s inaction in improving the station, but the tenor of that relationship changed in recent months with new repairs.
Public works crews have repaired ceilings, replaced drywall, rewired lights, replaced and refinished floors, removed asbestos and installed cabinets, appliances, sinks and a shower this year.
However, the wooden addition at the back of the building still retains damage done when the fire station burned in 1932. It has structural problems and holes in its ceiling.
City officials perennially have kicked around ideas for Hallowell’s fire-protection future.
More than two years ago, councilors hired Neil Courtney, a Camden fire consultant, to study the city’s facilities and recommend paths to improving fire services. He ended up recommending a new station.
In a 2012 report, he wrote that Hallowell “should embark upon a long-term program that commits to the enhancement of fire protection services” and “the need for a new fire station is paramount in that effort, as the current facility is an impediment to any attempt at forward progress.”
Starn said the city’s most likely option is to build a combined fire station with Farmingdale, and he’s on an exploratory committee made up of eight Farmingdale and Hallowell residents examining the possibility.
He said all Hallowell city councilors and Farmingdale selectmen support the idea, but the committee hasn’t met for months and details remain to be ironed out. Any decision, Starn said, is likely years away.
“I’m positive that there’s a willingness, and where there’s a will, there’s a way and we’re trying to find a way,” he said.
Michael Shepherd — 370-7652