Home is an . . . Old Powerhouse?

A hydroelectric hub turned residence is among the surprising standouts in Maine Preservation’s annual Honor Awards.

By Sarah Stebbins
From our May 2023 issue
Photo by Dave Clough

The Lemont Block

HISTORY: Built in 1870, Brunswick’s Second Empire Lemont Block once housed a Victrola retailer and a stationer in its first-floor storefronts; a two-story hall above hosted speeches by abolitionist Frederick Douglass and governor Joshua Chamberlain and meetings of the Knights of Pythias. For the last 20 years, the upper floors have stood vacant.

HEROES: Aaron Turkel and Cleo Vauban bought the building, in 2019, enlisting Portland architect Barba + Wheelock, Topsham’s Warren Construction Group, and Brunswick’s Lincoln/Haney Engineering to shore it up and preserve the arched windows, ornate cornices, and a tin ceiling. The grand hall is functioning once again, and the team incorporated five apartments.

HIGHLIGHT: The delicately stenciled cornice in a smaller fourth-floor hall, restored by New Gloucester’s Tony Castro.

Photo by Vana Carmona

Marguerite Emerson House

HISTORY: On Portland’s Capisic Street, this circa 1848 Greek Revival farmhouse once presided over a rural swath of what was then Westbrook. Musician and poet Marguerite Emerson was born in the home, in 1887, and remained there until her death, in 1963. A long period of neglect followed, and locals took to calling the place “the haunted house.” In 2019, the city marketed it as a teardown.

HEROES: Portlander Vana Carmona remembered the house from her childhood and resolved to save it. Collaborating with Westbrook architect Margaret Innes and Portland contractor Matthew Alcorn, Carmona restored the exterior woodwork and rebuilt the interior with original trim, doors, and mantels found in a back room.

HIGHLIGHT: Hints of sage green make the recessed paneling on moldings, pillars, and pediments pop.

Photo courtesy of Portland Foreside Development Company

Building 12

HISTORY: During an 1845 blizzard, John Poor rode a sleigh from Portland to Montreal to demonstrate the relative speed of shipping goods from the Forest City, rather than Boston. The stunt led to the construction of a new northbound railroad and the founding of Poor’s The Portland Company to produce locomotives. The company’s 10-acre waterfront complex included the circa 1895 Building 12, where wooden patterns used to cast train parts were made.

HEROES: Developers Casey Prentice and Kevin Costello’s reimagining of the complex as a mixed-use neighborhood called for moving Building 12 a distance of 200 feet. Working with Boston architect Bruner/Cott & Associates and Portland contractor Consigli, they had the structure’s antique bricks dismantled and reassembled over a modern building shell that replicates the original. Joists, columns, and wood flooring were reused in the interior, which now houses Twelve restaurant, as well as office and residential space.

HIGHLIGHT: Dark-gray brick on the northwest facade that references the structure’s former connection with the now-demolished Building 11.

Photo by Amanda Lamb

River House

HISTORY: In 1904, a brick powerhouse servicing a new hydro-electric dam was erected on the banks of the Sandy River in Norridgewock. A little more than 100 years later, the dam was removed in an effort to restore salmon, eels, and other sea-run fish. The powerhouse was left vacant and eventually vandalized.

HERO: After purchasing the building, in 2017, Amanda Lamb installed plumbing, heating, a kitchen, a bath, and entry doors salvaged from a Biddeford mill, and replaced wood flooring, damaged by the prior removal of a turbine and other heavy equipment, with concrete. Renamed the River House, it’s now Lamb’s open-plan home.

HIGHLIGHT: The restoration of nine arched 12-over-12 windows, set atop stone sills.

Read more about the 2023 Honor Awards here

Down East Magazine, March 2024 cover

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