Historic building’s future uncertain

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LEWISTON – The fate of a historic building that was heavily damaged by fire on July 4, remained uncertain Thursday after the building’s owner conferred with a city inspector about its structural integrity.

Paul Cote, a local District Court judge and son of Joan Cote, the building’s owner, said Thursday they met with the city’s director of code enforcement, Gil Arsenault, to see whether The Bradford House on Pine Street was safe and salvagable.

At the same time, Cote said, his mother is waiting to find out from an insurance adjuster whether the financial settlement would allow for rebuilding. A fire inspector estimated the damage at roughly $1 million.

The late 1880s-vintage building, which features a unique slate tile mansard roof, sustained heavy fire, smoke and water damage after a blaze that apparently originated in the basement then crawled up a pipe chase to the top floor and burned through the roof.

The building housed several law offices. All of those lawyers have now relocated, said Chris L’Hommedieu, who worked out of the second floor.

L’Hommedieu said Thursday he and lawyer John Whalen, who worked across the hall on the second floor, have moved into a building at 316 Center St. in Auburn. The law offices of Cote, Hamann and Fournier, which had occupied the first floor, are now sharing offices at 86 Lisbon St. with lawyers Gosselin, Dubord and Bell.

After working from home for a few days, L’Hommedieu spent the next week getting communication lines installed at his new office. Asked whether he would move back to 54-56 Pine St. if that became possible, he said he is exploring his options, which include buying a building.

“I realize now how pleasant a place it was, across from the park,” he said. He enjoyed being able to walk a short distance to 8th District Court. Now he’s on one of the busiest streets in the Twin Cities. The benefit is the free advertising from having 32,000 cars passing the office sign all day long, he said.

Cote said it would be a shame to have to tear down the historic building that his father bought in 1969 and fixed up.

“He put a lot of time, effort and thought and sweat into the building to restore it to the beauty and majesty of what it was,” Cote said.

His mother has used income from the lawyers’ rents to help with her retirement, he said.

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