NORWAY — Maine Preservation, a nonprofit, statewide historic preservation group, announced this week that it will assist in the transition and sale of three historic downtown buildings, including L.M. Longley & Son on Main Street.
The announcement of the pending sale of three buildings held by the Higgins-Crooker Trust was made Monday night at a community meeting about the future of Norway’s historic buildings. It was attended by about 60 people.
Greg Paxton, executive director of Maine Preservation, told townspeople during the 90-minute meeting at First Universalist Church on Main Street that the Crooker House — one of three buildings held by the trust — will be placed on the open market this week.
The historic preservation group requires that whomever buys the property at 20 Deering St. must agree to preserve the now-vacant house and rehabilitate it using accepted historic-preservation practices.
“It will be an historic building forever,” Paxton said.
The property is being offered by Maine Preservation through its Protect & Sell Program for historic properties, formerly known as the Revolving Fund Program. The program matches owners interested in rehabilitating historic buildings with unique properties across Maine, according to Maine Preservation’s website. The buildings must be at least 50 years old and must enter the program either by donation or by Maine Preservation securing an option to purchase the property.
The other two buildings held by the trust — L.M. Longley & Son at 419 Main St. and the adjacent building now housing 100 Aker Wood Frame Shop at 413 Main St. — will go on the market in the future.
Longtime owner John Longley has said he is “thinking” of retiring, opening up the possibility that the building may not remain a hardware store after more than 100 years, according to David Holt, who serves as one of two Higgins-Crooker trustees and is Norway’s town manager. Efforts will be made to allow the tenant of the 100 Aker Wood Store building to purchase it.
Holt said the trust was set up to help the aged, but it has been losing money for years. It is the intent of the trustees to dissolve it, sell off its assets and have the town manage the money to help the elderly, as it was intended.
The meeting also provided residents the opportunity to learn about the role of historic districts and properties and the important role they play in a community’s economic forecast.
Kirk Mohney, deputy director of Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and Nancy Smith, executive director of GrowSmart Maine, spoke of the importance of Norway’s historic properties.
“Commerce is incredibly important to a town,” Smith said.
She said people should not stress over vacancies along Main Street and the commercial area on Route 26, including in Paris. The passion residents have for preserving the town’s historical properties, coupled with the existing commerce and the town’s cultural offerings, will make the town viable to residents and others, she said.