NORWAY — The preservation of Norway’s downtown historic buildings continues to be at the forefront of efforts to foster economic growth.
State and local preservationists and officials will present “Norway’s Historic Buildings: Moving Forward,” on Monday, Aug. 10, at the Norway Universalist Church sanctuary at 479 Main St., beginning at 7 p.m.
The meeting is being held to update residents on the progress made in the past seven years on Main Street and to provide news about several other downtown buildings, including the First Universalist Church on Main Street.
The First Universalist Church of Norway was founded in 1799 and is the oldest continuously existing Universalist church in the state of Maine. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the original location of town meetings in Norway.
It will also include buildings held in the Higgins-Crooker Trust. They include the current L.M. Longley & Son Hardware Store at 419 Main St., 100 Aker Wood fine art supply store at 413 Main St. and a building on Deering Street.
The Higgins-Crooker Trust is a nonprofit set up decades ago to assist older and needy Norway residents with issues such as heat, David Holt, one of two trustees and Norway’s town manager, said. The three properties generate income for the trust through rent and the trust pays for the buildings’ utilities and taxes, he said.
However, the trust has been losing more money each year and, Holt says, the time is near to dissolve it and sell the buildings. That money would be used to assist older and needy residents as the trust intended.
The trustees hope to work with Maine Preservation in the future to find new owners who will take care of the trust properties in a historically sensitive manner.
Andrea Burns of Norway Downtown said the meeting is an outgrowth of three presentations to residents in 2008 that focused on preserving endangered buildings in the downtown area.
At that time, residents heard from two of Maine’s foremost experts in historic preservation — Kirk Mohney of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and Greg Paxton, executive director of Maine Preservation — about Norway’s 19th century downtown architecture.
The series of presentations focused attention on three endangered buildings — the Norway Opera House, the Gingerbread House and the Norway Grange.
As a result of the meetings, action was taken to save and rehabilitate the Opera House and Gingerbread House. The grange — which is used by the Oxford Hills Music and Performing Arts Association and the grange organization — has also undergone extensive work.
“Here we are. It’s years later. Where do we go now,” Holt said, referring to the focus of next week’s program to continue the downtown rehabilitation both to maintain the historic buildings and to fuel economic growth.
Almost all the buildings that were discussed and are now under consideration are in the Norway Downtown National Historic District. The buildings are largely from the 19th century, some before the Great Fire of 1894 that destroyed the eastern section of town and a great number built after the fire. The buildings represent a cross section of architecture.
This time, Paxton and Mohney will be joined by Nancy Smith of GrowSmart Maine to talk about Main Street’s architecture and how historic preservation fosters economic development. Members of groups involved in rehabilitating Main Street buildings will give updates on progress and future plans.
Following the presentation, refreshments will be served in the downstairs concert hall.