Strathglass Park restoration efforts light up Rumford


RUMFORD — For the first time in more than half a century, the historic Strathglass Park‘s imposing granite gateway was lit up Monday night.

That project is the culmination of a two-year effort by local nonprofit Strathglass Park Preservation Society to repair crumbling mortar in the gate and add historic-looking lighting to the top of each 16-foot granite pillar, Hank Maifeld, society president, stated Tuesday in a report.

“They’re a lot brighter than I thought they’d be. They’re beautiful,” Maifeld said.

“Finally, we’ve got some progress having the gate cleaned and restored and lights put on like it was back in the old days.”

Strathglass Park is a 51-building brick townhouse-style development designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who designed the U.S. Supreme Courthouse in Washington, D.C., Phil Blampied, society vice president, said Tuesday in Rumford.

The park, a neighborhood known locally as the “brick park,” was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974, but has sustained severe decline. Problems have included the age of the buildings and economic decline.

Three years ago, the preservation society organized to fight the blight.

Although the gate is owned by Rumford, the society raised $6,000 privately to undertake the project and will be donating the project to the town.

Last year, Rumford selectmen agreed to assume the electric bill for keeping the gates lighted once the installation was complete, the report states.

Blampied and Maifeld said the gate restoration is the first of many projects planned by the society.

The gate work was undertaken first due to the extreme deterioration of the mortar, which could have eventually forced the demolition of parts of the gate, the report stated.

Kevin Cormier of Cormier Masonry of Rumford did the work. Mortar was repointed in the wings between the walls and the pillars and the pillars themselves, Blampied said.

Society members also decided to light the pillars to create a dramatic and welcoming appearance at the park entrance.

The lights used are designed to minimize upward glare to reduce nighttime light pollution, Blampied said.

In designing the project, the society received special assistance from Central Maine Power Co., which took the unusual step of allowing the wiring and meter box to be installed on its own pole, the report states.

Doors on decorative metal cabinets on the gate were sealed shut and will be polished this year. Among upcoming work are landscaping an area against the gate and adding flowers.

Currently, Blampied said Eddy Patterson and Peter Robichaud will be adding a sign to the rear entrance of Strathglass Park fronting Hancock Street.

“We’ve got a number of plans in the works,” Blampied said.

If they can find the resources, the society also wants to acquire some of the dilapidated and abandoned buildings in the park and do initial restoration work.

Then, they would be turned over to investor rehabilitators, possibly with deed covenants requiring them going forward to continue to maintain the buildings in the proper state.

When the Oxford Realty Co. sold the duplexes to their owners, currently there are only three restrictions in the deed, Blampied said. These are:

* Maintaining a 25-foot setback from the road.

* Outbuildings like sheds and dog houses are forbidden.

* Residents cannot keep pigs or chickens.

“But nobody said you have to maintain the historical authenticity and it doesn’t say you can’t put vinyl siding on and it should say something like that,” Blampied said.

“As we do this work, we’re hoping to reverse the momentum of blight and start the momentum of redevelopment and restoration.”

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