NORWAY — Lachman Architects & Planners of Portland has been selected by Maine Preservation to receive a Historic Preservation Honor Award for commercial-restoration/rehabilitation of the Norway Opera House.

The award, which will be presented at a dinner in Falmouth on Thursday, Nov. 14, honors some of the finest preservation projects in the state.

In late February, more than 100 people gathered at the Opera House on Main Street to celebrate the reopening of its first-floor commercial spaces. The celebration occurred a little more than five years after a 2007 partial roof collapse nearly signaled an end to the 1894 building in the heart of the town’s National Historic District.

In 2003, Maine Preservation named the building one of Maine’s most endangered properties. But four years later, it was declared in danger of imminent collapse by Al Hodson III of Resurgence Engineering and Preservation of Portland. Hodson was hired by the town to assess the damage and oversee its stabilization plans after the partial roof collapse.

With the backing of a $200,000 contribution from Bea and Bill Damon of Norway, the town took ownership of the three-story brick edifice after the owner failed to properly stabilize it and refused to sell it to the town.

Norway voters told town officials to take the building by eminent domain, stabilize the back wall and find someone to take it over.


The town deeded it to the Norway Opera House Corp. in 2012. The corporation partnered with the Norway Savings Bank to oversee a $ 1 million renovation. The partnership helped fund the majority of expenses by utilizing a Communities for Maine’s Future grant and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

On Feb. 1, following a five-month restoration of the commercial spaces by H.E. Callahan Construction of Auburn and subcontractors, the first of the commercial spaces was leased. Today, all five spaces are leased.

The Opera House, topped with a clock tower, once served as the center for community events such as dances, plays, graduations and military ceremonies. Constructed by the Norway Building Association on Main Street, it was owned by the town from 1920 to the mid-1970s, and by a succession of private owners for the past 30 or so years. The upper floors, which have a ballroom and balcony, have been vacant for decades.

Maine Preservation, founded in 1972, is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit member-based statewide historic preservation organization whose mission is to “promote and preserve historic places, buildings, downtowns and neighborhoods, strengthening the cultural and economic vitality of Maine communities.”

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