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Bangor area residents call on hospital not to demolish century-old buildings

Members of the Facebook group, Saving Bangor’s Old Houses, say the buildings are an important part of the city's history.

BANGOR, Maine — From the Pork and Beans War in the 1800s to serving as the home of a U.S. Vice President, Maine is rich in history. Some Bangor residents fear vital parts of the state's past are being demolished.

“As someone said, 'These old ladies are still with us,' and to lose them in 2022 is just to me, mind-boggling," said Randy Hatch a founding member of Saving Bangor's Old Houses.

The "old ladies" Hatch refers to are several buildings along Broadway and Center Street.

The buildings are owned by St. Joseph Hospital, which plans to tear them down. Despite pleas from residents across the Bangor area, the hospital is moving forward with the demolitions.

"I’d like to see them all stay," Hatch told NEWS CENTER Maine. "I have loved the look of the old homes on Broadway. I love the history that has taken place with [the homes], wondering who owned them over the years, and how it is they're still here after Bangor tore down so much." 

Efforts by Hatch and others in her group to save the buildings have been unsuccessful. Nearly all of the 10 properties over seven parcels have been torn down, according to the Bangor Director of Code Enforcement Jeff Wallace. 

"The reasons these properties can be torn down is because they're not located in a historic district and they're not listed on a national register of historic places," Wallace said. 

Wallace said the properties coming down are at 110 (two duplexes), 118 and 122 Congress Street, and 310, 318, 322, and 326 Broadway. All but the building at 318 Broadway were built in 1900, according to Wallace.

“Short of the property owner having the change of heart on the property, I don’t know what else might save [the buildings],” added Wallace. 

"I'm hoping [St. Joseph Hospital] will hear about the passions of people that are in our group and how sad they are to lose [the homes] and reconsider," Hatch said. "I don't think [the hospital would use the buildings themselves], but would they donate them? Would they consider working with the community? That's our hope at this point." 

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St. Joseph Hospital denied NEWS CENTER Maine's request for an interview, but provided us with the following statement:

"We appreciate the community outreach and concern regarding alterations being made to several St. Joseph properties.

"From the exterior, it may seem that these buildings are in good order and need slight repairs; however, we have had extensive engineering reviews and evaluations of both the exterior structures, interior structures, and the associated systems. After these reviews, it was determined that both the interior and exterior structural issues pose significant risks, are not and cannot become habitable, and the safest action is to remove these buildings.

"Interest pertaining to the building located at 326 Broadway related to it being of potential historic nature. The City of Bangor has not deemed this a historic site, a historic district nor does it deem it as a historic façade. The building had been significantly altered prior to St. Joseph purchasing it.  As such, there are no interior elements, which are original to the property of any historic significance. In addition, there is a significant erosion and structural issue with this building that deems it extraordinarily unsafe to be inside or around.

"As a community hospital, we believe it is our responsibility to work with a variety of social service organizations to improve the health and well-being of community members. We have been working closely with Penquis CAP and the City of Bangor to improve low-income housing availability.

"In addition, we are concerned about individuals having access to food—in particular, nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables. We are exploring the possibility of placing community vegetable gardens in these vacant lots in the springtime.  Allowing these green spaces to be used to benefit the people in our community."

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