ELLSWORTH – You might want to take a good look at it, because a 19th century fire house on Route 1A may not be around much longer.
Ellsworth residents filed an appeal last September when they learned Webber Energy, the group that now owns the site, planned to demolish it.
The appeal temporarily delayed the demolition, but the city’s board of appeals shot down that effort at its meeting last week, meaning there won’t be anything stopping Webber from tearing it down.
The disrepair in the buildings is easily seen now, but neighbors said it was once the home of two horse drawn fire engines.
As part of the appeal process, Ellsworth city councilors met with those on the council when the city sold the site to Webber in the mid 2000’s.
“The city wanted to get rid of it because it was in disrepair, they saw it as a liability that was costing the city a lot of money,” said Ellsworth City Council Chair Marc Blanchette.
City officials said Webber’s was the only proposal given to the council at the time, and that no historical societies came forward.
When the building was sold, city leaders submitted an RFP, or request for proposal.
While the request called for the buyer to preserve the building, that language was never included in the deed that Webber now holds.
That’s why the appeal to save the building was denied.
“An RFP is a wish,” said Ellsworth City Manager David Cole, “you put out and say ideally what you’d like to have, then the market responds back to proposals to say what they’re willing to do, so it’s not unusual for the final project to look different.”
“It was not attached to the deed and my question is why not?” said Judy Blood.
Now that her appeal has been denied, Blood, whose family home is next door to the building, has not given up.
“I feel like it’s municipal malarky,” said Blood, “no one is willing to stand up for what people did prior to them.”
Blood said a preservation group has pledged money and looked into buying the fire house, but the realtor won’t sell without them buying the entire three acre lot.
She tried to get the fire house on the historic register, but was denied because the site has been altered.
While it’s not officially historic, Blood said it’s Ellsworth’s last 19th century fire house.
“It would be such a welcome beacon to Ellsworth as you come down 1A to see a beautifully restored fire house as you enter,” said Blood. “I feel badly that there’s a group willing to make it that but doesn’t have the opportunity.”
The board of appeals’s decision will be formally adopted at their next meeting on March 14th, at which point Webber will be free to demolish the site.