Some of downtown Bangor’s greatest assets have been destroyed, but other treasures are merely obscured, layered behind generations of renovations.
All eyes in the city’s commercial and service core are on the former Sears building on Harlow Street, which is shedding facade and older stonework to reveal an 80-year-old, red brick structure that once was the focus of attention, and more important, a center of activity in the downtown.
As the NEWS’ Doug Kesseli reported in Wednesday’s MaineDay, crews with jackhammers and heavy equipment are stripping the building of thin polished granite, believed to be from Deer Isle, to expose the older Morse building, a relic of the building boom that followed the Great Bangor Fire in 1911.
Constructed in 1914, the Morse building had office space, bowladrome and billiards room, even a convention center. After 4,500 square feet of more recent additions have been razed and hauled away, developer Robert G. Duerr Jr. hopes the renovated structure will be rented to local professionals, while craft merchants, artists and perfomers will find space in Norumbega Hall, a small marketplace that will be available when the site is opened up, restored and landscaped.
If fulfilled, Duerr’s vision for the area, which he says will include the Central Block around the corner, is in harmony with the city’s past, and also with the future of the downtown as described by a series of revitalization consultants over the last 15 years who advised Bangor to do at least three things:
Focus on property abutting the Kenduskeag Stream and Penobscot River.
Expose the city’s physical history and exploit the appeal of its culture and heritage to local citizens, regional shoppers and seasonal tourists.
Develop a people-generator, a unique attraction that will bring the public downtown, again and again. One of the suggestions was for a market featuring Maine goods and crafts, located at what now is Duerr’s site.
The pace of work is accelerating. They will come.