Prior to colonization, Native Americans of the Wabanaki tribe lived along the Kennebec River. They named the Hallowell area Bombahook (or Medumcook or Keedumcook) because of the shoal (sandbar) in the river here. The first Colonial settlement was established in 1762, and Hallowell grew and prospered as a City of shipbuilding, trade, publishing, and logging. As described in a local historical account, the City’s current population, “is only slightly smaller than it was in 1820, the year Maine seceded from Massachusetts and became a state in its own right. Yet 180 years ago, Hallowell’s inhabitants enjoyed services of 71 stores along Water Street (by contrast, Augusta had a population of 1,000 and just 20 merchants).” Today, Hallowell’s many historic buildings tell the story of the City’s history and contribute considerably to its unique character. This chapter identifies Hallowell’s important archeological and historic resources and examines how they are protected.
An archaeological site is any place where human activity occurred and where artifacts (objects made, used or changed by people) are found. There are two types of archaeological sites: prehistoric and historic.
Pre-Historic Archeological Assets
Pre-historic archeological assets relate to Native American settlement and tend to date prior to about 1700. According to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC), there are two known pre-historic archeological sites in Hallowell. Both are located in developed areas (their exact locations are undisclosed) and may no longer survive. Limited archaeological surveying has been accomplished along the Kennebec River, with no sites found. The MHPC recommends future archaeological surveys in two archaeologically sensitive areas: along Vaughn Brook and around the small ponds in the western portion of the City.
Historic Archeological Assets
Historic archeological assets were created after European settlement. The MHPC identifies four historic archeological sites in Hallowell. They are:
Norcross Pottery, an American industrial pottery site, 1792- c.1800
Keedumcook Trading Post, an English trading post, c. 1676
“Ticonic”, an American side-wheeler, wreck, October 1836
“John W. Richmond”, an American side-wheeler wreck, Sept. 3, 1843
The exact locations of these sites is undisclosed.
Historic assets date after widespread European settlement and include villages, historic districts, buildings, cemeteries, bridges, and other similar resources.
The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the nation’s official list of preserved historic resources. The National Register helps communities identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archeological resources. It also provides guidelines for renovation and development within the designated buildings and districts. Districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects can all be listed. Listings are federally recognized and protected from adverse impacts by projects funded, licensed, or executed by the federal government; they are also eligible for federal rehabilitation tax credits.
The following properties located in Hallowell are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
Hallowell Historic District, defined broadly as the hillside of Hallowell (see Hallowell City Historic Districts Map, next page), encompasses 260 acres and 446 properties.
Maine Industrial School for Girls Historic District, Winthrop St.
Powder House Lot, High St.
Row House, 106-114 2nd St.
Vaughan Homestead, Second St.
Elm Hill Farm, Litchfield Rd.
Along with the Row House and the Vaughn Homestead, both of which are listed on the National Register, 54 additional historic sites in Hallowell are identified as locally historically significant in the brochure, “Historic Hallowell Maine: A Guide to Historic Homes and Places of Interest,” produced by the Row House, Inc, a non-profit organization dedicated to historic preservation in Hallowell..
Hallowell City Historic District
Two of the Hallowell residences listed in the “Historic Hallowell Maine” brochure, the former Jacob Abbott House (61 Winthrop Street) and the Governor Bodwell House have been on Maine Preservation’s Most Endangered Historic Properties list since 2000. The Hallowell Freight Shed, a historic railroad building, was added to the list in 2008. “Most Endangered” status does not ensure the protection of a site or provide funding, but is designed to raise local awareness and helps focus rescue efforts. Criteria for inclusion on the endangered list include demonstrating the property’s historic significance, identifying threats to the site, and a strong commitment to invest time, energy and money to rescue the historic property.
Also listed in the brochure is the Hubbard Library, Maine’s oldest standing free public library, which is in need of major roof, electrical, and other building improvements.
Historic Organizations and Resources
Local non-profit organizations play an important role in the identification and preservation of historic resources. Hallowell has several historic non-profits:
Row House, Inc. is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to preserving Historic Hallowell. The organization has been in existence for more than thirty-five years, and was recently a key partner in the renovation and restoration of the City Hall building. It produces the brochure, “Historic Hallowell Maine: A Guide to Historic Homes and Places of Interest.”
Built around 1835, the Dr. John Hubbard Museum includes period furnishings, books, and instruments, some of which were owned by the doctor. The Dr. Hubbard Building Association staffs and maintains the museum. Funding comes from private sources and an annual donation from the City.
Additional resources regarding Hallowell’s historic assets include an inventory of the historic buildings on Second St. located at the Maine Preservation Commission; a number of 1964 historic photos located at the Hubbard Free Library in Hallowell; and a 1992 historic survey (property type, architectural data, age, location, and historical data) of Hallowell located at the Maine State Library.
Protection for Historic and Archeological Resources
Neglect and inappropriate development are the greatest threats to historic and archeological resources. Protection from these can be provided at the local, state, and federal levels.
Federal and State Level Protection
Numerous federal and state laws and regulations govern the treatment of historic and archaeological resources in Maine. They are focused on protecting cultural resources that may be threatened by projects funded or permitted by the federal or state governments
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires Federal agencies to review all federally funded, permitted, or licensed projects which may affect a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places or eligible for such listing. Section 106 review is a routine part of the planning process for all federally-assisted projects. The review does not guarantee that the property will not be affected or even demolished, but it does ensure that there will be an opportunity to consider the effects of the project before it occurs. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission currently reviews 3000-3500 projects under this law every year.
Maine’s Site Location of Development Law requires consultation from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission on impacts resulting from large-scale developments that may not come under Section 106 jurisdiction, including projects occupying more than 20 acres, metallic mineral and advanced exploration projects, large structures and subdivisions, and oil terminal facilities. The Commission reviews roughly 300-500 projects per year under this law.
The protection of historic properties at federal and state levels is limited to projects of significant size, or those funded, licensed, or permitted by federal and state agencies. For all other projects, the only comprehensive protection for historic properties is legislation at the local level.
Hallowell’s current zoning ordinance includes a Historic District Overlay Zone (HD). Overlay zones impose additional requirements to the zoning requirements already established for the area as designated. For example, a parcel along the Kennebec River might be subject to the requirements of the Shoreland District, the Floodplain Management District, and the Historic District.
Building, remodeling and demolition permits for properties within Hallowell’s Historic District, as well as any properties designated by the City Council as a Historic Landmark (such as the Powder House at High Street), may not be issued without Planning Board approval. Property owners must submit a “Historic District Certificate of Appropriateness Form” to gain project and material approval.
The zoning ordinance outlines the criteria for Planning Board approval based on the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings. These guidelines are very specific and can be costly for homeowners. The Planning Board has enforced general guidelines regarding building development, additions, and integrity with existing forms and dimensions. However, specific guidelines have sometimes not been fully enforced, such as the types of materials used for replacement or updating of windows and siding. There is concern that by not fully meeting the national requirements, the Historic District’s National Registry Listing may be at risk.
Lack of enforcement mechanisms is also a significant issue. If a property owner in the Historic District has not obtained approval for building renovations regulated by the ordinance, the Code Enforcement Officer currently has no enforcement mechanism other than sending a letter informing a property owner that their actions are not consistent with City requirements. This is not always enough to encourage compliance.
There is inconsistency between what the historic ordinance says and how it is applied. What changes need to be made so that the ordinance accomplishes Hallowell’s historic preservation goals?
Are additional enforcement measures necessary?
Should Hallowell offer a financial incentive to assist property owners with meeting historic district requirements?
Currently, the boundaries of the Hallowell’s local historic district and the historic district listed on the National Register do not match. This means that property owners may have different historic requirements and benefits depending on which, if either district their building is located within.
The last town-wide architectural survey was completed in 1992 and things have undoubtedly changed. An up-to-date survey that identifies which buildings contribute to the community’s historic character is important in establishing a historic preservation strategy for Hallowell.
Currently, Hallowell’s Planning Board is responsible for enforcing the historic ordinance. Local historic preservation experts have recommended that Hallowell create a historic preservation committee to review and administer the ordinance. This would free up the planning board to focus specifically on planning issues and would create a resource of community members knowledgeable about Hallowell’s history and historic preservation. The Certified Local Government (CLF) Program, administered by the MHPC, provides annual training for local historic district commissions in how to interpret and apply their historic ordinances.
The CLF program also provides competitive grant funding to certified communities for historic preservation projects such as architectural and archaeological surveys, public education programs, and preservation, rehabilitation and restoration projects. To become a CLF certified community, Hallowell would need to create a local historic preservation commission and implement a formal review process.
The Maine legislature recently enacted LD 262, Act to Amend the Credit for Rehabilitation of Historic Properties. Intended to help Maine communities with their downtowns revitalization efforts, the law made several significant changes to the state’s previously underutilized historic tax credit: it removed the cap on project size, expanded the tax credit to include smaller projects, and made the credit fully refundable. LD 262 is one reason the timing is right for Hallowell to consider whether its current approach to historic preservation is or is not appropriate, and what changes might be necessary for the town to achieve its historic preservation goals.
“Old Hallowell on the Kennebec,” produced by Row House, Inc. Sumner Webber, Hallowell Historian; written and edited by Rebecca Sawyer-Fay.