BANGOR – A historic preservation project that turned a former church vestry into Merrill Bank’s new financial center earned top honors last week during a statewide conference.
Representatives from Merrill Bank accepted the 2006 Outstanding Building Rehabilitation Project award Wednesday during the Maine Downtown Center’s sixth annual conference, held this year in Waterville.
Designed by Wilfred Mansur, the building originally served as the vestry for the Unitarian church next door. In recent years, it housed a dance school and theater groups.
The bank acquired the 118-year-old Queen Anne-style building, which is near the corner of Main and Union streets, two years ago.
Not only did the two-year, $2 million overhaul preserve a historically important downtown building, it provided the bank with an additional 9,000 square feet of work space, William Lucy, president of Merrill Bank, said Friday.
City development officer Sally Bates nominated Merrill Bank for the award.
“What they have done was very, very significant for the community,” Bates said.
“The building’s future was uncertain before it was acquired by Merrill Bank,” Bates wrote in the nomination form.
Maine Downtown Center is a program of the nonprofit Maine Development Foundation. The building rehab award, one of several categories of honors handed out each year, recognizes excellence in the comprehensive rehabilitation of individual downtown buildings, whether privately or publicly owned.
“Its exterior, from roof to foundation, was deteriorating,” she said. “Its architectural integrity had been compromised, its major systems and floor plans were inadequate for any modern use, and it did not meet [Americans With Disabilities Act] standards.”
After acquiring the building, Merrill Bank put together a team consisting of employees and representatives from House Revivers, owned by Bob and Suzanne Kelly, who have refurbished several historic properties in the area, WBRC Architects-Engineers and contractor Perry & Morrill Inc., all based in Bangor.
Over the next two years, a new slate roof was installed and a wooden staircase was built out front, complete with an old-fashioned center rail. The original windows – removed and built into interior divider walls – were replaced with more efficient replicas. Wooden door moldings were copied so that the new offices would blend with older parts of the building.
The restoration also involved constructing a three-story corridor between the two buildings, and resurfacing and carpeting the vestry’s basement.