Rick BissonMaritime history abounds in our Midcoast region. This history began in 1607 at Popham’s Fort St. George with the construction of the Virginia, the first ship built in North America by English colonists. It went on to cross the Atlantic Ocean at least twice. Thus began Midcoast Maine’s deep tradition of building quality ships.

This reputation for constructing reliable, seaworthy vessels fueled the area’s economy. Emerging from these booming days were master shipbuilders, designers and shipwrights like the Sewalls and Houghtons.

These shipbuilding craftspeople translated their skills into the construction of homes in the Midcoast area. Centuries later, many of the historic homes built by these shipbuilders maintain their enduring spirit – offering the opportunity for preservation, restoration, reconstruction or renovation.

By definition, preservation means repairing and using the home for its original purpose, saving as much of the original features and décor as possible.

In a restoration, improvements that were made over time that don’t reflect the original age and style of the home are removed while repairs are made to that which does reflect the original age and style of the home.

Reconstruction projects may involve changes to the floor plan, moving walls and sometimes re-purposing, reconstructing and altering parts of the home.

A renovation project often brings in modern materials, such as updating an older kitchen with custom cabinetry, farm sinks and period counter tops.

The important thing to keep in perspective before purchasing a historic home or preparing a period home for sale is determining which type of the four opportunities a home provides. It is also wise to consider the local community, state and national resources available to provide guidance.

On the national level, the National Register of Historic Places coordinates and supports public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archaeological resources.

Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.

At the state level, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, an independent state agency within the executive branch, is responsible for the identification, evaluation, and protection of Maine’s significant cultural resources as directed by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The Commission’s duties include nominating properties to the National Register of Historic Places reviews and promoting historic preservation through planning and public education.

Another state resource is the Maine Preservation, a nonprofit, historic preservation organization that promotes and preserves historic places, buildings, downtowns and neighborhoods. Key initiates of Maine Preservation include on-site assistance and recommendations that help revitalize historic buildings; acquisition of significant endangered historic properties and capitalization of their rehabilitation by re-selling to private owners who agree to improve them under preservation easements; and provide technical assistance to help owners and developers use both Maine and federal historic tax credits.

On a regional level, communities in the Midcoast benefit from the knowledge and guidance available from the Sagadahoc Preservation, Inc., and the Lincoln County Historical Association. These nonprofit, member-based organizations work to preserve and maintain the fine architectural heritage of homes in the area through the promotion of home stewardship and educational programs. In addition to these regional organizations, many Midcoast towns have their own organizations focused on perpetuating their unique heritage and homes.

If preserving, restoring, reconstructing or renovating a historic property is in your future, find out if there are any local or state subsidies for historic preservation for homes in your area before you begin.

It’s also vital that you locate and work with a trusted, qualified and compatible architect, general contractor and builder. And always, consult with your trusted, expert Realtor for their advice on the value of the property before and after your investment of time and financial resources.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.

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