TREMONT — Marty Lyons is trying to preserve a little piece of this town’s history.
For the second time in two years Lyons approached the Board of Selectmen requesting support for his attempt to list the Old Red Store on the National Register of Historic Places.
Selectmen unanimously voted to support the listing at their Sept. 3 meeting.
“If this could get the historical status without any action on behalf of either Town Meeting or the Board of Selectmen, are you okay with that?” Town Manager Chris Saunders asked selectmen.
“The National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources,” the program’s website says. Listed properties may qualify for state and federal tax benefits and grants.
A small, red building located at the corner of Steamboat Wharf and Bernard roads, the Old Red Store is currently a gift shop operated by Christina Lapointe called Slack Tide Shop.
Believed to have been in Tremont since the 1800s, the building has served as a general store, barber shop, pool hall and post office. It was last owned by Paul Hinton whose mother served as post mistress in it until 1974.
When Hinton died in 2004, he left the Old Red Store and three other properties to the Bass Harbor Memorial Library. Because the Bass Harbor Memorial Library is owned by the town, it is ultimately the title holder to each of these properties.
Hinton also gave Lyons life tenancy of the properties.
“Marty has put a huge amount of effort, resources and time into all four properties on behalf of the town,” said Pete Madeira, chair of the library’s board of trustees, to selectmen on Sept. 3.
In 2017, Lyons went before the selectmen to ask for their support in applying to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. At that time, upon recommendation from the library’s board of trustees, selectmen decided to hold off giving their consent until it was clear whether having the building listed could affect the future use of the property.
When applying to have a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the first step in the process is applying with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
“The application is in the state, it has been there sitting for two years,” Lyons said to selectmen at the Sept. 3 meeting. “I’m not sure how long it can sit. But I would like to see us move forward and support the application.”
In 2017, the commission contacted the town to see if there was any reason the application should not go on to the national level.
Members of the library’s board of trustees objected, listing two reasons. The first reason was possible limitation of use of the building and the second was concern whether Lyons was able to submit the application or if it needed to come from the library or the town.
“I think you’ve got the cart before the horse here,” said Madeira at the recent meeting. “I think the town should be the applicant. We support the whole concept but I think the procedure needs to be adjusted slightly.”
Madeira suggested the town hold a public hearing about the Old Red Store, “to discuss the change in status for this piece of real estate that we, as taxpayers, own.”
Jamie Thurlow, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, told Lyons at the meeting, “I think it’s a great thing that you’re doing.
“The only thing is the ownership. Is it something we would have to talk to an attorney about?”
Saunders suggested speaking with the state agency first to find out the next appropriate steps.
“It really looks like only an opposition would be a determinant here,” said Saunders. “If you were silent they could move forward with this.”
Lyons has invested his own funds into the property to preserve it, he said, using historic photos to guide the restoration.
“We put a door in and restored the building basically to what it was back in the 1800s,” he told selectmen.
“There’s minimal operating costs in taking care of this property. The building has no running water, no heat. It’s a shell of a building for seasonal usage only … Part of being a property manager is you have to take care of it. We took it upon ourselves to renovate that building.”