2018-02-02 / Community News

Southgate seeking historic status

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


A listing on the National Register of Historic Places will help Avesta Housing get the tax credits it needs to rehabilitate the former residence of Robert Southgate, a noted businessman, farmer and attorney in town who helped to build the Cumberland Turnpike, which cut through the marsh and connected Dunstan and Oak Hill. The National Register of Historic listing request will soon be sent to the National Park Service, which will reach a decision this spring. (Michael Kelley photo) A listing on the National Register of Historic Places will help Avesta Housing get the tax credits it needs to rehabilitate the former residence of Robert Southgate, a noted businessman, farmer and attorney in town who helped to build the Cumberland Turnpike, which cut through the marsh and connected Dunstan and Oak Hill. The National Register of Historic listing request will soon be sent to the National Park Service, which will reach a decision this spring. (Michael Kelley photo) The Southgate House, a more than 200-year-old farmhouse at 577 Route 1, is slated to receive a new lease on life and be redeveloped into an affordable housing complex, but before that happens, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission is working to get the property listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

The Commission voted Jan. 26 that the property is indeed historic and passed it on to the next level of review.


Avesta Housing has plans to build a new 30-unit affordable housing building behind a renovated Southgate House, which dates back to the early-1800s. (Courtesy photo) Avesta Housing has plans to build a new 30-unit affordable housing building behind a renovated Southgate House, which dates back to the early-1800s. (Courtesy photo) “The commissioners voted on it on Friday and unanimously agreed it was ready to be forwarded to the National Park Service. That will be the next step,” said Michael Goebel-Bain, Maine Historic Preservation Commission’s National Register and Survey Coordinator.

Goebel-Bain said he expects to hear back from the National Park Service by late March or early April.

To be eligible for designation, a site must be “associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of our history,” “the lives of persons significant in our past,” “reflect in an outstanding manner the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction” or

“that have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in prehistory or history.”

Goebel-Bain said the Southgate farm site is historically significant, not for its use as a farm, but for its architecture, both the house and the wrap-around porch that was added about 1910.

“A the time it was built – around 1807 – that was a pretty significant home for that rural area. It has retained a significant amount of federal style architecture,” he said of the building.

Robert Southgate, a prominent businessman, farmer and attorney in town, built the historic home in the early 1800s. Southgate and his wife Mary King — the sister of William King, Maine’s first governor and Rufus King, a signer of the U.S. Constitution — raised 12 children in the home, although several died before adulthood. Southgate, who came to Scarborough in the late 1700s with all of his possessions in tow, died in the home in 1833 at 93 years old. The Southgate property once stretched from Route 1 to Milliken Road and Payne Road.

Southgate headed the Scarborough Turnpike Corporation, which built the Cumberland Turnpike, a toll road through the marsh that connected Dunstan Corner and Oak Hill. The Southgate House once served as the summer home of Neal Dow, the former mayor of Portland and Prohibition Party presidential candidate who was active in outlawing alcohol in Maine in the mid-1800s. In more recent years it was a restaurant and apartment complex.

Scarborough properties included on the National Register of Historic Places include the Dunstan Methodist Episcopal Church on Route 1 (listed in 1989), Winslow Homer studio at Prouts Neck (October 1966), the Hunniwell House on Black Point Road (May 1976) and the Bessey School (now Bessey Commons) Route 1 (July 2007).

Being listed on the National Register of Historic Places officially recognizes the property as an important part of the nation’s history and something that should be preserved. A listing on the Register does not restrict the rights of property owners to use, develop or sell the property or lead to automatic historic district zoning.

“Owners can do what would like with their individually-owned property. It doesn’t place any restrictions on that unless they are using federal money or need federal permitting,” Goebel-Bain said.

Being listed as historically significant is actually helping the current property owner, Avesta Housing, revive the property for the next generation.

In August 2015, the town approved a plan by Avesta Housing that would revitalize the property by renovating the old house into eight new one-bedroom apartments and constructing a new apartment building behind it. In early 2016, the approved plans were reworked and the number of units in the new apartment building was reduced from 42 to 30. The new apartment building will include four studio apartments, six one-bedroom apartments, 12 two-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments for individuals making 50 to 60 percent of the median income. The project will also redesign the parking lot north of the existing building.

“The property is fully funded. We have all the funding set up,” said Tyler Norod, Avesta development officer. “We are in the middle of construction closing, which means we will begin construction at the end of February or early March depending on how quickly we can close.”

The project will take approximately a year to complete.

Part of the funding source, Norod said is historic tax credits. To get the credit, the building first had to be historically significant on the state and federal level, a process independent of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Norod said part of the project will include bringing back the farmhouse “to its original grandeur,” something that would without the tax credits, have potentially been cost prohibitive. Getting to the point, Norod said wouldn’t have been possible without a good working relationship with the town.

“The town has played a big, and important role in this project,” he said. “They deserve a lot of credit. They’ve been very supportive to get the project where it is today.”

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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